The Alaska State Museums are set to receive the National Medal for Museum and Library Service in Washington, D.C. next week. It’s the highest recognition of its kind. The director of a new cultural heritage center in Klukwan is part of the group receiving the award in the nation’s capital.
The Jilkaat Kwaan Cultural Heritage Center opened in the Chilkat Indian Village of Klukwan last spring. Executive Director Lani Hotch said they got a lot of help from the Alaska State Museums as the cultural center was being developed.
“We couldn’t have done it without them,” Hotch said.
Hotch said the State Museums helped in a number of different ways.
“They helped us get our museum organizational stuff put together,” Hotch said. “They taught us some basic skills for handling artifacts and things. We learned how to properly clean and handle them.”
They even helped with the design of the building itself.
“I sent the architect down to Juneau to meet with the museum folks so that they could have some input on the design to make sure that it would work as a museum facility,” Hotch said.
The heritage center houses some of the most renowned pieces of Northwest Coast Art, the Whale House Collection. Hotch said the State Museums aided with documentation and conservation work of some of those art pieces.
Hotch is attending the national medal awards ceremony as a community representative. Patience Frederiksen will also be there to accept the award. She’s the director of the Division of Libraries, Archives and Museums at the Alaska Department of Education.
“It’s a huge honor to get this,” Frederiksen said. “For us, it feels like it is a validation of work that the state museums, the one in Juneau and the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka have been doing for many, many years.”
The museums in Juneau and Sitka are the only two state museums in Alaska. But they also do outreach and provide development resources to museums throughout the state.
Frederiksen said having Hotch at the ceremony is representative of that aspect of the organization’s mission.
“Most museums, when they go, they bring a member of their community, of their town,” Frederiksen said. “That has used the museum a lot. In our case, our community is all of Alaska. So having Lani come is really great.”
“Another large community are Alaska Natives,” Frederiksen continued. “And to have somebody from a museum that is Alaska Native sort of doubles up on the two types of communities that we do serve. She represents both of those communities very well.”
Ten libraries and museums from across the country are receiving the national recognition. The awards ceremony will be held at the National Archives Museum on Monday, July 17.