Story last updated at 1/28/2009 - 11:06 am
There is a place where you can approach a bald eagle with wings outstretched and watch it in perfect stillness nearly inches from its sharply curved beak. Walk on and enter the past through a portal where history comes to life before your eyes. Seek further and find the tools, trades and lifestyles of peoples who have lived before us and influence us still. This place is where I find inspiration. This place is the Alaska State Museum.
On a recent forage to the museum, I reconnected with those exhibits that awed me as a child - the broad tree with bears and eagles prancing around its branches, the aged papers and medallions from the birth of our great state. But on this day I had come to see the beautiful history of the Native Alaskan people for a totally selfish reason. I came to be inspired by their crafts!
Native Alaskans of Southeast Alaska are renowned for so many crafts they are hard to list here. The beading, sewing, carving, weaving, and stitching on display would be impossible for me to match, but as eye candy it is perfect. If that's not enough, the State Museum also has intriguing collections of contemporary Native Alaskan arts and crafts. What's more, rotating collections move periodically through that highlight crafters and artists. This month see collage and textile artist Katherine Coons' sewn mixed-media pieces from now until Feb. 21
If you don't live in Juneau but still want inspiration, never fear! There are plenty of museums full of crafts throughout Southeast. If you live in Haines, Ketchikan, Petersburg, Sitka, Skagway, or Wrangell you can mosey on down to your local museum for a peek at some Native Alaskan treasures. Most museums are open limited hours in the winter, and often have discounted rates. Check www.museums.state.ak.us/list.html for a list of Alaska museums, locations, hours and admissions.
Some communities offer specialties in craft. Swing by Sitka for immersion in Russian culture and craft at the Sitka Historical Society and Museum or the Russian Bishop's House. Both offer peeks into intricate Russian crafts like pysansky (wax relief egg dying) and iconic matryoshka dolls. Travel the seas to hearty Petersburg where you'll find fishing on the menu. The Clausen Memorial Museum offers a unique look at all things fish and fishing with a Nordic twist. Knots and weaving vital to the fishing industry will fascinate any crafter. For some humor, head on over to Haines and the Hammer Museum. With over 1400 hammers you're sure to find a tool to suit you. Just look for the 19-foot hammer in town, you can't miss it. Catch a ride to Ketchikan and check out the Totem Heritage Center, which has a breathtaking view of original, unrestored 19th C totem poles. Sure to impress even the Cheechako.
Living in Southeast Alaska we are privy to limitless inspiration from the past, from nature and from our surrounding culture. If you can't make it to the museum just step outside, you're sure to be inspired.