Alaska State Museums Bulletin 77

Printable Version


My Summer in Anaktuvuk
Shaking the Money Tree
Spotlight on Grant in Aid
Alaska Museums in the News
Professional Development/Training Opportunities
Professional Time Wasting on the Web


My Summer in Anaktuvuk

By Julie (Nauriaq)Rotramel

This summer I was incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to work at the Simon Paneak Memorial Museum in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska. It is hard to put into words how this experience has affected me personally so I will begin with what is easy to discuss—my job.

1 photo office

My primary responsibility over the past eight weeks was to organize, digitize and catalog the museum’s collection of photographic prints, slides, negatives, and contact sheets, which comprise a rich visual archive of moments, experiences, events, and people in Nunamiut history.

3 photo slides

On June 16, I started with two file drawers. One was filled with the photograph collection in disarray. The second drawer was empty. I started with the accessions that were fairly well organized and moved on from there. As in every museum collection, there were issues that needed to be resolved such as multiple assigned accession numbers and for the umpteenth time I was reminded just how important documentation trails could be. This project was an inadvertent but invaluable learning experience for me. In the process of cataloguing images I paired names to faces (both past and present), began to understand the centrality of the caribou to the nomadic life of the Nunamiut, painted a general picture of the surrounding landscape and came to the realization that nostalgia for the past is universal. My research into provenance issues taught me about the donors, their lives and their connections to the Nunamiut, which added more definition to the picture that has slowly been coming together in my mind over these past two months.

2 photo file

Now, in early August, the first drawer is empty and the second one is beautifully organized with 2,083 items catalogued and digitized. I am proud of my work with this collection because I know firstly, that it will be more accessible and useful now that it is organized, and secondly, it will be more valuable to the museum’s constituents in its catalogued state. In addition to this project, I helped Vera Woods, the museum curator, revise and update the museum’s endowment packet, which was created back in 1999. I  ran the  museum on holidays or when  everyone else was on  vacation and enjoyed finding out where tourists  were  from and hearing their travel stories  as much as they liked  asking me the same things.

4 photo barker

I assisted Jim Barker while he photographed collection objects and picked his brain about all of my amateur photography questions. He is a gold mine of knowledge and experience and has a clear passion for his work. I also taught Vicky Monahan, the office specialist, the basics of Past Perfect so that she could begin cataloguing the library and I organized all of the accession files.

I wasn’t a total museum recluse this summer. My co-workers were both incredibly welcoming, inviting me to (delicious) dinners and hangouts after work. I attended a community meeting and heard NSB Mayor Brower speak, learned how to play snert and talimatak (two very entertaining card games), went hiking, climbed the formidable Soakpak Mountain and took a LOT of pictures.

5 photo self

Regardless of the temperamental weather and the persistent mosquitoes, it is breathtakingly beautiful up here. There is so much life and growth despite the harsh climate and discovering this some days made me laugh out loud or rendered me completely speechless.  Much of this discovery took place on my runs out on the road away from town, where I would disturb a flock of jaegers or be humbled by the force of the wind and the size of the mountains. In the summer rainbows are more common than caribou.

6 photo rainbow

I don’t think it’s possible to tire of this landscape (although I haven’t lived here in the winter…). I leave here tomorrow morning. It is a bittersweet feeling to know I will probably not be back. I can only hope that my work has made a small impact and the memory of my presence is a positive one.

7 photo flower

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Question:  Yesterday we received an interesting proposal to use one of our artifacts and I am writing to ask you for some guidance as I do research on how to respond to him. The request came from a model ship builder and he is interested in recording the tone of a bell that we recently acquired so that his model ships will have an accurate bell sound. His intent is to sell the ships with the authentic sound being a selling point. The gentleman has recording equipment and is ready to go. In the museum world it is not that cut and dry. I am concerned that this will set a bad precedent of using an artifact for commercial use. We do have a research request fee structure but that is for paper and photographs and this would fall outside of it. We do not have a use policy. I am also not clear on how copyright would apply to this situation. This request does not necessarily go against our collections management policy which says that artifact use and care should be consistent with museum best practices. The bell was rung publically by the former director before I started at the museum and that is known to the public. Although it is relatively new to the museum, it is one of our most prized possessions. I don’t want any Joe Schmoe off the street to think they can just come in and ring the bell. So my thought was for the museum to make a recording of the bell and sell it to the man. We would then have it on file in the event we wanted to use it in a future exhibit or if someone else requested it. I am doing research to see how other museums have handled similar situations. Any insight would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

ASM:  This is an interesting conundrum.  Is it ethical to ring a bell?  Is it still a bell if it can never be rung?  The biggest issue is that ringing the bell does not promote the public good and that is what your collections is for.  You are caring for it in lieu of the public, for the public good.  That is your public trust duty.  In this situation, ringing seems only to promote the model maker’s bottom line.  I think if it had some element of broader public good, like a non-profit using the sound for something that helped someone then you could make an argument for it.  Ringing a bell does sound innocuous, but it is the wider precedent that it sets that is the real danger.  What about an ethical issue of museum pistol being fired so that a toy maker could sell the gun with “The true sound that shot Lincoln!”  Most museums would balk at that.

Unless the bell is already in a category of consumptive use it would set a bad precedent to ring it for commercial gain.  However, there is some latitude for recording the ringing of said bell in order to have it as a part of the information about the bell, i.e. what it sounds like.  Kind of like having a recording of a Martin Luther King speech on an LP.  You might authorize a one time playing of the record so that it could be digitized.  What you do with the digital copy is up to a matter of policy.

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Shaking the Money Tree

Heritage Preservation

2015 Conservation Assessment Program Application Available

Heritage Preservation is pleased to announce the availability of Conservation Assessment Program (CAP) application as of October 1, 2014. The 2015 program year marks the 25th anniversary of CAP, and the admittance of our 3000th museum!

CAP is funded through a cooperative agreement with the Institute of Museum & Library Services, and is administered by Heritage Preservation. The program provides technical assistance to small to mid-sized museums to hire a professional conservator, approved by Heritage Preservation, for a two-day site visit.  The CAP assessor uses the site visit to examine the museum’s collections, environmental conditions, and sites.  The assessor then spends three days writing a report recommending priorities to improve collections care.  The assessment reports submitted by professional conservators can assist the museum in developing strategies for improved collections care, long-range planning, and fund-raising for collections care.

Funds are awarded based on the museum’s budget, so the cost to the museum varies. All museums are awarded a collections assessor.  Museums with buildings older than 50 years receive additional funds for an architectural assessor to identify priorities for care of the building(s).  In the case of institutions such as zoos, aquariums, nature centers, botanical gardens, and arboreta, CAP can fund a specialist to assess the living collections as well as the non-living collections.

Since CAP is limited to a two-day site visit, museums with small to mid-sized collections are most appropriate for this program.  Larger institutions are encouraged to contact IMLS for information on the Museums for America (MFA) grant.  MFA grants fund a variety of conservation projects, including general conservation surveys that can accommodate a more extensive site visit by a professional conservator.

Geared toward smaller institutions, the CAP application process is simple, and awards are made to eligible applicants as funding permits.  The 2015 CAP application will be open until Monday, December 1, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. The online application can be accessed at A link to this website, as well as to a fillable PDF can be found at

To receive further information, visit our website at:


Call for Applications for Five IMLS Museum Grant Programs for FY 2015

Washington, DC—The Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) is accepting applications in all of its museum grant programs. The application deadline for each of these programs is December 1, 2014.

For more information about these notices of funding opportunities, including instructions for completing applications, contacts, and webinar access information, click on any of the following links.

IMLS staff members are available by phone and email to discuss general issues relating to these funding programs.

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Spotlight on Grant in Aid

Pratt Museum Homer

In July 2012, under a project entitled “Teaching the Future to Care for the Past: Mentoring Museum Interns,” the Pratt Museum received funding for collections care supplies, training from a museum professional, and living stipends for two interns. This support allowed the museum to address areas that needed improvement identified in a 1991 CAP survey, including increased time dedicated to collections care and management, and to address priority needs identified in the Pratt Museum’s long-range collections plan. The funding of this grant helped to educate museum student interns and volunteers in areas of collections management, and to develop skills needed to care for specific objects within the museum’s collection.


During this project, interns and volunteers carried out inventory tasks, assisted in general collections cleaning, and participated in a collections storage workshop. Under the tutelage of Darian LaTocha, the interns and volunteers learned about collections storage solutions, and were trained to create artifact storage boxes using techniques used by LaTocha at the Anchorage Museum. During LaTocha’s workshop and in subsequent weeks, volunteers and interns were able to rehouse almost 50 at-risk objects in the collection and place them in individual artifact boxes. These artifact boxes create barriers between artifacts and eliminate risks that arise from movement and shifting, providing protection that will help the museum to safely store the collection in perpetuity.


This grant allowed the Pratt to support the growth and knowledge of future and current museum professionals. We now have materials and additional trained people who can continue the work of preparing the collections for the move to the new building in a few years as well as long term, safe storage for a variety of objects. Tasks that were performed emphasized the importance of conservation and protection of museum objects so they are not only accessible now, but to future generations as well. Through collaborative efforts from interns and professionals, it is seen that the future of museum collections rests with today’s students.

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Alaska Museums in the News

Shepard Bequeaths donation to Museum Heritiage Endowment Fund

Four Alaskan museums receive federal grants

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Professional Development/Training Opportunities

Heritage Preservation

Upcoming Webinars for State Cultural Heritage Disaster Networks

Heritage Preservation is proud to present the remaining three webinars in a series devoted to raising awareness about important emergency management programs offered at the state and federal levels. Ample time is built into each 90-minute webinar for Q&A.

Mitigation and Mitigation Planning
Thursday, November 13, 2014
3:00 – 4:30 pm Eastern
Presenter: Scott Baldwin, Mitigation Specialist with the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management

Topics to be covered include:

  • What organizations can do to mitigate damage and loss to the collections and holdings, beginning with hazard identification and risk assessment
  • State and local hazard mitigation plans and how to include cultural resources in these plans
  • Funding available to private nonprofits (PNPs) through FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grants Program
  • Communication strategies to engage with emergency managers and related professionals

Register for this webinar. Click here for more information.

Disaster and Continuity Planning and Preparedness
Thursday, November 20, 2014
3:00 – 4:30 pm Eastern
Presenter: Kiran Dhanji, Section Administrator, Preparedness, Texas Division of Emergency Management

Topics to be covered include:

  • The link between disaster response and continuity of operations plans
  • How to identify and plan to recover your essential functions, supported by the four core pillars of continuity planning: leadership, staff, communications, and facilities
  • The planning process, including who to involve, when to bring stakeholder groups together, and how to develop useful and used plans

Register for this webinar. Click here for more information.

Federal Disaster Recovery Assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) for Private, Nonprofit Organizations
Wednesday, December 3, 2014
3:00 – 4:30 pm Eastern
Presenter: Mark Randle, SBA Public Information Officer

Topics to be covered include:

  • The SBA federal declaration process: How, When, Where
  • Loans to help repair/replace property damage
  • Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster
  • Eligibility, terms, and conditions
  • The application process and the processing of applications
  • Disbursement of funds and the use of loan proceeds

Register for this webinar. Click here for more information.

