Native Voices Visits Alaska’s Capital City

JUNEAU, AK — The Native Voices traveling exhibition visited Alaska’s capital at the University of Alaska Southeast during fall and early winter 2015.

“The Native Voices exhibition was a beautiful, stimulating addition to the library [last] semester,” said Jonas A. Lamb, Public Services Librarian at the university’s Egan Library.

The university is located in Alaska’s southeastern territory adjacent to the British Columbia border, with a formidable ice field and a mountain range in between. The area also is the cultural homeland of Alaska’s Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian indigenous peoples.

Panels from the Native Voices traveling exhibition stand in front of windows at Egan Library

Winter provided a stunning backdrop to the Egan Library’s staging of Native Voices.

Lamb explained that the NLM exhibition, which partially focuses on Alaska Natives’ health practices, joined a flurry of on-campus activities related to native and indigenous cultures, including a film series called “Language Matters.” The three-part film series focused on endangered indigenous languages.

The Egan Library also partnered with Juneau’s Public Libraries on a StoryCorps Project to collect interviews documenting the educational experiences of Alaska Natives.

In addition, the library hosted the Evening at Egan Lecture Series. Four of those lectures explored Alaska Native topics, including ethnographic portrayals in films about Alaska, and a lecture by university faculty member Ernestine Hayes, who offered an interconnected view of life and discussed health and wellness among indigenous cultures.

“We estimate that approximately 8,000 to 10,000 people visited the exhibit,” said Lamb, during Native Voices’ 15-week run.

Those numbers are particularly impressive since, as Lamb noted, Juneau is one of the most isolated of the nation’s state capitals, with a population of about 33,000 people and a location reachable only by plane or boat.

On the other hand, the city is home to a thriving salmon industry and a cruise-ship summer tourist influx. Also, as Lamb observed, “We do pretty well in libraries and archives, as both the Alaska State Library and Alaska State Museum are here in Juneau.”

Egan Library was the traveling exhibition’s third stop in the Alaska capital. The Alaska State Library and the Sealaska Heritage Institute had hosted it previously.

By Judy Folkenberg

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