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Journal Alaska spotlight Museum News in the Great Land A state museum opens in Juneau, highlighting Alaska’s exceptional cultural resources By Eric Lucas Top, Division of Library, Archives, and Museum; Bottom, Brian Wallace / Sealaska Heritage Institute P ublic museums tend to be dominated by artifacts of the past, and the new Alaska State Museum in Juneau holds its share of historical objects—from ancient Arctic ivory carvings, to a cape worn by William Seward, to military artifacts depicting Alaska’s important role in World War II. Yet the building’s most impressive sight is entirely new: a massive glass-and-wood wall by Ketchikan artist Evon Zerbetz. Measuring 80 feet by 10 feet, with 15 separate panels atop carved alder cabinetry, the screen divides the library reading room from the research alcove in the new downtown facility, which will open to the public informally on May 21, with a formal dedication on June 6, after four years of construction. Zerbetz’s work, titled We Are Written in the Layers of the Earth, depicts wild creatures and human inhabitants in Alaska; it is vivid and imaginative. Completed on time and slightly under budget, the $139.5 million Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff State Library, Archives and Museum Building encompasses 120,000 square feet. The museum’s first floor comprises 20,000 square feet of exhibit space. That’s two and a half times as much as Alaska’s old state museum. This allows more room for displays, and it provides the exhibits with more “room to breathe,” as project overseer Bob Banghart puts it. There is now room for a 5-foot-long section of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline, complete with the 18-foot-high pillars on A giant carved-wood and glass wall, part of which is shown here, was commissioned for the new Alaska State Museum in Juneau, with art by Ketchikan artist Evon Zerbetz. which it rests. Nearby is a 30-foot classic Bristol Bay sailing boat from the state’s early 20th century salmon fishery. A glisten- ing new cedar clan house was custom- made for the museum by a team led by carver Todd White; it will house Alaska Native historic artifacts from the mu- seum’s extensive holdings. These include a famous Tlingit ceremo- nial frog hat that the museum helped rescue from private sale and now holds jointly with the Kik.sadi Clan to whom it belongs. The museum helped pioneer a unique custody arrangement whereby the hat is under museum care but can be “borrowed” by the clan whenever they wish. The building also represents a lot of work done by ordinary Alaskans. Banghart, deputy director of libraries, archives and museums for the state, focused on regional workers and artists for the project—80 percent of the subcontractors were Alaskan, for instance. To Banghart, this reflects the unifying theme he sees throughout the history of Alaska: “Creative Celebrating Native Culture Just a few days after the planned opening of the new Alaska State Museum, the streets of Juneau will come alive with Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian culture for Celebration, June 8–11, a biennial gathering of Southeast Alaska’s Native peoples in a citywide festival of song, chant, storytelling and more. Highlights include parades, workshops, competitions and dances. Celebration is organized by the nonprofit Sealaska Heritage Institute, which also runs the Juried Art Show and Competition. Alaska Airlines is a major sponsor of Celebration. Learn more at Wayne Price’s Tlingit Helmet (2010) won Best of Show at a past year’s Juried Art Show and Competition. may 2016 Alaska beyond Magazine 37 AAM 05.16 Journal.indd 37 4/18/16 4:45 PM