Colors, Costumes, Customs, and Carvings all coalesced at the Anchorage Museum on a cold winter’s day. On my first visit to this amazing city tucked into the head of the Cook Inlet, we took a break from all things outdoors in the winter, to tour this vast museum. Each wing presents a different aspect. The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, A Discovery Center, Planetarium, Art of the North Galleries and my favorite, the Alaska Galleries. This gallery artfully tells the story of Alaska Natives, settlement and the future.
The moment I stepped into the Alaska Galleries, I felt the spirit of the indigenous peoples. Their stories told through many voices and perspectives guide visitors through the rich history of this vast and uncompromising land. The exhibit is visually and auditorily stimulating. Almost overwhelming. So, I found it best to sit, close my eyes and listen to the messages below the surface. “What you do not see, do not hear, do not experience, you will never really know.” (Iyaaka Lore of St. Lawrence Island. Echoes of our Eskimo Elders.)
I tried to seat myself in openness to the subtle messages.
Interesting to me was the similarities in stories, clothing and equipment and the sense of belonging to each other and to the land. Yet, how they manifested depended on the richness of the region. Far Southeast Alaska tribes, that benefit from a milder climate and plentiful ocean and land resources seem to have more richly woven fabrics and elaborate costumes. The interior tribes live closer to the edge of subsistence as their artifacts showed. One intriguing display was a map of Alaska Natives and compared a spoon design from each of the cultures. Some were elaborate. Others simple.
Much effort has gone into helping to blend traditional life with the modern reality so that youth can live successfully in both worlds. “We’ve lost a whole generation of culture, but now it’s coming back.” (Maria Turnpaughl Unangax)
The overall message I received is” “We are connected”. All things have gratitude and that to “give gifts to others (is important for) it comes back to you.”
Another great display was of how transportation transformed Alaska. From rugged trails to shipping routes to overland methods to the advent of air travel. The overall message there is that whoever controls Alaska, controls the world. It is a pivotal point of communication and transportation.
This is an overview of just two of the Anchorage Museum’s Galleries.
Tucked away in a neighborhood is the Alaska Jewish Museum. This small museum shares the story of Alaskans helping rescue Jewish refugees. Alaska Airlines took the lead in these dangerous humanitarian missions.
The Anchorage International Film Festival always has something new and different brewing to warm winter clients yearning for quirky and exciting.
So, take a look at winter in Alaska – Anchorage especially – and remember that whether you are a winter outdoor enthusiast or a “curl up with a good book inside” winter enthusiast, Anchorage will warm you up.