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Amutat project will list Alutiiq objects in museums across the world

Historic Alutiiq halibut hook.
Historic Alutiiq halibut hook.(Alutiiq Museum)
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 6:26 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A federal grant will help the Alutiiq Museum and the Suna’q Tribe of Kodiak start a database of Alutiiq items in museums around the world.

The Amutat project is being started with a grant from the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs for $32,578.

In Alutiiq, Amutat means “things to pull” according to April Laktonen Counceller, the museum’s executive director. She says the name is appropriate because the project will be pulling objects from collections for study, things that may be difficult for people to find and access.

“Examples of our ancestors’ tools are part of numerous museum collections spread across the United States and the world,” says Counceller. “Large collections, like those in France, and Finland are relatively well known. But there are many smaller collections. For example, the Logan Museum of Anthropology in Wisconsin has an embroidered sewing bag, the Rochester Museum and Science Center in New York holds a pair of historic whaling lances, and the National Museum of Scotland cares for at least six Alutiiq items collected on Kodiak.”

The database will provide a central list of ethnographic items and cultural objects. It will also include photos, descriptions and the Alutiiq word for the items plus their current location. It will start close to home in Kodiak with the museum’s own collection.

“This year we will develop the database and the webpage and populate them with ethnographic items from the Alutiiq Museum’s collections,” says Amanda Lancaster, the museum’s curator of Collections who is leading the project. “We are piloting the database with our own holdings. We will eventually expand Amutat to include collections from other museums, like the masks and regalia from the Pinart Collection at the Musée Boulogne-Sur-Mer, France.”

The museum indicates there are more than 100 items in the Chateau-Musee, Boulogne-sur-Mer in France alone, and other museums around the world including in Finland, Russia and Washington, D.C. could also have as many items. They say part of the program will be to find other collections and maybe include private collections as well.

The Alutiiq Museum claims a large archaeological collection, but since the database is for ethnographic items, things that were created and used, curators expect many will be different than what they currently have.

Counceller says the Amutat project will help community members and others learn more about ancestral objects.

The hook pictured is thought to be over 150 years old. It is made of yellow cedar with a hand-forged square nail and cotton or hemp lashing and rope.

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