COVID has had many negative impacts on small businesses. We used the mandatory closures constructively to begin updating some of our exhibits. Our goal is to educate all visitors, locals and tourists from around the globe, about our rich Alaskan history. This includes highlighting and properly representing the land and lives of the local Dena’ina people. We are looking to update our display of Alaska Native materials to provide more context on different peoples of our state rather than lumping together artifacts from different locations and time periods into a few cases. We will seek guidance from the Alaska Native Heritage Center and are looking for ways to increase our focus on Dena’ina materials. Updating these displays enhances the public’s understanding of scientific and indigenous ways of looking at Alaska during a time when these stories underpin so many of our community’s most pressing issues.
Our Ancestors exhibit currently includes objects that illustrate early human evolution from millions of years ago, ice age materials, and more contemporary Alaska Native artifacts. An update will require rethinking the physical presentation of different objects and re-writing the text that goes with them. To help our visitors connect recent cultural histories to the broader story of geologic time and human evolution, we are creating a timeline graphic that puts the chronology of the Ancestors exhibit into perspective. The graphic will start several million years ago and end on the current Anthropocene period, raising important questions about climate change and its impact on Alaska’s lands, ocean, and peoples. New floor decals will guide visitors and show them whether they are stepping backward or forward in time as they move helping to distinguish recent Alaska Native materials from the more distant past. Allowing our guests to understand the presence of Native People in Alaska today, rather than viewing Native cultures as only part of a history that is already over.
Funded by Alaska (January 2021)