Watercraft Workshops

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skin boat with oars and small stool
Umiaq with Oars, made by Lennie Lane, Iñupiaq hunter from Point Hope, 1955. Robert & Margaret Lathrop collection. UA97-025-0060
roll of birch bark
Birch bark canoe fragment collected from near Tanana. Made by an unknown creator between 1833-1842. Tanana Chiefs Conference collection. UA2018-013-0001

The Folk School, a Fairbanks nonprofit that offers year round classes and programs in a wide variety of hands-on disciplines.

The focus of this NEH HCRR Foundations project is the Indigenous watercraft collection held in the ethnology & history department: sixteen (16) full-sized Alaska Native hand-made boats constructed from local materials; ninety-seven (97) model boats made from the same materials but on a miniaturized scale; and nearly one-hundred (100) accessories that are important to the care and use of those watercraft, including paddles, sleds, and specialized tools for use in them. In order to consider the deep history of these traditions for Alaska Native peoples, well-preserved archaeological boat parts will be singled out for special discussion and comparison with more recent items.

Using the physical objects as the focus of our discussions, project participants will spend one day on-site examining and discussing the watercraft and their future physical needs, as well as possible research and community-based projects that could be undertaken using these items. The summary of these discussions will serve as the basis for a future NEH HCRR implementation grant, which will be the primary goal of this project. Special considerations will be taken for the physical care of the objects as well as the kind of cultural information that should be recorded and shared in our online collections database.

We will assemble a team consisting of: twelve Alaska Native cultural experts, two academic experts on Alaska Native watercraft, one objects conservator, UAMN-based scientists and museum professionals, artists, Alaska Native language specialists, and local craftspeople. This diverse group will ensure a wide range of goals are met and voices are heard from the very beginning of this project.