Who Should Attend?
Interested members of a state cultural heritage emergency network, including but not limited to:

  • Representatives of state cultural agencies – State Library, State Museum, State Archives, State Arts Council, State Humanities Council, State Historic Preservation Office – who have an obligation (whether legal or moral) to assist their constituents following a disaster
  • Representatives of local, county, state, and federal emergency management (EM) agencies
  • Representatives of national, regional, or state museum, library, or archives associations
  • Colleagues at other state agencies who would benefit from the webinars. Please pass this email along to them!

Although the information is relevant to all cultural institutions, we’d like to keep participation in the live webinar down to a manageable number so the instructor can field questions that apply primarily to state cultural and EM agencies. Our aim is to provide information that’s most useful to network members, who will then be better equipped to help their constituents.

The webinar will be recorded, and once it’s been posted to the State Heritage Emergency Partnership website,, we’ll remind you to notify your constituents of its availability.

Registration Fee
Thanks to funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the State Heritage Emergency Partnership 2014 Webinar Series is free. However, registration for each webinar is required for attendance.

Contact Katelin Lee, Emergency Programs Assistant, 202-233-0835.



Fairbanks, Alaska, Thursday November 20, 2014, 9a.m.-4p.m.

University of Alaska, Rasmuson Library, Room 340, 310 Tanana Loop, Fairbanks, Alaska

Sponsored by Western States & Territories Preservation Assistance Service (WESTPAS)

Workshop instructor: Gary Menges, Librarian Emeritus, University of Washington

Do you want to get a preservation grant to take care of your collections? Many institutions have used grant-funded projects to enhance the level of care they can provide for their collections, and sometimes even to jump start their preservation programs.?

“Creating and Funding Preservation Projects to Enhance Collection Care” is a one-day workshop that begins with identifying and setting priorities among collection needs. With a clear sense of needs, the second part of the workshop reviews sources of grant funding available to your institution. The third part of the workshop addresses the key preservation questions asked on grant applications – participants answer the questions on behalf of their institutions, building the elements of a proposal for their own collection. The workshop emphasizes working collaboratively with colleagues to develop and receive feedback on project proposals.?

By the end of the workshop day, participants will have:?

* Outlined a preservation project proposal specific to their institution

* Identified possible funding sources

* Tested their ideas with other workshop participants?

Who should attend: Administrators and staff responsible for care of the collection in all types of archives, libraries, and museums, with an emphasis on small-to-medium sized institutions without preservation grant writing experience. By registering for the workshop, the institution commits to supporting the attendee(s) to achieve the workshop’s goals to develop and submit proposals for preservation projects to enhance collection care. When possible, TWO attendees from an institution should attend so they can work together on project development.?

Cost: No charge to the institution. WESTPAS is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.?

Registration: Pre-registration required. Register online at: to November 20 and click on the date.)

For registration assistance contact: Alexandra Gingerich?<> For general & content information contact: Gary Menges <>

Additional Information about the workshop will be sent to the registrants before the workshop.

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Professional Time Wasting on the Web

Very cool slide show of the restoration of Greek Vases

Interesting video on the Cohokia Mounds Site in Illinois

Video: Cahokia Mounds, A Visitor’s Perspective

A video installation in downtown Lubbock TX.

Video: Memory Series–The Warehouse

Movie of the new Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

Tories seek museum content: Want list of all exhibits that refer to federal government

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Alaska State Museums Bulletin 76

Printable Version

Editors Note:  Due to the time constraints involved in the move of our collections, the ASM Bulletin will go on hiatus for the summer.  The next issue will be published in September.  


Crate Ideas
Shaking the Money Tree
Spotlight on Grant in Aid
Alaska Museums in the News
Professional Development/Training Opportunities
Professional Time Wasting on the Web


Crate Ideas

Last month’s post was about using corrugated plastic sheeting to create lightweight, sturdy temporary enclosures or crates for moving objects from one location to another.

Like these:

movers - lighthouse drive mechanism - BEST obj - dramatic wolf 2

This post will show some  ideas and tips for crating large objects with stronger, wooden crates and platforms.  This is not meant to be instructions on how to construct wooden crates.   These are just things to keep in mind when building crates or instructing others who build crates for you.

Wooden crates are usually for larger, heavier artifacts that will be in the crates for a longer period of time.

11oct2013 154

If the object will be in the crate for a really long time, the inside can be lined with aluminized Mylar to keep the wood from off-gassing to the inside.


Or holes can be drilled in the sides to keep the volatile organic components (VOC’s) from building up inside the crate.

If constructed properly, wooden crates are sturdy enough to stack or can be used as a platform for stacking other things on top of them.


Moving around large objects in crates generally means using machines rather that relying solely on human effort.  A machine can be as simple as a 4 wheel dolly


or as complex as a forklift.

crate with fork

crate on 4

Note that this dolly is held in place with pallet wrap.  The pallet wrap  keeps the dolly from slipping when moving over uneven surfaces.  Pallet wrap is a stretchy plastic that sticks to itself in the same manner as kitchen plastic wrap.  It is a great materials for wrapping and attaching a great number of things.  However, you never want to put pallet wrap in direct contact with an artifact.  This can cause surface damage due to the plasticizers (the stuff that makes it stretchy) in the pallet wrap.

One essential piece of equipment for moving large crates is called a pallet jack.

pallet jack

This wonderful tool allows large and heavy crates to be placed with surprising maneuverability.

Frog housepost March 2014 7

If  you are using a pallet jack, it is important to build skids onto the bottom of the crates with enough room to slide the forks of the pallet jack under them.  This means about 3 1/2 inches of room.  Keep in mind this is more than is required for a regular forklift.  So crates that were designed to be fork-lifted may not be pallet jack-able.


It is also a good idea to put handles on the sides of crates so they can be lifted onto a dolly if necessary.

equip - handles on large wooden crates help - Jon - BEST

Another important thing to keep in mind with crates is to label crates with their content so people know what is in them.

glass marker

Taping a quick digital printout to the lid is even better.

photo on crate

What we found was most effective, though, was to include a window in the lid if possible.

lid of crate

Frog housepost March 2014 window

This sounds like a lot of extra work but we found that it created a much different relationship between the movers and the object inside the crate.  If the movers were able to actually see the artifact they were much more careful with the crate.  Without the window, the crate is just another heavy wooden box to shove around. And you never have to open a crate to see if it is empty or not.  We used an old scrap of Plexiglas for the window and hot-glued it in place.

Padding in the crate is important.  Ethafoam can be hot-glued directly to the crate wall  or bottom.

obj - lighthouse lens foam bullseye

You don’t need a lot but it should be used judiciously so that it does the job of cushioning and holding the object in place.

obj - lighthouse lens 2 bullseyes crated up

Ethafoam can be hot-glued to the lid to secure the object with a little pressure when the lid is screws down.

Instructions written on the inside and outside of the crate can be important to those who will be de-installing objects or opening the crates.  Think of them as kind messages to the future so leave nothing to chance.  Yes they could probably figure it out but it is so much easier for them to know what you were doing or thinking when you crated the object up.

equip - Sharpie communication2 technique - written communication on crates



These are just a few of the things we have learned crating large objects for our big move.

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oil canQuestion:  So here’s the issue: I just started a complete inventory and in the second box I noticed that a lot of the tissue used to wrap objects was yellowed and oily looking.  Sure enough, in the middle of the box was small hand-pump oil can.  There was probably a teaspoon of oil left in the can that was slowly leaking and being absorbed by the tissue wrapping the adjacent objects.  I have no idea how old the oil is or what kind of oil it is, or even what the oil was used for, but the oilcan has been at the museum for about 4 years, and in that box for at least two.  I used cotton balls and q-tips to absorb what I could, wrapped up the can and the spout (separately) in paper towels, stuck them in a separate box - which is now next to my desk- and replaced the oily tissue paper on the other objects.  The fur and leather native masks that were also in the box were not affected (from first glance anyway), and the objects that were wrapped in oily tissue were ceramics, metals, and plastics, and they didn’t *seem* to have any oily residue.  (There are appropriate notes in all of their PastPerfect files).

My questions to you are: What do I do now?  What should I have done?  And how do I store the oil can?

ASM:  Historical objects can be messy.  That’s OK, its what the stuff is.

Here’s what you should do:

Wipe the excess oil off the oilcan as best as you can, and if you can easily make the oil come out so you can remove it, that’s good too.  Sop it up in paper towels and get rid of it in a trash can outside.  Then store the oil can in a secondary plastic container of some sort (perhaps a Tupperware? A plastic bag?).  And include MORE tissue paper in there to sop out what might continue to leak.  This will allow you to continue monitoring what comes out, as well as control the mess.  This is pretty hands-off and non-interventive,.  Putting it on exhibit could be tricky if it oozes a lot, but that’s another bridge to cross.  This method keeps all the options open and does not make anything worse.

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Shaking the Money Tree

Reminder:  Grant in Aid applications are due June 2, 2002.  You can find information about this program from our Grants webpage

Spotlight on Grant in Aid

Ahtna Heritage Foundation

The goal of our project was to raise the quality and lower the cost of lighting in the exhibit room of the C’ek’aedi Hwnax-the Ahtna Cultural Center– by replacing the unattractive, outdated, ill-chosen lighting with attractive high-quality, cost-efficient LED lights and hardware.  The museum coordinator purchased track light and troffer hardware and LED lamps according to a list and price agreed to beforehand by Brown’s Electric, a lighting outlet located in Anchorage.  Mr. Tim Willis, a local licensed electrician installed the purchased fixtures and lamps.  Long sections of track replaced the existing short, choppy lengths.  Three LED troffers replaced the single overhead fluorescent shop light.

Since the new lighting has been installed, the cost of electricity at the C’ek’aedi Hwnax has decreased 10.5% from the same time period the year before, in spite of the fact that usage and cost of electricity has risen.  The savings are augmented by the fact we no longer purchase incandescent bulbs, nor dedicate staff time to monitor and change light bulbs. The new LED lamps are cool in temperature, which was a blessing this last above-average heat summer.  The improved color and distribution of the light and better-looking fixtures have resulted in more attractive displays and exhibits.  Finally, the new lights in the exhibit area are better on the eyes for visitors and staff.  The C’ek’aedi Hwnax fills a large gap in our community as a place where Ahtna Athabascan People can display and interpret their culture, history and language for themselves and for the visiting public.  The center also fills a need for a community gathering place for conferences, workshops, and meetings.  The improved appearance and better lighting gained from this project benefits the exhibits and gathering space that are the very heart of the Ahtna Cultural Center.


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Alaska Museums in the News

One Chance at Last Chance

Museum Bill Dies in Legislature

Professional Development/Training Opportunities

In honor of May being preservation awareness month, watch the recording of The Supercharged Management System.

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Professional Time Wasting on the Web

Mapping Quiet Spaces

Getting the big picture of training

Developing new methods for recoloring faded taxidermy

Rare Eskimo Shaman’s Mask sells for Record-Breaking $2.5 Million

Preservation Myths Debunked

Our Museums Are Broken–These 5 Fixes Can Make Them Fun Again

Why Study History


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Alaska State Museums Bulletin 75

Printable Version


Crating with Coroplast®
Shaking the Money Tree
Spotlight on Grant in Aid
Alaska Museums in the News
Professional Development/Training Opportunities
Professional Time Wasting on the Web


Crating with Coroplast®

 In preparation for moving 35,000 objects out of our museum building before it gets demolished to make way for the new Alaska State Museum, we have found it necessary to build many different types of crates for large objects.  Some of these crates are the familiar kind made out of plywood and dimensional lumber.  These protect the object during transport to our offsite storage and may need to house the object for a longer period or be stacked on top of each other for efficient use of space.  A future post will cover some of the things we have learned about building and using these types of crates.

wooden crate

We also found a need for crates that are intended to be more temporary in nature, that just protect the object from dust or moisture as we move them into a neighboring building. These will not be stacked and will likely be disposed of after they have served their purpose. We found it is faster and easier to use an alternative construction material called corrugated plastic sheeting.

sewing machine crate correx paintings  crate

The sheets are made from a co-polymer of polypropylene and polyethylene plastic, or sometimes just from polypropylene, and it goes by the trade names Coroplast® or Correx®.  You can find more information about these products at the terrific website of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts called Cameo ( ) or from the National Park Service’s Conserv-O-Gram on safe plastics

There is an archival form of this sheeting available from supply companies such as University Products, Archivart, Gaylord, and Talas.  It is free from color, anti-static agents, or UV inhibitors.  This kind is more expensive and is used in permanent storage when the plastic is actually touching our artifacts, such as the backing board for certain paintings or rigid boxes for artifact storage.

