Museum group readies facility for grand opening
A panel that serves the preservation of history and culture in Nome met recently to note milestones along the way to opening the Richard Foster Building to community use.
The Museum and Library Commission convened April 20 around a long table in the sunlight of the glassed-in Richard Foster Room in the complex that will serve as the home for Kegoayah Kozga Library, Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum and the Katirvik Cultural Center, operated by Kawerak, Inc.
Amy Chan, museum director, gave commission members an update on the Herculean task of documenting and managing a comprehensive collections inventory with the museum consumed at the same time with final design for the Introductory Museum Exhibit. The staff has accomplished a first draft text of 140 pages, stemming from the museum’s responsibility for researching, writing and securing all exhibit elements. The task includes selection, identification and description of every artifact, graphic, caption and label, and audio-visual element within the exhibit.
Over the past quarter, the museum has processed to take inventory on objects that have resided in storage at the old Front Street museum and off-site as well as unidentified objects that lack documentation. Additionally, staff has identified, catalogued and packed more than 95 donations, bringing the number of processed museum items to 12,200, according to Chan, but only two-thirds of museum objects have been catalogued and packed.
As of April 15, about 275 boxes with securely packed museum objects occupied the old museum, waiting to move to the Richard Foster Building.
The Introductory Exhibit has five main themes—The National Landscape, Tent City, Building A Town, Staying Connected, and Nome Today and Tomorrow. This Phase I exhibit will have over 300 artifacts, 100 historic photographs, 12 display cases, a video theater, flipbooks, hands-on props and other interactive features.
During the meeting, chairwoman Cussy Kauer raised questions concerning commission input on building features and another board member inquired about sorting out the line of communication between design staff, the City and museum director.
Opportunity for input had dwindled, it seemed to Kauer, she said. She had been surprised at some of the changes differing from what the commission had discussed.
“At the beginning it seemed the Commission was more involved in design and picking colors,” Kauer said, remarking that entry was orange and not the beech wood color. “I’m feeling like what is our role? I felt like we got shoved into the closet, that our opinions no longer had value.”
“When I saw Richard Foster’s name in red, I was shocked,” Kauer added.
Opportunity to consult commission members had diminished with a change in meeting schedules from every month to every six months, Tom Moran, city manager said.
“The city manager, architect and project manager made administrative decisions without consulting the commission because you were meeting quarterly,” Moran said. “This group is advisory, but can make decisions. I apologize on the part of administration for letting your suggestions drop.”
Members of the commission also asked about the chain of communication on design, and why some, including EC Hyer architects, drew on funding for exhibit design work when it was not their area of expertise. Moran agreed.
A move by Nome Common Council in 2013 had required the architects to stay aboard during the warranty period, Moran said. There are 12 months left.
“I’m concerned we have double exhibit coordinators whose expertise is not design,” Kauer said. Commission members found paying someone $125 an hour for the 12 months to be foolhardy.
Commissioner Sue Steinacher asked about the line of communication, whether the contact was Museum Director Amy Phillips-Chan. The point of contact for writing, selection and design would be Chan, Moran said, and that currently e-mail communication concerning exhibit design would be copied to those concerned.
Meanwhile, library staff and City of Nome employees moved over 18,000 books, as well as library materials and computers from the old library on Front Street to the new facility at the north end of Steadman Street during the month of February. The library staff opened the doors to readers at noon Feb. 27.
“We were very surprised to have almost 200 visitors on that first day with over 200 library materials checked out in six hours,” Marguerite LaRiviere, library director, said.
LaRiviere thanked community volunteers as well as Nome Literacy Council and city employees.
The library staff comprises LaRiviere, Janet Blood, library assistant for seven years, and Pam Cushman, who took the library clerk’s job in December. City of Nome recently honored Bloodgood as employee of the month, noting her efforts in helping to get the library into its new home in time to receive Iditarod guests.
During Iditarod the library hosted talks by Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race veterans Howard Farley and Martin Buser. Additionally, the library featured books by Buser, Dog Man: Chronicles of an Iditarod Champion; Nancy Mendenhall of Nome, ROUGH WATERS: Our North Pacific Small Fisherman’s Battle: A Fishing Family’s Perspective; as well as Blond Indian an Alaska Native memoir, by Ernestine Hayes.
The library continues for the seventh year to partner with Nome Eskimo Community and the Nome Elementary School to present the Guys Read and Girls Read program.
“These programs promote literacy and the lifelong commitment to learning to fourth grade students,” LaRiviere reported.