ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) – The president of the Alaska Native Heritage Center said she is still reeling from a generous gift that nearly doubled their collection. The donation came after the Wells Fargo Museum, located in the Midtown Anchorage bank, shut its doors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The fact that we received over 1,700 items in one donation is historic,” said Center President Emily Edenshaw. “I mean, I get goose bumps right now even thinking about it. And so that means we’re going to be able to do more programing, being able to expand our permanent collection and just share our beautiful and vibrant cultures with the world.”
The Native art and artifacts were collected over a 30-year period by the Rasmuson family, explained Heritage Center Curator of Collections and Exhibits Angie Demma, who previously worked for the Wells Fargo Museum. The museum, along with several others, were closed permanently in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Demma said many of the newly donated items are valuable and unique. They come from every corner of the state, but more is known about some than others.
“We might not know who the artist is. We might not know what culture it comes from, so we’ll be working on those kind of things with our cultural advisory committees here at the center,” she said.
Demma hopes Native artists will learn as much from viewing the new collection as the general public. She said having it at the Center is a rare opportunity to see historic pieces up close.
“I hope to have as many Alaska Native artists, culture bearers and elders come and visit this, as well as sharing that richness with visitors from Outside so they can educate themselves about Alaska Native peoples,” she said.
Some of the art is not on display because there is simply too much. Demma said the center is planning major renovations in the next few years that will give them more space. In the meantime, she said, there’s still plenty to see.
The Alaska Native Heritage Center — the only statewide living cultural center in Alaska — is currently closed but will reopen with summer hours — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday — starting on May 10.
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