Correx to make blueboard rigid

However, for temporary crates this version is not necessary.  Fluted plastic sheeting is popular with the sign printing industry, and if someone in your town is able to make large political or advertisement signs, they are likely using this type of sheeting to do it and you can usually buy some from them.

Working with fluted plastic sheeting

What are the advantages? Corrugated plastic sheeting is tough, light weight, water resistant and fairly easy to cut and shape.  It is much quicker to cut than wood and does not require a table saw or other woodworking equipment.  What are the disadvantages?  It is only rigid in the direction along the flutes.  Across the flutes it bends fairly easily.  The larger the crate the more it tends to bend and bow.  It is more expensive than plywood but you can sometimes design the crate to use less of it so this may not be a major factor.  Plus the time savings in the construction may off-set the extra cost of the material.

There are two directions to cut the sheets and it is important to pay attention to this.  You are either cutting along the flutes or across the flutes.  You can use any kind of razor knife or box knife but if you are going to be making a lot of crates or boxes, it really pays to get the right tool for the job.  That right tool is this:


the tool

You can find out how to purchase this one here

Or a similar tool here

This tool helps to quickly cut a large sheet in to smaller sections along the flute.  In wood working this is known as a “rip-cut” or “ripping a board” and you generally need a table saw or a skill saw if you are doing this to a sheet of plywood.

The Plast-Kut tool fits into the flutes and stays there as you move it along.  You can either  either cut through the entire board or just cut one wall of the flute.

This photo shows the tool positioned to cut through both walls of the flute.

both walls

This will separate the board into two parts as you move along the flute.

thru twice


Cutting one wall at a time allows you to easily fold the board and make a corner.

one side



Cutting across the flutes is just done with a straight edge and a box cutter like you would regular corrugated card board.



To make a corner across the fluting, you use a box cutter to make an inverted “V” shape and remove that triangular wedge.

wedge removed

To make a corner along the fluting you can just cut both sides of the flue and remove the middle section.


You then fold the board and run a bead of hot glue to hold it in place.

glue gun

Fluted sheeting can be screwed onto a wooden frame with short dry wall screws to form the sides of a crate.


Or you can make a lightweight framework out of cornered strips  and screw them to a wooden platform.


The various pieces can be hot glued or even taped together depending on how long the frame needs to last.


To cover really long objects like this kayak, we built the frame out of the fluted plastic and then used sheets of plastic to make the cover to keep rain and dust off.

umiak covered

Another cool trick is to hot glue a sheet of mylar in so that you can keep track of how the object is doing during transport.


You can also create quick storage bins for framed artwork. The sheets not only form the outside of the box but also separate the bin into slots for the framed art.  These can be wrapped in plastic and move on 4 wheel dollys.



If you are having to crate up or build temporary covers for a lot of large objects for a short move into a neighboring building, having some additional construction material choices is a good thing.  Fluted plastic sheeting is a tough, lightweight material that is quick to cut and shape.  These are the main advantages of choosing this material over plywood.

Some other things to consider when choosing fluted plastic sheets:

  • Beware sharp corners and edges.  It can cut you like a paper cut.
  • The plastic is a little static-y so it will pick up dust and other debris from the surface that you are cutting it on.  It is not a good idea to lay it on the floor to cut it.
  • The surface is slick.  Artifacts tend to shift and slide more than on grey board.

All in all, we found that fluted plastic sheets helped us solve some of the problems we have encountered when moving every single object out of our museum building.

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Question: I have a question that maybe you can answer.  Is there a difference between the two titles “Museum” and “Heritage Center”?  And do they serve different purposes or do they serve the same way except they have a different title?  Can a Museum be a Heritage Center or can a Heritage Center be a Museum?

ASM:  That is a good question!  But there isn’t really a good answer for it.  Mostly it is a matter of opinion and you can call your institution anything you want.  I think it mostly depends on what the institutions primary mission is.  One of the primary missions of a museum, and the one that distinguishes it from other great organizations, like galleries, visitor centers and even heritage centers, is to care for objects in perpetuity (forever!).  This is considered the “public trust duty” of a museum.  If a Heritage Center is caring for objects in perpetuity, then at least part of it is functioning like a museum.  The most important thing to consider is that you will be held to the standards of the name you select.  If you call yourself a museum, then you will be held to national museum standards.  Its kind of like the word “Hospital.”  We all have an expectation for what goes on in a hospital and we would not want to go to a place that was only “sort of” a hospital.  The same is true for a museum.  You can’t just pick and choose the parts you like and leave the other parts out.  Some people want to use the word “museum” to describe their institution when it comes to attracting the public, or to apply for funding, but when it comes to the hard part of caring for collections then they are suddenly something else.  Yes, there are different kinds of hospitals and there are different kinds of museums.  But you know that you go to a hospital to get well and we know that museums are places where artifacts are kept safe and the collections care standards are built around that goal.

I am not sure if Heritage Centers have nationally recognized standards or an accrediting body like museums do.  I couldn’t find anything online that seemed to suggest they do.  I did find this interesting chart from Jill Norwood of the National Museum of the American Indian on the AAM website for peer reveiers

Operational Area Mainstream Museums Tribal Museums
  • preserve
  • store
  • kept from public
  • protected but used by practitioners
  • academic
  • scholarly
  • elite
  • local
  • community-centric
  • expensive
  • focused on what audience desires
  • free
  • affordable
  • focused on community
  • exclusive
  • restrictive
  • inclusive of community and protected from “outsiders”

Heritage Centers seem to be more about celebrating and perpetuating living cultures and less about collecting and preserving artifacts, although they often seem to do a little of both.

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Shaking the Money Tree

Reminder:  Grant in Aid applications are due June 2, 2002.  You can find information about this program from our Grants webpage

Spotlight on Grant in Aid

Kodiak Maritime Museum

Page photo

As part of the Kodiak Maritime Museum’s (KMM) long term effort to upgrade its collections management, and with funding from the 2013 Grant in Aid program, KMM contracted in 2012 with Anjuli Grantham of Fireweed Historical Services to sort through a collection of images taken by Kodiak photographer Roger Page in the 1970s and 1980s. Roger Page died in 1990, and his sister Lauretta Johnson donated the images to KMM in 2010. Of the hundreds of images donated by Lauretta Johnson, 243 were identified as relevant to KMM’s mission to “recognize, preserve, and interpret Kodiak’s maritime heritage.” These photographs and negatives were sorted by Ms. Grantham by subject such as “ports and canneries,” “fishing boats,” and “Crab Festival,” stored in archival sleeves, and accessioned into KMM’s PastPerfect collections database.

Roger page files

As part of the grant project, Ms. Grantham also worked with KMM Board Member Marnie Leist to create a Collections Policy for Kodiak Maritime Museum, which addresses KMM’s circumstances and long term collection goals. The Board is now reviewing this draft with an eye toward adopting it in December.

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Alaska Museums in the News

Exhibit variety plan for Sitka Museum

Addison Field Named Chief Curator of the Alaska State Museums

Professional Development/Training Opportunities


May 14, 2014    8:30 AM – 5:00 PM

Alaska & Polar Regions Collections & Archives, UAF

 The Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board (ASHRAB) will sponsor Basic Archival Training May 14, 2014 from 8:30 AM – 5:00 PM in the multi-media classroom located on the third level of the Elmer E. Rasmuson Library.  The training will be conducted by ASHRAB members that are trained archivists.

In this workshop you will:

  • Learn about archival terminology, ethical responsibilities & outreach
  • Learn the principles of archival organization & functions: provenance, respect des fonds & original order
  • Master the fundamentals of acquisition, appraisal, arrangement, description & preservation of archives
  • Examine successful reference & access strategies
  • Understand how to deal with collection water emergencies

There is no registration fee or cost to attendees.

To register for the training contact prior to May 9th.


Deadline for scholarship applications is April 24th

Ten travel scholarships are available up to $1000 each.  To access the Scholarship Application Questionnaire go to the State Archives website here under “What’s Happening” and submit to Dean Dawson, State Archivist.

 * * * Instructors * * *

 Bruce Parham is the retired director of the National Archives & Records Administration in Anchorage. He has 37 years of experience in planning and directing archival and records management programs and activities.  Bruce has a bachelor’s degree in History from Western State College of Colorado and master’s degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison (Library Science) and University of Colorado-Boulder (History).  He currently serves on the Board of the Cook Inlet Historical Society.

Dennis Moser is the Head of the Alaska and Polar Regions Collections & Archives at the Rasmuson Library of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Dennis has a master’s degree in library science from the University of Michigan and a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from the University of Texas.

Zachary R. Jones is the Archivist & Collection Manager for the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Zach obtained a bachelor’s degree in History from Utah State University, a master’s in Comparative History from the College of William & Mary, and a Certificate of Advanced Studies in Archives & Records Administration from University of Wisconsin.  Jones is also an Adjunct Instructor of History at UAS. Jones is currently a Ph.D. student in Ethnohistory via UAF.

Dean Dawsonserves as State Archivist and has 30 years of archival records management experience.  He attained a Certified Records Manager credential, archival certificate, and holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Northern Iowa.


May Day

Every year Heritage Preservation encourages libraries, museums, archives, historical societies, and preservation organizations to set aside May 1 to participate in MayDay, a global effort to encourage emergency preparedness.

Heritage Preservation is collecting examples of the simple preparedness steps that cultural organizations are undertaking this spring. It’s easy to take part in MayDay. Last year’s participants held fire safety sessions, inventoried emergency supply kits, and created and updated disaster plans. Any cultural institution submitting a brief description of its 2014 MayDay plans or accomplishments by May 31, 2014, will be entered in a drawing for disaster supplies generously donated by Gaylord Brothers.

From now through May 31, Heritage Preservation is also offering its award-winning Field Guide to Emergency Response and Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel at special MayDay prices. And our ERS: Emergency Response and Salvage app remains free of charge for Apple, Android, and BlackBerry devices. In addition, David Carmicheal’s book Implementing the Incident Command System at the Institutional Level will also be offered at a discounted rate.

Be sure to check out Heritage Preservation’s Facebook page for weekly disaster preparedness tips throughout the month of May.
America’s PrepareAthon! is a national and community-based campaign for action designed to increase emergency preparedness and resilience. The overarching goal of the campaign is to increase the number of people who understand the hazards most relevant to their community, know the steps to take to protect themselves and their families and practice these steps.

America’s PrepareAthon! builds on existing preparedness campaigns by providing free downloadable materials including step-by-step implementation guides for workplaces, schools, houses of worship, community-based organizations, and the whole community to learn the steps people should take to be ready should a disaster occur. Actions include signing up for mobile alerts and warnings, holding a preparedness discussion and conducting a drill so people are familiar with what to do beforehand.

