"The survival of fish traps of this type is quite unusual due to the deterioration of organic material, in this case hemlock and spruce," said Juneau archeologist John Loring, "and the fact the traps were usually removed from streams for storage.
"At the time of its excavation in 1991, no basketry-style fish trap had ever been found in an archaeological context on the Northwest Coast. Radiocarbon dating has indicated the trap to be approximately 700 years old."
Limited exhibit space and funding has relegated the fish trap to storage at the Alaska State Museum since its excavation and initial treatment ten years ago.
"The trap was stabilized after excavation with a treatment of polyethylene glycol, a common conservation treatment for waterlogged wood," says Ellen Carrlee, Curator of Collections and Exhibits at the City Museum. "The spruce root lashings were also protected with gauze wrappings. We won't know for certain how extensive the conservation treatment for these lashings will be until we bring the trap out of storage and examine it. I don't think we will restore any missing lashings, but we will certainly stabilize what survives so the trap can be safely mounted."
The Juneau-Douglas City Museum, with the assistance of a Grant-In-Aid fromthe Alaska State Museum, will place the trap on permanent display so that the public can experience this fascinating artifact. The Museum plans to commission a full-size model of the trap to hang above the archaeological remains. Additionally, with help from the Alaska State Museum, the City Museum will develop hands-on interpretive materials and school group programming to complement the exhibit, and the Sealaska Heritage Institute will assist in providing interpretative materials. "It is the hope of the Juneau-Douglas City Museum that the exhibition of the trap will complement our permanent exhibits dedicated to sport fishing and the commercial fishing industry, Tlingit culture and the dugout canoe," says Director Jane Lindsey. "The history of fish gathering and processing in this community is a dynamic subject; having this trap on exhibit adds beautifully to the wonder of Juneau's original inhabitants and their subsistence gathering techniques."
Along with the stabilization work at the Alaska State Museum, youth activities will take place during the Juneau School District Spring break. Students will have an opportunity to explore fish trap technology and ancient fishing techniques, create a model fish trap, see spruce root gathering and preparation for weaving on traps, and participate in songs and stories. The programs will take place from 12:45 to 3 p.m. on March 23 for students in grades K - 3, and on March 24 for students in grades 3 -8. Weavers, storytellers, archaeologists and staff associated with the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, Alaska State Museum, Alutiiq Heritage Museum and Sealaska Heritage Institute will participate. Registration for the fish trap youth activity begins March 11. Call 465-2901 to register.