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October 2017

Entries from November 2017

Collections Highlight E10439: Inuit Stone Lamp

E10439
By Daniel Kellam

This half-moon soapstone bowl is much more than what it appears. Our catalog information indicates this stone lamp was attributed to the “Eskimo”, today known as Inuit, cultural group. This lamp was collected by Captain C.F. Hall in 1871 in Repulse Bay, Canada. The stone bowl would be filled with oil or blubber, then a wick made of dry moss or grass would be inserted and, voila, you have a lamp that is capable of providing light and heat for hours when properly maintained. This lamp is roughly 27 inches long, 14 inches wide, and 3-5 inches tall. Like many soapstone vessels in our collections, this lamp was broken at some point.  It has been skillfully repaired with sinew and possibly some form of glue.

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Collections Highlight E167940: Coffee-Caddy

E167940
By Daniel Kellam

Americans, along with many other peoples around the world, have an obsession with their coffee. We drink it everyday, often in large amounts. We have ceramic mugs, travel mugs, color changing mugs, and even disposable stryofoam coffee cups. What does one do when none of these resources are at your disposal? This vessel, which comes from Lapland, looks similar to many other vessels found throughout the region but was specifically used to transport coffee! This coffee caddy was collected in 1893 by Hon. J.M. Crawford and was accessioned by the museum in October of that year. It is made of wood, and is ornately carved. While this caddy was most likely used to transport and hold dry coffee beans, it highlights the similarities and differences among cultures through the lens of something as simple as a beverage many people consume daily.

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Collections Highlight E2441: Chukchi shoes

E2441
By Daniel Kellam

This pair of summer boots comes from Russian Siberia and are attributed to the Chukchi peoples. Originally collected in 1863 on the J. Rodgers & United States North Pacific Exploring and Surveying Expedition, they are manufactured out of dressed animal skins. According to notes left by Dr. Ilja S. Gurvich, the head of the Northern and Siberian Peoples Department in the former U.S.S.R. Academy of Sciences, Moscow in 1982, the soles are made of walrus skin and the upper portions are made of seal skin. The boots were collected some time between 1853-1856  by Captain John Rodgers and accessioned by the museum in 1863.

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Collection Highlight E280184: Gut Skin Parka

E280184

By Daniel Kellam.

In modern times, if the weather turns bad and you get caught in the rain you grab an umbrella or perhaps a lightweight nylon rain jacket from a popular outdoor company. But what if you don’t have access to resources like those and you need to rely on something from nature? You can look no further than the inside of a seal or other marine mammal. Seal intestines, also known as “gut skin” is the traditional material used by Arctic indigenous cultures to provide them with an incredibly lightweight and versatile weatherproof shell to wear when hunting in poor weather or at sea, and it is even used in ceremonial dress.

This gut skin parka comes from St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea, Alaska. Donated by Riley D. Moore in 1913, it is made from seal or walrus intestine and decorated with crested auklet feathers, fur, and even sports a drawstring hood. The waterproof seams are achieved by a process of using sinew thread and a technique that folds and reinforces the seam with a method of sewing that allows the material not to be pierced all the way through. To see how the gut skin is processed and used check out Material Traditions: Sewing Gut, from the Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum where three Native Alaskan artists demonstrate the proper techniques to manufacture this ingenious solution to keeping dry.

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