Throughout the year, organizations can organize community days of action to encourage individuals to discuss, practice, and train for relevant hazards.  Twice a year, in the spring and fall, America’s PrepareAthon! will hold two national days of action. The national day of action is April 30, 2014 and will focus on preparing organizations and individuals for tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and wild fires. The second national day of action year will be September 30, 2014.

To learn more about America’s PrepareAthon!, its supporters and to register your activity, visit Follow the latest preparedness conversation on Twitter @PrepareAthon using #PrepareAthon. If you have any questions, please send your comments to

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 Professional Time Wasting on the Web

The Color of Light

We Love Museums…Do Museums Love Us Back?

Anatomy of a Mermaid/merman

Visit to Seward’s House

The New Rijksmuseum (cool video of the renovation)

Start-up Museums: who cares

Nina Simon and the Wisdom of the Crowd

Creativity in Museum Practice


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Alaska State Museums Bulletin 74

Printable Version


A Museum Move Lesson
Shaking the Money Tree
Spotlight on Grant in Aid
Alaska Museums in the News
Professional Development/Training Opportunities
Professional Time Wasting on the Web


A Museum Move Lesson:  A Moving Experience is Also Physical

A perspective from Lisa Golisek, Alaska State Museum Protections and Visitors Services Manager (aka Admin Move Branch Team Leader)


It’s March 2014 and we are in the midst of the Alaska State Museum’s “big move.” As mentioned in previous bulletins, the move encompasses relocating the Alaska State Museum’s collections, staff, supplies and equipment by May – just a few months away.  We have developed two main branches under which teams have been established to handle the move; the collection move branch and the Admin move branch.  Between the two branches everything in the museum will be moved. The Admin Move Branch team, like the collections branch team, is amazing and has years of experience with the museum, I would never want to go through a move without their professional knowledge and skills, however we are definitely a brains over brawn group.  This is where moving companies play a role. We value our move team for their intellect, but we needed contracted movers for their muscle and youthful energy.

move stuff

To save yourself time, money, chaos, and keep the museum safe and secure, I submit the attached checklist in preparation for working with a move company.

Preparing to Move with a Contracted Moving Company:

  • Delineate a space to stack materials near the freight door for transfer out of the building
  • Inventory items to be moved and make a checklist of the order you want the items moved. Include pickup and delivery stops if there are multiple destinations
  • Create a move plan and go over it with the moving company supervisor when you schedule a move.
    • The plan should include:
      • List of items and the dimension and/or cubic footage of material to be moved
      • Perceived challenges associated with the move, such as a 3’x4’x3’ cabinet that needs to be moved up a flight of 40-inch wide staircase with a landing and a turn at the top
      • Estimate on time to accomplish the move. Experience is the best teacher on how much time you will need to budget for the move.  If you are a novice to working with a moving company, discussing the move plans in advance will allow them to determine a time estimate
      • List of equipment and supplies the company needs to provide including the truck! Lift gates, straps, moving blankets, hand trucks, palette jacks, suction cups for moving glass are equipment you’ll need to request or they likely won’t bring it
  • If the move is complicated and involves sensitive, confidential or irreplaceable objects, schedule a walk-through with the movers and ask the company for background checks on employees. Avoid working with contractors that have convictions of theft and vandalism in particular
  • Outline all the locations for pickup and delivery
  • Have one museum employee in charge of the movers at a time. Too many directors definitely leads to confusion, poor rapport, and slows the process
  • The employee in charge should escort the movers and oversees their work at all times.  Lack of supervision escalates the potential for damage and loss


When the movers arrive:

  • Sign them in, provide badges, go over security rules that apply, and make copies of their ID’s particularly if they are working with them in secured areas and they are assisting with a collections move
  • Provide the movers with a checklist of what needs to be done in the order it needs to happen
  • Show the movers the items to be moved and give them the opportunity to suggest or make changes to the order and methods of moving the objects if possible
  • Describe the contents of boxes and explain moving requirements and your expectations for handling the items.
  • Oversee what is being put in the truck so the movers don’t pick up pile in the wrong items.  Document what’s going in the

Two lessons learned from working with contracted movers during our office moves :

  1. You can expect moving equipment and supplies with a contracted moving company to require some of the same planning and coordination required for moving collections.
  2. You will likely suffer from some of the same obstacles and emotions involved with moving museum collections objects.

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Question:  We have a 100-year-old rusted steel flask of mercury in our heated museum building.  It is the size of a medium coffee thermos and holds about a cup of mercury.  Are we being foolish to keep the mercury?  If so, what should we do with it?


ASM: You will need to dispose of it properly. It should not be a part of your museum collection.  Mercury does evaporate and the gas it forms is very toxic.    I would suggest contacting the state department of environmental conservation and ask them about the proper way to disposed of it.  They have a whole page dedicated to mercury on their website.

The contact is Mariena Brewer 907-269-1099

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Shaking the Money Tree

Museums Alaska

Collections Management Fund

This year, $100,000 in grants will be available to museums and cultural centers in Alaska for collections management supplies and activities. The goal is to build capacity for managing collections through professional expertise, training, and conservation materials and supplies.

The deadline to submit grant applications is Monday, March 31, 2014.

The next deadline will be September 30, 2014.

Applicants must be 501(c)(3) nonprofit, government, tribal entities or equivalent organizations that hold collections in the public trust, such as a museum or cultural center. Small, rural-based organizations are encouraged to apply. Preference will be given to projects that are collaborative or cooperative in nature. Emergency conservation projects will be given priority. Membership in Museums Alaska is encouraged but not required.

You must apply online only through the link below.

Collections Management Fund Application 2014

Collections Management Fund Guidelines 2014



The deadline for applications is May 1, 2014.

The National Endowment for the Humanities’ Division of Preservation and Access has offered Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions for more than a decade. These grants help small and mid-sized cultural heritage institutions such as libraries, museums, historical societies, archival repositories, town and county records offices, and colleges and universities improve their ability to preserve and care for their humanities collections.  Awards of up to $6,000 support preservation related collection assessments, consultations, purchase of preservation supplies and equipment, training and workshops, and institutional and collaborative disaster and emergency planning.  Preservation Assistance Grants also support assessments of digital collections and education and training in standards and best practices for digital preservation, and the care and handling of collections during digitization.  NEH does not fund digitization or the development of digital programs in this grant category. 

All applications to the NEH must be submitted through See the application guidelines for details.

The 2014 guidelines for Preservation Assistance Grants for Smaller Institutions are available at You will also find sample project descriptions, sample narratives, and a list of frequently asked questions.


See our feature article and interactive map of PAG awards across the country, up on our Web site now:

Small and mid-sized institutions that have never received an NEH grant are encouraged to apply. This year, we have added a special encouragement for applications from presidentially designated institutions (Hispanic-serving institutions, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Tribal Colleges and Universities), and from Native American tribes with significant humanities collections.

For more information, contact the staff of NEH’s Division of Preservation and Access at 202-606-8570 and

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Spotlight on Grant in Aid

Big Change in GIA this year!

The Grant in Aid is moving entirely online.  You will be able to fill out any of the three GIA applications online this year.  We have moved the process to SurveyMonkey to make it more convenient to apply.

Here is how it works:

After April 1st you can go to our Grant Information webpage (

click on one of the three links depending on what grant you are applying for.

(Remember we have kept the Mini-grant and the Internship grant applications very short so it is necessary to contact Scott Carrlee, Curator of Museums Services before you apply for either of these grants as a pre-application condition).

The application layout is very similar to the previous GIA applications and should be easy to follow.


SurveyMonkey will not time you out of an application but it does not allow for saving an application once you start.  So you will not be able to stop in the middle and come back to it.  For that reason we are providing a template for the Regular grant which has longer questions.  You can work on the template off-line and then cut and paste the text into the SurveyMonkey application.  The template can be found on the Grant information webpage


Applications must be filled out by 11:45 p.m. on June 2.

Once your application is on SurveyMonkey,  you will get a confirmation email.

All attachments or peripheral material can be emails to any time before June 2.

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Alaska Museums in the News

The ASM Move of Collections

Maxwell Selected as Senior Curator of Programs for Ketchikan Museums

State Library Archives and Museums New Building: The Movie

Alaska Veterans Museum

Phase Change:  Museum’s last day of public operations

Final Friday marks last public day for Alaska State Museum

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Professional Development/Training Opportunities

Connecting to Collections Webinars are back!!

Digital Collections: A Future for Small Museums

Tuesday, March 25, 2014 at 9 a.m. Alaska Time

Join us on Tuesday as we discuss digital collections and a few ways to create them. If you were unable to attend the Small Museum Association Conference in Ocean City, Maryland this year, this webinar is a great opportunity to catch one of the Conference’s workshops. Amanda Shepp will review the process of digital museum creation and ideas for small organizations. Bring your questions and ideas and get ready for the future!

You do not need to be a registered member of the Online Community to participate in this webinar. Simply go to the meeting room here:

Once there, enter your name and location and click enter. You will be redirected to the webinar. If you’re having difficulty, please take a look at our technical check page. This live chat event is not like one of our online courses, no pre-registration is required. Simply log on during the time of the webinar. An archive of the event will be posted to the Online Community.

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Professional Time Wasting on the Web

Let your finger do the reading.  Maybe we should pass these out at the front desk for exhibit label reading?

Dirty Car Art (this will really amaze  you!)

Smashing art is art

The Art of Museum Exhibitions (radio program)

Corcoran Dismantlement Offeres Lessons for Museums and Sites

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Alaska State Museums Bulletin 73

Printable Version


A visit with Steve Brown
Shaking the Money Tree
Spotlight on Grant in Aid
Alaska Museums in the News
Professional Development/Training Opportunities
Professional Time Wasting on the Web


Concertinas, Curators, Banjos, and Boats: A Visit with Steve Brown

By Jackie Fernandez, Curator of Collections, Sheldon Jackson Museum

SB lecture

During the second week of January the Sheldon Jackson Museum was fortunate enough to host former curator of Native American Art at the Seattle Art Museum, and renowned Northwest Coast carver and author Steve Brown. Brown came to Sitka to examine the museum’s 19th century Northwest Coast souvenir silver collection, identify styles, artists, and approximate year of make of Sitkans’ silver at “An Evening of Silver & Gold, a special Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum event, and to give a lecture at the Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum annual meeting.

The Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum is not part of the Alaska State Museum but a separate, independent nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Sheldon Jackson Museum and its unique Alaska Native ethnographic collection through advocacy, acquisition and educational programming. The Friends’ have been instrumental in providing support for educational programs, including the relatively new, very popular At Saxán (Love of All Things) Saturdays family-friendly youth program; the Native Artist Demonstrators Program, the museum’s artist-in-residence program; and in adding to the museum’s permanent collection, most notably, during the past several years, to the museum’s 19th century Northwest Coast silver souvenir holdings.

PC and SB

Peter Corey and Steve Brown chat about collections

The Friends, and in particular, the Friends recently retired board member, Peter Corey, and Business Manager, Mary Boose, were instrumental in coordinating Steve Brown’s visit. The Friends paid the expenses of his travel and time as a consultant, took the lead on arranging for the Evening of Silver & Gold graciously hosted by the Rain Dance Gallery owned and jointly ran by local artists Tommy Joseph and Kristina Cranston, and coordinated the annual meeting, silent auction to support the Native Artist Demonstrator Program, and Brown’s lecture on Kadjisdu.axtc, the man thought to have carved some of the best known masterworks of Tlingit art including house posts in the Whale House at Klukwan and at Chief Shakes’ House in Wrangell.

