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Visitors invited to tour museum behind the scenes

Submitted by Kerynn Fisher
Phone: (907) 474-6941


After a one-year hiatus for construction, the University of Alaska Museum of the North's annual open house returns this weekend. The free, family-friendly event will give visitors their first opportunity to tour the museum's new wing behind the scenes on Saturday, Dec. 4 from noon to 4 p.m.

Similar to the museum's open house in previous years, a self-guided tour takes visitors to the museum's exhibit design suite and to the research collection labs. This year, however, those labs have moved to their new homes in the museum's new wing. In addition to the research collection labs, the museum has several new laboratories shared by its research collections. The new biological preparation and paleo/archaeological preparation labs on the museum's main level will be open to the public, with students from the museum's mammal collection preparing a musk ox for the collection in the biological preparation lab.

In the lower level of the new wing, the research collections labs will be open for visitors, with most labs displaying recent acquisitions for their collections. Objects on display will include a Raven's Tail robe commissioned for the museum's art gallery and recently completed by Tlingit weaver Teri Rofkar, archaeological artifacts from the Moose Creek site in the Nenana Valley and the Tangle Lakes Archaeological District, polar dinosaur specimens and a cross-section of Alaska's birds, mammals and plants. Museum curators, research staff and students will be on-hand to answer questions, and visitors can spend as much or as little time in each of the labs as they like.

Upstairs in the lobby, the museum will offer demonstrations by Inupiaq beadworker Dixie Dayo, Inupiaq skin sewer Mable Hopson and Sugpiaq mask carver Gordon Pullar (Tan'icak). This is the eleventh year the museum has offered these Gatherings North presentations, which bring Alaska Native artists into the museum to show visitors how they create their art. Younger visitors, with the help of parents and volunteers, will be able to make felt cutouts of Alaskan animals and attach them to cards they've decorated to look like the animals' habitats.

For the holiday shoppers, the museum store will offer a 20 percent discount on Alaska Native baskets and 10 percent off all other merchandise, including a new shipment of Alaskana books, many of them out of print. The museum store holiday sale runs through December 24.

Saturday also marks the opening of A New Sense of Wonder in the museum's special exhibit gallery. Guest-curated by Kesler Woodward, this exhibit brings together works by several current and former Alaskan artists who helped kick off the fundraising for the museum's new wing with the 1995 Sense of Wonder art auction.

The museum's open house is one of more than a dozen free events the museum hosts each year and frequently draws more than 1,000 visitors. All open house activities are wheelchair accessible.

"It's a great event for families and truly one of the best things we do all year," says Museum Director Aldona Jonaitis.

Contact: Kerynn Fisher, communications coordinator, University of Alaska Museum of the North, at (907) 474-6941 or (907) 378-2559.