Sunday, July 31, 2016

Valdez, AK - Valdez Museums

There is a cool museum in Valdez which we visited one day, the Maxine & Jesse Whitney Museum. They came to Alaska in 1947 and traveled throughout the state as then accumulated one of the largest private collections of Alaskan Native art and artifacts in the world. It’s not the biggest museum in the world but it is a huge collection.
When we walked in we saw this huge stuffed moose, the largest piece in the museum. It is 8’ tall and has antlers that span 5’ 8” across. He is among the largest mounted moose in existence and actually had to be taken off the form to get it into the space.
There are lots of other stuffed pieces in the museum and I was amazed at how tall this polar bear could be when standing on its hind legs. Hey, it doesn’t have a Coke bottle in its hands. Those paws are as big as my head.

This is a model of the Revenue Cutter Bear. The hull is constructed out of ivory layered over a full walrus tusk. The sails are mostly baleen from whales with the front sails made out of ivory. The rope coils, smokestack, bridge deck, hold covers and all rigging are made from sinew. It is a stunning piece of work.
This basket is actually made out of baleen not any kind of grass. It was made by Inupiaq artists, Joe and Nellie Sikvayugak. She did the weaving and he did the carving.
Harsh climates call for thick, warm clothing. Using what they could collect, harvest or hunt the natives had to come up with some good ideas to keep themselves warm. Here are some mukluks and mittens lined with different furs and skins. The intestines of moose and seals were often used for waterproof clothing and soles of boots. The fur of wolverine resists frost accumulation and shields the face from the cold. Mink and beaver add warmth and decoration. Seed beads and Russian trade beads add status and connote wealth.
I’m an old cribbage player and enjoyed these cribbage boards carved out of walrus ivory for the tourist trade. During the 18th C, whalers would visit the coastal villages of Alaska. Cribbage was a popular way to while away the time and the sailors would ask the natives to make cribbage boards for them.
Lots of stuffed heads here too. There are several walrus tusks too. Note the board on the lower left with pieces of fur to touch. And, in the lower right is a moose antler chair.

Here are two ivory carvings of Wiley Post and Will Rogers who died in Barrow in 1935.
Here is a rack of tools. You can see the harpoons off to the left that were used to hunt birds, fish, whales and large game. They were made from various materials like bone, iron, wood, fossiled ivory and stone.
Here is a pen and ink sketch on a hide.
The other museum we visited was a museum of the history of Old Valdez, before the 1964 earthquake. We were particularly intrigued by the miniature village that had been reserached, deisgned and constructed by architectural muralist Sue Fowler. It took 2 1/2 years to put this all together but it historically accurate.
It is so big that it is contained in 9 separate glass covered cabinets. Here is the overview picture I took from a balcony above the room.
Here is some detail of one of the streets. Atop the cabinet are often actual pictures of the house if they were available. In front of every home is the name of the family that was living there when the earthquake struck.
And, here is more detail of one of the homes. Here is the Newell house on McKinley Street.
Finally, here is the pier where the freighter Chena was tied while it was unloading. I don’t think it shows all of the people on the pier when the earthquake stuck since 32 people died when the ship rose up on a tsunami wave and crashed down on the pier killing all of those people. There is a film that we watched about the earthquake with people who lived through it telling what they were doing. One man was a young kid when the earthquake struck. He visited the pier with his friend to see all the excitement. He had to go to the bathroom so he went to the land end of the pier with his friend and, thus, both of them were saved. However, his mother who knew that he had gone to the pier did not know he had been saved and went through the next night not knowing what had happened to him.

When he appeared the next day she burst into tears. They were together when they were telling this story. But, not every story ended so happily.
Exellent museum, film and miniature of the town. A great memory for the survivors and the town and an excellent museum for tourists to learn about the earthquake.

We saw a commercial fishing boat leave the harbor as we were heading back to the RV.
And, the clouds obscuring the mountains.

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