The list of MacArthur Fellows for this year and has been announced, and it includes all sorts of people I’ve never heard of doing fascinating things that I haven’t heard about. The list includes Jay Rubenstein, a medieval historian from Tennessee, as well as a museum director from Alaska, who I’m going to talk about.
Sven Haakanson, runs the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska.
Sven Haakanson is the driving force behind the revitalization of indigenous language, culture, and customs in an isolated region of North America. A native Alutiiq trained with a Ph.D. in anthropology, he is straddling worlds in an effort to preserve and give contemporary meaning to Native history and local legends, rituals, and customs. The Alutiiq Museum, which he directs, is an archaeological archive and anthropological repository of cultural artifacts of the Kodiak archipelago. Under Haakanson’s leadership, the museum also serves as a traveling resource, bringing innovative exhibitions, educational programming, and field research to the landlocked villages throughout the island of Kodiak by boat and small plane. The museum provides Haakanson with a unique opportunity to establish and cultivate collaborative relationships with museums throughout the world whose holdings include ancient Alutiiq artifacts. Bridging cultures and continents, he has orchestrated the exhibition and acquisition of Alutiiq masks and other artifacts dispersed throughout Russia and France in the 18th and 19th centuries. He has also organized first-time, traveling exhibits of antiquities on loan to museums in Alaska.
Not only is he a gifted museum director, with his anthropologist hat he runs studies of sacred sites, and as an artist he takes photographs and makes masks.
Haakanson is a great example of how to integrate a museum into the community it serves, using history, art and science as paths to telling the stories of Alutiiq life. The bookmobile-like airbourne museum is also a great example of how museums can serve as community resources that come to people where they are. And his international networking is also pretty amazing.
The Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository also has a fine website with tons of content and some 2.0 features, like the ability to favorite or comment on various articles (you do have to register with the site). You can subscribe via RSS to their Alutiiq Word of the Week feature, which also appears on local radio.
Congrats to Haakanson and the Alutiiq Museum!