Watercraft Workshops

Indigenous Watercraft Workshop Project
skin boat with hunting tools
Check out our Facebook page for more information about the collection and our workshops!

National Endowment for the Humanities (2019-2022)

(2021 update: workshops have been postponed in order to protect our participants from the coronavirus - we will update this page and our Facebook page when we know more about when we'll be able to gather together on the UAF campus)

The ethnology & history department at the University of Alaska Museum of the North (UAMN) has been granted $57,768 in funding from the NEH HCRR Foundations grant program to host two workshops focusing on our Indigenous watercraft at the museum in Fairbanks, Alaska. The workshops will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders including Alaska Native cultural experts, academic researchers, objects conservators, museum professionals, local craftspeople, and students in order to plan for a future NEH HCRR implementation grant. With this wide range of perspectives, we will collaborate to identify the priorities in caring for and sharing the important Indigenous watercraft collection at the UAMN.

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 three days each year, for two years, 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.