By Heather Beggs
On its 30th Anniversary, Museums Alaska returned to Haines, Alaska for its annual joint meeting with the Alaska Historical Society on September 25-28, 2013. Nestled at the mouth of the Chilkat River beneath towering peaks, Haines provided a majestic setting for our annual proceedings. With sessions taking place on the edge of historic Fort Seward and events taking us around town to the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center, Hammer Museum, American Bald Eagle Foundation, Haines Public Library, fairgrounds and local restaurants, our hosts showcased their community well and our 160 conference attendees were welcomed at every turn.
Museums Alaska’s ever-popular hands-on pre-conference workshops were again complemented by a pre-PRE-conference day of Angels Projects. This year, an ambitious goal of assisting four local museums with identified needs was integrated into what ultimately became a two-day exhibit design workshop. Each year, when coming to a small town en masse, Museums Alaska helps take advantage of museum expertise and assists a local museum or two with a project they need help accomplishing. This year, participants visited the Sheldon Museum, Hammer Museum, American Bald Eagle Foundation, and Charles Anway Cabin on Tuesday to plan solutions for exhibit design issues, and start forming options using SketchUp software. The Wednesday workshop then expanded to a greater group of participants that received professional training on SketchUp then brought the designs to completion. Thanks to a Grant-In-Aid from the Alaska State Museum, every workshop participant also went home with a handsome exhibit toolkit.
Conference sessions covered a wide range of requested topics including advocacy, publishing, social media, and earned income on the business end; and collections planning, museum moves, taxidermy, archaeology and a highlight of the impressive Chilkat Valley Storyboard Project on the program side. Speakers were engaging and inspirational and, as is common in our small museum community, new relationships were forged and collaborations hatched in the inclusive environment of sharing best practices. Keynote speakers were Jacqueline Johnson Pata, Executive Director, National Congress of American Indians, and Michael Gates, retired Parks Canada Curator and Conservator.
Museums Alaska was pleased to launch a new grant program at the conference: the Collections Management Fund. With funding from Rasmuson Foundation, Museums Alaska will distribute $100,000 annually for four years 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 new fund complements the Art Acquisition Fund, starting its second decade of assistance to Alaska museums and living Alaskan artists, with $265,000 to distribute this year.
Many thanks go to our conference 2013 hosts, the Sheldon Museum and Cultural Center. Next year Museums Alaska and the Alaska Historical Society will meet in Seward, Alaska October 1-4, 2014 just before WMA’s Annual Meeting. Come join the fun!
Heather Beggs began as Executive Director of Museums Alaska in April 2012, having a served on its Board of Directors from 2004-2009. She led the Pratt Museum in Homer, Alaska from 2003-2009 and took a sabbatical in New Zealand during 2010 to work on a project at Te Papa Tongarewa with the National Services Te Paerangi department. She received her MA and JD from Indiana University – Bloomington, where she worked at the Indiana University Art Museum.