Sheldon Jackson Museum curator, Jacqueline Fernandez, took great pleasure in having the opportunity to discuss souvenir silver, a variety of the museum’s Northwest Coast artifacts and artwork, and during coffee breaks, Brown’s collection of nine banjos and two concertinas, and former life living aboard a 44 foot motor sailor moored at a the ship-canal marina in Ballard, Washington. Only two weeks after his visit to Sitka, Brown found himself back in town, this time, fogged in while en route to Juneau from Seattle to attend a meeting. Fernandez picked up Brown from the airport along with his concertina and he answered the following questions:

  1. Former SJM curator Peter Corey, a board member of the Friends of the SJM contacted you about coming to Sitka. This had been something he had been interested in doing for a long time. Can you tell me about how you know Peter.

I met Peter in early 70s. He had invited me to come to the Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan to teach engraving the year after it opened…I think in 1977. That was my first trip to Alaska teaching here and we’ve kept in touch ever since. It’s also likely that I met Peter before then via Bill Holm at the Burke Museum.

  1. What were your initial thoughts about Peter Corey’s proposal? Why did this opportunity appeal to you?

It was a great excuse to come to Sitka. I wasn’t familiar with Northwest Coast silver collection, but I knew there was fairly extensive collection of souvenir silver. I was also interested in the possibility meeting other collectors in the area and felt like I might have something, some information about people’s silver that I could share with them.

The first time I had come to work with the Sheldon Jackson Museum, it was actually also something Pete set up – that time to copy three carvings – including reproductions of a wolf mask, a sea lion helmet, and a bear helmet…Those were done during several visits.


I worked for Sitka National Historical Park a number of times, first in 81’ when I replicated totem poles, two poles with Nathan Jackson, and reconstructed the head of a totem pole there and did some repairs…I also made a set of masks that are in the SNHP collection, a set of four masks showing process from roughed out to finished piece.

  1. Can you describe some other similar projects you have done at other museums?

I don’t think I’ve done anything quite like the attribution project here. I’ve been to many museums. My favorite is the old Museum of the American Indian storage site in the Bronx (now in Maryland), though I suspect it’s different now….Back then, it was all on open shelving and densely packed…It made everything jump…They had boxes stacked on top of each other. It’s such a huge collection and only a fraction of it has been published so everything that you found was something totally unfamiliar and great.”

  1. Had you seen similar NWC souvenir silver collections and silver jewelry similar to that in the SJM collection before?

While I’ve seen similar souvenir spoons in other collections, this was the largest He had largest bunch of NWC souvenir silver I’d seen. [It should be noted that the museum has over one hundred pieces of Northwest Coast souvenir silver, including a variety of bracelets, spoons, pickle forks, butter knives, napkin rings, sugar tongs, and other items made in the 19th century. The silver collection includes pieces made by well-known Tlingit master artists Rudolph Walton, Silver Jim, and even a spoon made by the renowned Haida artist, Charles Edenshaw.]

SJ-2009-1-1 2013-1-1 2013-1-1 Detail of Handle SJIA898

  1. You yourself are an artist and a well-known carver. How does your eye as an artist assist you in your work in making attributions and identifying important stylistic details? I get the sense that you are able to look at art slightly differently than other scholars who may not practice an art form. Would you agree?

Yes. I think it’s important to have personal experience that informs your eye and your research, not only for silver work here, but replications in Wrangell. I wouldn’t feel as comfortable …reproducing every cut and adze mark on the house posts…you are forced to look at something more closely to reproduce it and as a consequence you see the differences more clearly from one artist’s work to another. [Brown was hired along with John Hagen and Wayne Price to replicate poles in the Chief Shakes House in Wrangell 1984, a project of a lifetime. Brown was able to ascertain that houseposts were likely carved by Kadjisdu.axtc, a historic attribution that had hitherto not been made.]

  1. What do you look for when attempting to make attributions?

In this field because Northwest Coast conventions are all used by a huge range of artists, how each individual artist interprets those shapes is really very individual. Even though the conventions of the art make it seem like you have to do certain things in a certain way…but in order for it to be a living part of a tradition …but an individual’s ability to interpret certain forms, particularly ovoid shapes and eyes and eyelid shapes – everybody does them, but they all do those things with really subtle, small personal variation and once you get used to seeing them, you can make certain comparisons and say well this looks like the same hand as this…

  1. You mentioned the ways in which pieces tarnish and discolor is one way to get a sense of the percentage of coin silver versus sterling versus copper in a piece. Can you describe what you look for to distinguish between pieces with higher percentages of coin silver compared to sterling?

Sterling looks whiter or paler…I think it’s the copper that accelerates the tarnish….Some of the ones here, I was surprised to see the warmth of the color really seemed to be leaning towards to copper end so may have had a little as 50 or 60% silver …Coin silver by definition can have a much as %90…..Heating also affects color and look…once you get to a certain temperature, copper flushes to the surface…shows up as kind of a weird shadowy looking surface…..

  1. At this point, SJM has a substantial number of souvenir pieces in the collection, the majority of which are spoons. Are there any kinds of pieces or silver souvenir artists you would recommend the museum pursue?

The number of bracelets in the collection right now are relatively small and that might be an interesting additional area for collecting….very small number of brooches too….I’m not sure how many other types [types of souvenir silver other than spoons] were made during that period – for example, at the Edenshaw exhibit there were maybe only two napkin rings on exhibit…a few cane ferules….

  1. Were you surprised by any of your findings at the museum?

I would say I was surprised by how much of this kind of thing there was in Sitka and in general. I just didn’t realize how much there was out there to collect…and the number of things to be recently acquired by the Friends or Peter Corey…

  1. Were you surprised by any of your findings during the Silver & Gold event? [At this fundraiser held for the Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum, individuals brought their silver and gold pieces to be looked at by Brown. Brown did not make any financial appraisals, but looked at the pieces and tried to identify the period they were made, the style they were done in, and who could have potential made them.]

People primarily brought bracelets….It was amazing to see the range of different engravers’ work and a fraction of them I was able to identify …just to see them all and the range was pretty amazing by itself …You get familiar with the names the researchers bring up, but then, there were all these others…and who they were and all is unknown…but just the fact that they were all there and that their work survived…

  1. What will you do with your findings from your visit?

Peter originally wanted me to produce an article that would then be submitted to American Indian Art…so that’s a possibility and I’d be willing to do that.

  1. Did your time in Sitka generate any new questions about souvenir silver that you are keen to further investigate?

I wonder what percentage of souvenir silver made was actually spoons or bracelets…you could look at museum collections, but that doesn’t necessarily reflect the percentage of artists working the field and what they actually made…only what museums acquired…

  1. Do you often have the opportunity to visit other museum collections and research their holdings? Is there a particular kind of collection or specific collection or museum you would like to research that you have not yet had the chance to work with?

There are places I haven’t been that I’d like to go to….I’d like to return to NMAI…I’d like to go to the Museum of Civilization in CA…I’ve been to the museum of American Indian storage, but there is so much there….

  1. What was your favorite piece in the collection that you saw while at SJM and why?

Taquan pole

My favorite object in the museum is the pole from Taquan…to me that is such an outstanding thing…and the fact that it wouldn’t have survived at all without having been brought here….. I also liked the elegant small grease dish made of Mountain ash in storage and the variety of canoe models….

SB grease dishgrease bowl

  1. You shared many insights with staff and the Friends of SJM and general public while you were here through your review of the collections, consultations, and even a visit to SNHP to look at a pre-contact grease bowl. Many in Sitka were able to benefit from your visit and learn from you. Did you leave Sitka with any new knowledge or interesting information?

I don’t know if I learned anything new necessarily, but I enjoyed seeing the range of silver here and just developing a greater familiarity with whole collection here…I don’t think I’d looked through the drawers in storage in back before.

  1. What is your next project?

I’m consulting with the Alaska State Museum headquarters in Juneau about their new installations and exhibitions.

The Sheldon Jackson Museum is grateful to Steve Brown for taking the time to research the silver souvenir collection and all of our Northwest Coast material and to the Friends of the Sheldon Jackson Museum for providing such wonderful support for our activities, educational and public programming, and acquisitions. If you want to learn more about this nonprofit organization or become a member, you can visit

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Question:  Is it OK to write on CD/DVD’s and what kind of pen or marker should I use?


ASM: We hear this question a lot and I have seen it kicked around the MuseumL listserv.  Here are a couple of the better responses I have seen there.

From Todd Hopkins, Hillman & Carr Inc.

It’s all theoretical, based on the reaction of the alcohol with the label.  I’ve been working with optical for as long as it’s been around and have not experienced a failure of any kind other than scratching or incompatible burns.

The “safest” marking method I’ve heard described is to use a fine point permanent marker on the hub area only.  Generally, these systems simply use reference numbers coded to a separate database or simply a separate “label” stored with but not attached to the disc.

Paper labels = very, very bad!  Never use ANY kind of adhesive label.  That is unequivocal.  Your disc will be unusable, sooner rather than later, and the odds of destroying a drive along the way are high.

Recently I’ve been using the “CD/DVD” markers from Sharpie.  These are a bit hard to find and look and behave like regular Sharpies, but are supposed to be safe for optical discs.  I like them better than the water based pens I’ve used previously.  I also use only “printable” stock, even when I don’t intend to use a printer.  These discs have an extra print layer that adds protection and is meant to take ink.

From Douglas Nishimura, Image Permanence Institute

Right. No one really knows quite what to expect, but here are some concerns:

1)      Softness of the tip. This is why ballpoint pen is not recommended. A small amount of force applied to a very tiny hard tip may cause enough local pressure to produce delamination.  This is the spiked heels on a soft floor problem on a smaller scale. Fiber tipped markers were once assumed to be softer and broader, but aren’t necessarily. If I can still do math on a Monday, a quarter pound resting on a 0.7 mm pen tip is equivalent to 419 pounds per square inch and this is why the concern.

2)      Solvent/carrier fluid. The upper transparent layer has been polycarbonate (and probably still is.) We know that polycarbonate is sensitive to a pretty broad range of solvents that can cause the polymer to crack, craze, or shatter (depending on what internal stresses have been locked in) and this potential weakness was illustrated in the 1980s with people doing their own artistic additions to polycarbonate bicycle and motorcycle helmets. These head protections then failed to do their jobs and would readily shatter on impact resulting in severe head injuries. In addition to applications of paint and spray paint, felt tipped markers had been used to decorate so there is concern that the pen solvent/carrier fluid may cause the polycarbonate layer to swell, crack, craze, or delaminate if the wrong pen is used.  Given the unknown potential for damage, the conservative approach would be to avoid markers (although peeling adhesive labels are known to cause stress delamination so they aren’t necessarily a good alternative.)

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Shaking the Money Tree

IMLS Receives Increase in Funding

In January, President Barack Obama signed into law a $1.1 trillion spending bill to fund the federal government through the end of September, 2014. The legislation includes $226,860,000 for IMLS which is roughly $7 million more than the FY13 budget, partially restoring the funding cuts that were part of sequestration. The appropriation is about $1 million more than the IMLS FY 2014 Request.

The total amount appropriated for libraries, which is through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), increased from $175,044,000 in FY 2013 to $180,909,000 for FY 2014. The total for the Office of Museum Services is $30.1 million, a $900,000 increase from the FY 2013, post-sequestration total.

