Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Kodiak Experiences Katmai: A Student Film

One hundred years ago today, Kodiak was covered in white, and it wasn't just the snow of January. The town was still recovering from the volcanic eruption at Katmai, which choked wells, suffocated vegetation, and caved in the roofs of Kodiak homes.

Marina edits her film during last summer's film intensive with
the assistance of Heather Craig from Media Action.
Marina Cummiskey, a 12 year old Kodiak homeschool student, just put the finishing touches on her film about the Katmai eruption as experienced in Kodiak. Marina interspersed photographs from the Kodiak Historical Society's extensive photo archive with audio clips, recorded by KMXT. She has worked with museum staff over the course of several months to complete this digital story, which she did as a project for her technology class.

Marina is no stranger to directing her own films. Last year, she created a movie about her family's road trip. Last summer, amidst the centennial celebration of the eruption, she participated in the Kodiak's Filipino Community Stories history and film intensive at the museum. Her resulting film, "The J-1 Visa Controversy," included interviews with a cannery worker, a J-1 visa holding student, the president of FilAm Kodiak, and Senator Mark Begich, to show the multiple perspectives surrounding this controversial visa.

Congratulations, Marina, on crafting a beautiful picture of Kodiak in 1912!

Friday, January 18, 2013

You Want Kodiak History Exhibits to Include...

At the end of 2012, the Baranov Museum asked you to complete an exhibit survey so that museum staff could confidently move forward in planning for the renovation of the museum's permanent exhibits. Your answers were analyzed and seriously mulled over, and while there were many interesting tidbits that emerged, here is the response to one of the most important questions:

Question: What aspects of Kodiak history and culture do you think it important to see in new exhibits in the museum?

Topic /  % that agree and strongly agree
Russians in Alaska  91.1%
Natural Disasters  87.5%
Immigration and Cultural Diversity  80.9%
Commercial Fisheries  78.8%
Recent Past  77.9%
Alutiiq History and Culture  73%
Business and Industry  66.6%
Military  65.2%
Fine Arts  60.9%
Community Development  56.3%

Note: Bold indicates most common answer was "strongly agree."

From this information and other data gathered through the survey and conversations, museum staff came up with the two "big ideas" that will guide the new exhibitions:
  1. Kodiak is an international crossroads/ Kodiak is a crossroads of diversity
  2. The Russian American Magazin has witnessed 200 years of Kodiak history
But before we were certain to move forward with these major themes, we wanted to make sure that the survey results really reflected the feelings of the community. As a result, we held a series of four community conversations, during which we shared the survey results over lunch with Kodiakans. During the conversations, we also asked everyone what they thought about the "big ideas" listed above. The results? Yes, the survey does accurately portray what Kodiak citizens think is important about our history. And yes, Kodiakans really do see our island home as a crossroads of diversity, and are interested in learning more about Kodiak history through the eyes of the oldest building in Alaska.

So, where are we now? While we still have lots of work to do, thanks to the participation of the Kodiak community, we have determined that the exhibits will discuss the following aspects of Kodiak history, and whenever possible, examine the history through the eyes of the building:

A Russian Colony in an Alutiiq Land: We will show Kodiak in the international realm of the 18th/ 19th centuries and show the connections that existed on the ground between Russian and Alutiiq peoples. The Russian-American Company was completely dependent on Kodiak Alutiit.  As a result, we propose to look at the Russian era with an eye towards the czar and an eye towards the sea otter hunter.

From Eastern Frontier to "Out the Westward": Kodiak Becomes American: What happened when Russia left, and U.S. officials rarely showed their faces?

Local Resources in an International Market: The fur trade (from the Russian fur trade to fox farms in the 1930s) and commercial fishing have attracted diverse individuals to Kodiak, and the commodities were/ are important to international markets.

Forces of Change: The Katmai eruption in 1912, World War Two, and the 1964 earthquake and tsunami profoundly changed Kodiak.

What do you think about these ideas? Please call (486-5920) or e-mail (, or leave a comment below to share your thoughts. We will be hosting other community conversations in the near future, so please keep your eyes open for announcements.