For this week’s assignment, I really enjoyed looking around trying to find interesting examples of media in museums. I watched a ton of videos on the Alaska Film Archive YouTube, but since AFA is a part of the university library, I wanted to find something a bit more museum focused. I did however find this really 1959 film (originally on 16mm film) that explores the Arctic Wildlife Range which is now part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. (Edit: I would like to add a content warning for the first video. At first I, I really quickly skimmed the contents but upon closer inspection, I heard some problematic terms with respect to Alaska Natives. I apologize for not catching it sooner.) I then found this series on the Anchorage Museum YouTube called “Our Story”. This is a really interesting series that was posted in 2016 about an exhibit that was at the museum from November 2015 to September 2016. The exhibition was a collection of art created by Alaska Natives. Guest Curator, Drew Michael, described it as follows: “As Alaska Native peoples we gather strength and are unified by sharing our own stories through words, art, and objects of the past. Until quite recently, Indigenous art was defined and described by non-indigenous people in museums, books, and galleries. This collection of artwork helps tell the story of what it means to be Alaska Native in a changing time, place, and perspective. Each object has a creator who has invested his or her life to expressing identity through art.” Each video in the series focuses on one artist and they describe their piece and how it represents their culture and personal history. I found it very effective in that in addition to expanding the audience that gets to see the art, the audience also gets to hear from the person who created the art and what it means to them. I think the series was an excellent addition to the exhibition. One of the artists, Ricky Tagaban, describes how his iPhone bags that are made using traditional Chilkat weaving techniques blend cultural history and modern day living.
Because the video series was made relatively recently, it was likely “born-digital”. This means that traditional agents of deterioration that affect other analog media like film, tapes, or discs are not going to affect it. However digital content faces its own unique challenges when it comes to longevity. In addition, it effectively immortalizes the exhibition (to an extent) because even though the exhibition is no longer on display at the museum, one can view the series and not only see the art but hear the artists’ stories about their lives.
This week I especially enjoyed the video series “Ties to Alaska’s Wild Plants” as well as the “Nature Can Heal” video. When I lived in California for a bit, I took an herbalism class which was (of course) largely based on knowledge that Indigenous people have used for thousands of years. I became fascinated with the medicinal uses of plants and the techniques used to make different products from them. It was so amazing to learn this week about how Alaska Natives use different Alaskan plants and all of the different types of oils, salves, and other products that can be made with local plants.
Q: What interesting facts/techniques/types of media did you learn about this week that was new for you? Personally, I had never considered how fieldwork documents might be considered media in collections. Angela Linn talks about this in her video this week which includes content like permits, field notes, data sheets, etc. I’ve never considered that the messy data sheet I’m using in the field might one day become a part of a collection.