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Spotlight on Grant in Aid

The Seward Museum used a FY2012 Mini-grant to help with their move of collections to their new museum.  During the late months of 2012, 5 hard core volunteers diligently worked with Amy Carney, then Seward Community Library Museum Collections Coordinator, to carefully clean, catalog and pack the collection of the Seward Museum in preparation for moving into our new facility. On December 17 the crew of World Wide Movers, who had initially balked when asked to move the museum collection, heaved sighs of relief when they saw the careful and study packing job that had been done. The movers were able to complete what they thought would have been a 3-4 day job in 2 days.


But then the work began again. These same volunteers began the painstaking process of creating a home for Seward’s history in the new space. The mini-grant funds were used for a lot of little things that were needed to make the new space a workable museum, especially in preparation for opening on May 11, 2013. There were many trips to the local hardware store for small tools, nails, screws and any other imaginable device that would allow the museum crew to get the exhibits and storage space workable.


Once the space became usable the supply list that was detailed in the original application was reviewed and submitted to purchase storage materials to begin the process of creating secure, archival storage and display spaces for the objects.

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Alaska Museums in the News

Wrangell Museum hunts for feet

Governor’s Awards for the Arts and Humanities

Artists named for Alaska Public art project

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Professional Development/Training Opportunities

Native American Museum Studies Institute:

A Professional Development Opportunity for Tribal Museum Professionals

June 2-6, 2014

To be held at University of California, Berkeley

Goal: to develop the capacity of tribal community members to:

  • Conserve and revitalize tribal cultural heritage
  • Foster tribal representations and partnerships
  • Educate tribal and non-tribal communities through museum development and exhibits

Workshop topics will include:

  • Collections Management and Cataloging
  • Conservation/Collections Care
  • Curation and Exhibit Design
  • Educational Programming
  • Museum Management
  • Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act
  • Museum Fundraising
  • Tribal Partnerships and Collaborations with Counties, States, and Agencies


  • Priority will be given to those already working or volunteering with a tribe’s collection in a museum or in another tribal cultural preservation project
  • Those planning a museum or other cultural preservation project may also apply and may be accepted depending upon availability


  • The training is tuition free to the participants; lunch is provided
  • Participants will be responsible for their other meals, lodging, and travel expenses (see website for more details). Partial travel stipends may be available in case of financial need.


  • Review of applications will begin on March 3, 2014.
  • Space is limited
  • Application form and complete application instructions can be downloaded from our website at or obtained via fax or mail by calling 510-643-7238.


-Joseph A. Myers Center for Research on Native American Issues, UC Berkeley

-California Indian Museum and Cultural Center

-Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, UC Berkeley


C.N. Gorman Museum, UC Davis

Center for Digital Archaeology, UC Berkeley

For more information, call Deborah Lustig at 510-643-7238 or email


Poles, Posts and Canoes: the Preservation, Conservation and Continuation of Native American Monumental Wood Carving

July 21st – 22nd, 2014, Tulalip, Washington

The call for papers has been extended to February 28th, 2014.  We still have a few spaces for presentations, especially those angled towards general collections management, display and use of these objects in native and non-native managed museums, and the use in a museum setting of traditional means of maintenance.  For full details of proposal requirements, as well as registration information for both the symposium and the totem pole maintenance workshop that follows on July 23rd – 25th July, please visit

International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection

We are pleased to announce that this year’s conference will be held in our home state of Colorado.  We’re planning 2 days of general sessions, certification courses, breakout sessions, exhibits, and museum excursions in downtown Denver, followed by 2 days of special sessions, networking, and historic excursions in the Colorado mountains.

The conference is tentatively scheduled for August 9-14:

•             Saturday and Sunday pre-conference cultural activities and welcome reception

•             Monday and Tuesday educational sessions, exhibits, and nighttime activities in downtown Denver

•             Wednesday and Thursday seminars and activities in the Rocky Mountains

Significant lodging discounts will be available, and package deals for all conference offerings.  We plan to confirm dates within a week, and have registration available in mid-February.  Stay tuned for web site updates and email announcements.

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Professional Time Wasting on the Web

On the ground: A tale of two museums

The power and limits of what money and space can do for teaching science to the public

Poor tradeoffs, the Randall College controversy

Giant sinkhole swallows cars at Corvette Museum

The unsettling state of state historical societies

Mold mars 600,000 MU volumes stored at off-campus facility

What not to do with kids at a museum

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Alaska State Museums Bulletin 72

Printable Version


The Arctic Drum
Shaking the Money Tree
Spotlight on Grant in Aid
Alaska Museums in the News
Professional Development/Training Opportunities
Professional Time Wasting on the Web


Editors Note:  The following article was submitted for publication by Asta Mønsted who was born and raised in Uummannaq, Greenland. Currently she is studying for her Master’s degree in Prehistoric Archaeology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. She also works as a guide in the Arctic collection at the National Museum of Denmark.

The Arctic drum – a drum beat is heard coming from Greenland

 By Asta Mønsted


The drum has a special place in the heart of the Arctic people. The Arctic drum is namely much more than just a musical instrument. The drum has been strongly connected with shamanism, but was also used by villagers for entertainment purposes (i.e. drum songs) and judicial decisions. The Arctic drum is deeply rooted in the Inuit culture and, archaeologically, it can be traced back to some of the earliest Arctic societies. Geographically, the traces of the Arctic drum are wide spread starting in Eastern Siberia crossing the Bering Sea to Alaska and further into Northern Canada and ending up on the island of Greenland. These deep and extensive roots connected the Inuit people of the past – as they do today. Our culture and cultural remains originate from the same source and, therefore, an archaeological project concerning Arctic drum fragments in Greenland is considered relevant to readers of an Alaskan newsletter. Now that it’s dark and cold outside, I will do as the traditional Inuit’s did during this time of year: I will tell you a story. It’s an old story of the arctic drum – but with a modern twist.

Figure 1

Following the traces of the drum

During the cold and dark month of January 2013, my ongoing interest in the Arctic drum started and I realized that I had found the subject for my upcoming bachelors dissertation. As I started to unravel the ancient story of the Arctic drum through the use of ethnographic documentation, I realized that these drum fragments could be traced back in time to the Thule culture (approx. 1200-1900 AD), the Dorset culture (approx. 650-1200 AD) and even further into the Saqqaq culture (approx. 2.500-800 BC), which, in Greenland, are some of the earliest people to inhabit the island – around 4.500 years ago. Nonetheless, a question which kept haunting me was how these drum fragments could be recognized without the recovery of a complete drum? The Arctic soil has some of the world’s best conditions for artefact preservation of organic materials, which the museum collections are solid proof of. But even so, archaeologists rarely excavate complete drums which were generally made from animal remains (i.e. bone, antler, skin and internal organs).

The drum’s “fingerprint”

During the next couple of months I sat at the National Museum of Denmark studying artefacts excavated in Greenland, by the Danish Arctic archaeologist Therkel Mathiassen in 1933. The artefacts had all been labelled as ‘drum fragments’, and so I tried to figure out why. Based on my analysis, I created a thesis which outlined how to recognize a drum frame and a drum handle, respectively. The drum frame needs a groove on the outside of the frame in order to tie down the drum skin. In the meantime, the drum handle is in need of a slot for it to be latched onto the drum frame (See picture below).

drum handle

Unfortunately, other parts of the Arctic drum are very difficult to recognize during excavation. Take the drum skin for example; this part was primarily made of the spleen, bladder or skin of a walrus or other large seals. These materials are the most likely to decay, and if the drum skin had been removed from the frame, then it is even more difficult to argue, that it was a drum skin and not part of some other artefact. Speaking of ASM drumdrum skins, I have realized that the Alaska State Museum houses some gorgeous historic drums, where the skins have been painted in beautiful colours and motives!  If you have not been to see them yet, you ought to. Sadly, I have not stumbled upon any painted drum skins during my studies of the Greenlandic drum materials, but your decorated drum skins tell me that I should not rule out this idea. The origin of the drum Since the Arctic drum was introduced to Greenland from the western part of the Arctic, I wanted to test out whether or not these two Greenlandic drum characteristics (i.e. the groove and slot) could be transferred to drums from respectively; Canada, Alaska and Siberia.


During this investigation I concluded, that the Arctic drum came in various shapes, sizes and construction forms. With the help of Ellen Carrlee, the conservator at Alaska State Museum, I realized that some drums could e.g. hold the drum skin by sandwiching it between two drum frames – and thereby avoid the groove on the drum frame. An example from St. Lawrence, Alaska shows that the drum handle could also be carved on the side of the drum frame, and therefore did not need a slot to connect the two pieces (see picture below).

drum part

An example from Birnirk, Alaska shows another way of avoiding the slot on the drum handle, since; in this case, the handle was inserted through a hole on the side of the drum frame (Picture below).

drum rim

Another interesting observation was done, when I examined the oldest dated drum fragments from Greenland. Two pieces of a drum rim were excavated at Qajaa and Qeqertasussuk, respectively, which revealed similarities, not to other Greenlandic drums, but to Alaskan drums (see picture below).

pieces of rim

Both drum rims were thicker than observed on other Greenlandic drums, while the curve of the rim fragments indicated a full rim diameter between 60-75 centimetres. So while the average drum rim in Greenland is approx. 30-40 centimetres in diameter, these older drum parts appear to have a stronger connection to the drums from where the Inuit culture originated – the western part of the Arctic. This may not be so surprising, but nevertheless, it is interesting since it shows how deeply connected the Inuit cultures were nearly 4.500 years ago, when the first Inuit people coming from the West set foot on new land; Greenland. Being nomadic in nature, they brought all of their belongings with them – among them the iconic drum; and some of these drum fragments ended up in my hands for analysis! What a journey. This is the end of my part of the story. Now someone else might pick up from where I left, in an attempt to figure out whether or not one can also establish characteristic traits in drum fragments from archaeological materials found in Alaska. As an old shaman said: “The only thing we know for certain, is that what shall happen, will happen”. Thank you for listening to a fellow ‘inuk’.


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Question:  Recently a pair of Made in the USA XtraTuf rubber boots were donated to the museum. They are covered in fish scales. I don’t want to remove the scales, since they are critical to the history and convey the use of the boots, plus the scales are visually compelling. Yet, I am concerned that they may attract pests. What is your inclination- remove or keep the scales?


I would like to feature the boots in a permanent exhibit about local commercial fisheries, yet the exhibit will not be mounted for several years. Do you have any suggestions about storage mounts or materials while the boots are not on exhibit? Are there any conservation concerns that I should be aware of for when they are exhibited?

ASM:  That is a really interesting artifact and so iconic to Alaska.  I can see why you would want to put it in the exhibit.  First off you should know that anything made of rubber or neoprene is really hard to preserve.  It has what we call “inherent vice.”  Which is just a fancy way of saying it is going to fall apart on its own no matter what we do.  We can slow down the deterioration but we can’t completely halt it.  The clock is ticking.  Other artifacts with inherent vice are nitrate negatives.  When an institution has a large, important collection of nitrate film, they sometimes put them in cold storage, like a refrigerator or an entire cold vault.  In your case that might be difficult to achieve, especially during the time you put it on exhibit.  And the cold might cause some dimensional change (shrinkage) which could cause the fish scales to pop off.  So we have to take all the materials into consideration and also balance preservation with the resources that are available.  I would recommend that for short term you photograph and document the present condition in a very thorough manner.  For storage, you could gently wrap each boot in several layers of acid-free buffered tissue paper.  The buffering agents in the tissue paper will help absorb the off-gassing that will occur as the rubber breaks down.  These are generally sulfur products that result from the breakdown of the organic components in the rubber.  If they are absorbed they tend to get somewhat neutralized and are less likely to cause the rubber to break down further.

As for the exhibit end of things, that is really tricky.  The scales are being held on by fish slime I assume.  That is interesting.  Fish glue has been used as an adhesive for centuries but sticking anything to rubber can be a challenge.  So it might only be a matter of time before they start to fall off.  I would really limit the handling of them in the first place.  It would be best if they could be in their own exhibit case or even a case within a case.  There are VOC scavengers that you can line the case with.  It is a kind of paper or cloth that has activated charcoal in it which absorbs the VOC’s.  Make sure the boots have low light levels on them and the RH is stable.  All of these things will contribute to preserving these.

There is also a whole discussion we could have about whether to accession items like these into the permanent collection or to just consider them exhibit props.  But maybe we should save that for another time.

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Shaking the Money Tree

Heritage Preservation

CAP Applications Available

Heritage Preservation is pleased to announce that the 2014 Conservation Assessment Program application are available at: Paper applications are available upon request.

Applications must be postmarked, submitted online, or emailed no later than 11:59 p.m. on Friday, February 14th. We encourage museums to apply as soon after the application release as possible, as we always receive more applicants than we are able to fund.

Questions may be directed to CAP staff at, or 202-233-0800.


Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries. The application deadline is February 3, 2014.

Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries are small grants that encourage libraries and archives to prototype and evaluate innovations that result in new tools, products, services, or organizational practices. They enable grantees to undertake activities that involve risk and require them to share project results–whether they succeed or fail–to provide valuable information to the library field and help improve the ways libraries serve their communities.

The funding range is from $10,000 to $25,000, and there are no matching requirements. Projects must begin on October 1, November 1, or December 1, 2014. Click here for program guidelines and more information about the funding opportunity.

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Spotlight on Grant in Aid

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum’s Education Collection Re-Organization Project assisted the Museum in completing its first thorough education collection inventory.

old storage

Storage for education clothing before the project

This grant provided funding to hire a contractor to accession the education collection into PastPerfect and for improved storage solutions for the education collection.  The ability to purchase storage lockers, flat file drawers, and storage carts enabled the collection to be housed more efficiently in the same area of the basement where all education collection items are in one location. 


Storage for education clothing after project. 

Furniture not accessioned into the collection used for education hands-on rooms or exhibit props is still housed in an off-site storage location.  Funding enabled the purchase of archival boxes for the collections so that items can be stored with care, such as hat boxes for the hats so they are not crushed, and compartment trays for antique jewelry, light bulbs, collection shells, etc.



The contractor completed 100 hours of work and 550 new scans with associated data entry on 467 education items into PastPerfect.  This project allowed the culling of items that were broken, worn, or not preferred for hands on use.  Some items culled were old-fashioned clothing that was torn or worn and hats that were no longer in good repair from the dress-up closet. Old/antique books were culled and discarded which were not suitable for the hands-on room because of the content or the condition of the book. Other items that were culled were mining implements that were rusty or sharp, bits of glass and beach-combing that has been put on the education shelf, but never inventoried, and toys that were broken from use in previous hands-on rooms.

With the education collection now in PastPerfect, Museum staff can search the collection for specific requests and with the goal of the future creation of education kits that can be loaned out to teachers for use in the classroom.  Weaknesses within the collection related to education kit goals and teacher requests can be identified and filling these gaps can begin.  The grant project enabled them to create postcards to be delivered to the schools announcing our education collection to teachers to take a look at, become excited about, and think about how items can fit into their classroom.  An added bonus, with more efficient storage we have gleaned more space at our offsite storage facility.

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Alaska Museums in the News

Discovery of a rare Tlingit War Helmet causes media stir

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Professional Development/Training Opportunities


PastPerfect Training

Cataloging Collections with PastPerfect 5.0

February 11-13 | 10:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. ET (7:00 a.m. – 9:30 a.m. PT)

Cataloging Collections with PastPerfect 5.0 demonstrates how using PastPerfect can speed up your data entry process. In this three-day course, our trainers will demonstrate how to use authority files, attach digital images, keep your data safe, and much more. With a focus on efficiency, this class will walk step by step through the accession process from the moment “a man walks in with a box.” New users of PastPerfect will learn recommended methods for consistent collections data entry; experienced users will pick up tips to maximize their use of the program. Registered participants will be sent a free copy of the Cataloging Collections with PastPerfect 5.0 Training CD, which complements this course.

Researching and Reporting with PastPerfect 5.0

March 18-19 | 10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. ET (7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. PT)

Research and Reporting with PastPerfect 5.0 is a two-day course that demonstrates how researching and reporting on your collections, donations and membership dues in PastPerfect is straightforward and effective. This course reviews PastPerfect’s research options, highlights commonly-used reports from PastPerfect’s 300+ built-in reports, and teaches easy-to-use tools to modify existing reports and create your own reports using Report Maker. Registered participants will receive a free copy of the Research and Reporting with PastPerfect 5.0 Training CD, which complements this course.

Costs:  $69 per person,

Course descriptions as well as additional training options can be found at our website.

 Jennessa Reed, Training Coordinator
PastPerfect Software, Inc.


The Alaska State Historical Records Advisory Board (ASHRAB) has initiated a program to provide hands-on consultation to six small field archives across Alaska. Experienced archivists from the Sealaska Heritage Institute, University of Alaska Anchorage Archives & Special Collections, University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska & Polar Regions Collections, and Alaska State Archives will conduct preliminary work and travel to rural locations between mid-February and May to selected institutions to make best-practices recommendations at no cost to the field institution.

The program, sponsored by the ASHRAB and the National Historical Publications & Records Commission, will provide three days on-site consultation about archival policies, procedures, and confidentiality of materials. The visiting archivist will address appraisal, description, arrangement, conservation needs, access, and security of archival documents. The archivist will provide training to assist staff in managing and preserving unique, irreplaceable materials.

Those interested in participating in the program must complete an application questionnaire by January 30, 2014. ASHRAB will select the institutions to receive assistance in mid-February.

For an application questionnaire or more information, contact State Archivist Dean Dawson at

Poles, Posts and Canoes: the Preservation, Conservation and Continuation of Native American Monumental Wood Carving.

July 21st – 22nd, 2014, Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve, Tulalip, Washington (Opening Ceremony and Dinner, July 20th, 2014)

This two day symposium (preceded by an opening ceremony and meal on the evening of July 20th) will gather Native and non-Native museum professionals, tribal members, and contemporary Native carvers to discuss the challenges of preserving and exhibiting historic monumental wood carvings from both a Native and Non-Native view point.  It will also serve to connect Native carvers and the museum community in the hope that the resulting dialogue will help support the continued development of this traditional art form.  The format of this gathering is aimed at encouraging discussion, so presentations will be relaxed and brief, and an equal amount of time will be scheduled for general discussion of the topics addressed.

Registration will open January 21st, 2014, and a provisional program will be available at that time.

Further information and details about the conference will be posted at

Call for papers:

The meeting is heavily focused on inclusive discussions amongst participants; therefore we are seeking short presentations (10 – 15 minutes maximum) that encourage constructive dialog.  While technical papers are welcome, we ask that presenters keep in mind the broad background of the expected attendees.  The event will be recorded and the proceedings published.

Proposals for presentations on the following topics are invited:

  • The history behind the past care of poles, posts, canoes and similar large Native carvings held in conventional museum settings.
  • The care of these objects in Native museums and communities from the Native perspective.
  • What types of large artifact conservation treatments and care work best in Native and non-Native museums?
  • The importance and relevance of these objects for the personal visions of the Native carver.
  • The potential use of traditional methods and materials in the preservation of existing objects in collections.
  • How can conservators, custodians and Native carvers bridge the communication gap and support each other’s work?
  • How can a balance be struck between technical and non-technical methodologies?
  • How can we define a range of “best practices” in Native museum collections regarding treatments, storage, moving and mounting techniques for this material?

Information to be included in your proposal:

·         Presentation proposal should be not more than 250 words.

·         Please include a 100 word summary that will be included on the conference website, should your paper be accepted.

·         Provide your name, occupation/institution and contact information, including e-mail address.

·         Indicate the format of your presentation – PowerPoint, presentation from written notes, etc.

Deadline for submission: February 3rd, 2014.

Please submit proposals to:  J. Claire Dean at  (include “PPC paper proposal” in the subject line).

You will be notified by e-mail whether or not your paper has been accepted by February 28th, 2014.

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Professional Time Wasting on the Web

Darn Cats!

Financial Management at America’s Billion-Dollar Museums

Shift in how some museums are funded

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Alaska State Museums Bulletin 71

Printable Version


The Museums Big Move
Shaking the Money Tree
Spotlight on Grant in Aid
Alaska Museums in the News
Professional Development/Training Opportunities
Professional Time Wasting on the Web


The Museum’s Big Move

A perspective from Lisa Golisek, Alaska State Museum Protections and Visitors Services Manager (aka Office Move Branch Team Leader)

It’s December 2013 and we are in the midst of the Alaska State Museum’s “big move.” A move that encompasses relocating the Alaska State Museum’s collections, staff, supplies and equipment by May – just six months away. As I write this article about a discrete aspect of this moving experience, I’m able to look out my office window and see part of a new building or what I refer to as the “back third of the new SLAM” facility towering above the museum.

SLAM stands for State Libraries, Archives and Museums. The completion of the back third of SLAM is a critical component to the museum’s big move as it houses the new collection storage vault.  The new vault, with functioning fire, security, and mechanical systems, is to be ready to receive the museum’s collections by February 28, less than 3 months from now. From the close of business at the end of February, we have six weeks to move 32,000 objects that are on exhibit or in storage into the new vault.  Before the close of business at February’s end, all the staff will be moved offsite and the supplies and equipment will be moved into long-term storage.


Construction underway of the back third of the State Libraries, Archives and Museums (SLAM) building.

The Alaska State Museum building, as we currently know it, will be torn down to make way for the rest of the SLAM building that is to be completed by the spring of 2016.

old ASM

The Alaska State Museum, built in 1967, as a Centennial Project will be torn down in 2014 to make way for the new State Libraries, Archives and Museum facility.


 Architect’s rendering of the new State Libraries, Archives and Museum facility.

For the past year, a few of our employees were instrumental in meeting and deciding to adapt FEMA’s Incident Command System (ICS) to execute our big move. One day last July, I was sent a copy of the move organizational chart produced as a result of these meetings.  The chart had two main move branches – the Collections Move Branch and the Office Move Branch.  The teams under these headings would be responsible for moving everything from the museum — from the file cabinets to the lighthouse lens. My name was in the block titled, “Office Move Branch Team Leader.”  I wasn’t sure who to curse or thank for this role, but the count down to the February closing date was 7 months out, and we needed to get most of the “office branch” moved by then.  True, planning for the office moves had been well underway prior to July, as the director and deputy director had been working for six months finding space within the state library and archives to squeeze in the museum staff desks. However, there was still more to be done under the title of “office move.”

Goals for the “Office Move Branch Team:

  1. Develop and execute a plan for organizing, packing and moving the “low hanging fruit: or those items that are fairly easy to pack up and move out and which no one person claims responsibility for
  2. Schedule staff and office move dates, oversee moves
  3. Organize and pack for long-term storage those items we will need in the future museum but we can do without now
  4. Reduce supply consumable inventory – museum publications, gallery guides, and posters
  5. Create space to pile up property to be sent to the State Surplus for redistribution and sale
  6. Create space in-house to organize and pack
  7. Manage the teams of the office move branch

Admittedly I am one of 95% of the museum’s permanent, fulltime staff involved in a major museum move for the first time. However, we are learning moving lessons every day, and hopefully a few of these lessons will be of benefit to you.

Lesson:  It’s called Low Hanging Fruit because it’s the easiest to pick!

Not everyone in a museum has the skills of a registrar or an archivist, but they all collect. It is amazing the morass of “stuff” an agency can accumulate in 46 years that no one person accepts responsibility for, and how readily staff embrace the idea of someone else organizing it and packing it up.

To make sure we had a complete list of “low hanging fruit”, I visited with staff and informally asked staff three helpful questions:

1) What’s in your area that you are not personally responsible for?

2) What equipment and supplies do you no longer want or need?

3) If someone could assist you, what would you like have them pack for long-term storage?

The third question often unveiled items staff inherited from their predecessors but they had never gone through. Staff showed me stuff that was stuffed in drawers and stashed in corners. The list quickly got lengthy, and repetitive.  It was surprising how much of the same kinds of materials everyone had — photos and slides, multiple copies of exhibit catalogs and museum technical papers, CD’s of images and files, old temporary exhibit photo murals on the walls, and dozens of uncatalogued reference books.  Despite the lengthy list, I also went on a little tour of the building and grounds and compiled a list of everything that I knew wasn’t collections related that we would likely need to keep or figure out what to do with it.  At this point, it was time to put together a team – I needed help.

This project was happening during the busy summer tourist season, and fortunately, the need for additional support was obvious to our Deputy Director who found a way to add 30 hours per week to the budget to add on some non-permanent staff. My section already uses non-permanent employees to cover leave and assist with special events, and I have the good fortune of having a few devoted and semi-retired employees with long tenure. I asked two of them if they would work together 15 hours per week to complete the assignment of dealing with our low hanging fruit and they enthusiastically agreed.

The credit for compiling, organizing and packing the items goes almost entirely these two individuals, and I can’t brag and thank them enough for what they accomplished in the past four months.  Our organizers started with rounding up “like” materials – all the magnetic media, all the reference books, all the exhibit catalogs and publications, all the slides and photographs and assisted in further categorizing them.

Ten Categories of Items from the List of Low Hanging Fruit

  1. Staff reference library
  2. Photos and slides of everything from the museum’s 1987 volleyball team to photos from the millennium gala
  3. Magnetic and digital media –  from commercially produced to museum event coverage,
  4. Museum publications – exhibits catalogs, posters, gallery guides and rack cards
  5. Awards, Plaques and Banners
  6. Newspaper clippings
  7. Memorial plaques and trees
  8. Office wall art – which include large reproductions used in old temporary exhibits as well as work to return to the art bank
  9. Support materials from discontinued programs – the learning kit program and museum graphics
  10. Old equipment and supplies

Once the team had most of a like materials rounded up – then the organizing, inventorying, archiving, culling, packing, and moving could begin in earnest. Going through thousands of slides is a monumental task, but the pace of these employees was good and what didn’t get done then, probably never would.

Although some things might not have receive enough attention, everything was inventoried and boxes were labeled. We developed a simple tracking label for boxes with a label template that prints on standard shipping label stock. The labels are color coded for each museum section:  Museum services is blue, administration is green, collections is purple, etc.  In our case we are moving all of this material twice so the box label lists both the temporary storage location and its final destination in the new SLAM.  We used the room numbers to identify rooms in the new building since all the blueprints are done and room numbers won’t change.

label photo

The best lesson learned on this project was not necessarily how to handle low hanging fruit but who should pick it!

  • Pairing up two people for 15 hours per week got more than twice as much done.
  • Pairing up individuals with compatible but complimentary skills sets was a huge asset.  One had spent a couple years working at the library and understands libraries and archives culture.  The other one was a former museum employee and has institutional memory as well as understands our personalities and culture well. They both have a long history with the community.
  • The individuals not burdened by the responsibilities associated with a full-time position so they could stay focused on the task at hand.
  • The individuals had exceptional spatial reasoning skills – if I had to select people for this process that I didn’t know, I might hand them a Rubik’s cube and watch how easy was for them to solve.

Other lessons learned:

  • Starting with low hanging fruit was a good decision.  It is the easiest thing for staff to let go of so you can get these packed well ahead of time.
  • Removing office wall art and emptying shelves gives the appearance that you are moving and this motivates staff to pack.
  • Rounding up “like” materials allowed us to get rid of redundancy, know how much stock we had, and provide us with an accurate inventory so we could distribute the excess to school, libraries, and other museums.
  • Through the process piles of old equipment and supplies were amassed to go to surplus.
  • In the end, we are rewarded with much needed space

One could say with more fruit idioms, the fruits of our labor on the low hanging fruit….well, bore fruit!

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Question:  How does your museum currently prevent bugs, rodents, light and moisture from affecting the collection?

ASM:  The current pest control protocol in effect since at least 1990 at the Alaska State Museum has been the standard Integrated Pest Management System where we use preventive techniques to keep pests out, monitor with sticky traps on a quarterly basis and treat suspected infestations or incoming artifacts that may be at risk with low-temperature treatment in a freezer in our isolation room.  The IPM procedure is described in the following article:

Light levels are controlled throughout the exhibits and storage areas.  In exhibits, light levels are measured with a light meter and kept within accepted standards, typically around 5 footcandles for light sensitive materials such as dyes and watercolors, under 15 footcandles for most organics, and 30 footcandles for things that are not light sensitive like metals, ceramics and glass.  In storage areas, the control is more in keeping the lights off whenever people are not immediately working in the collections room.  Light levels need to be high enough in there to monitor condition, research artifacts, and perform collections management tasks, so the level is above 15 footcandles.  But since light damage is cumulative, the brief periods of exposure are the control mechanism.  Of course, the majority of the collections in storage are in cabinets and thus exposed to no light unless the cabinet is opened, even if the lights are on in the storage room.

Moisture is carefully tracked in the museum, since we live in a wet climate and the building has inherent flaws.  We have electronic water monitors on the floor in several locations, and we actively monitor the ceiling and the floor for any signs of leaks.  Again, cabinets provide significant protection.  Our IPM system also provides data on moisture, as there are certain bugs that need high humidity levels to thrive.  If we see those kinds of insects (sow bugs, springtails…typically non-heritage eaters) in traps, we suspect elevated moisture and investigate the issue.  We have temperature and relative humidity data going back to 1983.  The museum is typically around 68 degrees F and 45% RH.

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Shaking the Money Tree


Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries. The application deadline is February 3, 2014.

Sparks! Ignition Grants for Libraries are small grants that encourage libraries and archives to prototype and evaluate innovations that result in new tools, products, services, or organizational practices. They enable grantees to undertake activities that involve risk and require them to share project results–whether they succeed or fail–to provide valuable information to the library field and help improve the ways libraries serve their communities.

The funding range is from $10,000 to $25,000, and there are no matching requirements. Projects must begin on October 1, November 1, or December 1, 2014. Click here for program guidelines and more information about the funding opportunity.


The Alliance is accepting proposals for the 2014 cycle of the Museums Connect: Building Global Communities program. An initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in conjunction with the Alliance, Museums Connect offers up to $100,000 for museums throughout the U.S. and the world to partner with each other and their local communities around issues of mutual interest, creating opportunities for greater dialogue and cultural understanding. In the first phase of the proposal process, museums submit a basic profile form and search for a partner. Many profiles of U.S. and non-U.S. museums have already been posted online for potential partners to review. After partnering, museums submit a statement of intent to propose, accepted on a rolling basis through Jan. 20.

Heritage Preservation

CAP Applications Available

Heritage Preservation is pleased to announce that the 2014 Conservation Assessment Program application are available at: Paper applications are available upon request.

Applications must be postmarked, submitted online, or emailed no later than 11:59 p.m. on Friday, February 14th. We encourage museums to apply as soon after the application release as possible, as we always receive more applicants than we are able to fund.

Questions may be directed to CAP staff at, or 202-233-0800.

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Spotlight on Grant in Aid

The Alutiiq Museum

The “Cultures Through Time” project has been successfully completed. Through the project, two separate but complimentary exhibits were created. First, five images were developed showcasing the five major periods of the Alutiiq culture. The design of the images was inspired by the children’s I Spy books, and feature many items from the Alutiiq Museum’s collections from each period.

Russian FINAL.pdf

The images were then printed onto ¼ inch thick, 30 by 30 inch iZone panels and mounted in the children’s Wamwik area of the museum’s gallery. They are arranged in a way that is attractive and engaging, and highlights both the differences and similarities over time. For example, the shape of toggling harpoon points remained virtually identical over thousands of years and between periods, but the materials changed, from bone through to metal. By exploring the images, children can learn about change over time. The panels have proven to be highly popular and a wonderful resource during tours. Children often yell out when they spot an object, “I see it!” which has resonated deeply, since the exhibit is titled Tangraqa – I See It.


Beside the Wamwik is an exhibit case that serves as our introduction to Alutiiq culture through time. This exhibit was installed in 2001, and was never a very well laid out design. The case is large, but the space was not well used and was difficult to understand for those who did not have a basic understanding of Alutiiq culture or archaeology. This project allowed for a complete redesign, including a change from focusing on the scholarly names of the cultural time periods to a more widely understood use of terms (Ocean Bay became Early Hunters, Koniag became Chiefs and Slaves). The title of the exhibit also changes from Culture through Time, which did not emphasis the continuity of culture to Cuumillallret – Our Ancestors. The case is vibrant and shares at least five times as many artifacts as the previous version, utilizing the space much more efficiently and attractively. Importantly, the two exhibits are complimentary in that they share many of the same artifacts. Pieces that are spotted in the Tangraqa images are displayed in the Cuumillallret case, pulling children’s attention into the gallery in a way that was not possible before. Additionally, the abundance of artifacts seen in the images and the case showcase the museum’s collections while educating our visitors in a more intuitive way about the Alutiiq culture through time.

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Alaska Museums in the News

ASM IMLS Professional Development Project: Putting the State in Alaska State Museum

Cordova Museum Purchases work by Milo Burcham


Museum of the North gets new fish specimens

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Professional Development/Training Opportunities


Registration Open for January 2014 Online Training

The Basics of Archives
The Basics of Archives online course is designed to give organizations and individuals who are responsible for the care of historical records an introduction to the core aspects of managing and protecting historical records collections, using appropriate principles and best practices. Proceed at your own pace through this online workshop covering the basics of archive management and practices. The course is web-based and takes 15-20 hours to complete.

  • January 6, 2014 - February 7, 2014
  • $85 members / $160 nonmembers

Developing a Membership Marketing Plan
Does your organization’s membership program need a jumpstart? Do you want to grow new members? Join a lively discussion about how to develop a membership marketing plan for your organization and increase revenue. When the webinar is complete, you will take home not only a model on how to develop, but also real ideas and suggestions to put in that plan.

  • January 15, 2014 @ 3:00 pm - 4:15 pm
  • $40 members/$115 nonmembers

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Professional Time Wasting on the Web

700,000 Year Old Horse discovered in the Yukon

Alaskan Artist Larry Beck

Please touch tour for the blind

AASLH unveils new website “Home for History”

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