Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Alaska: Matanuska and Museums

Palmer, Alaska was the center of the New Deal endeavor, the Matanuska Colony Project. In 1935, the federal government persuaded over 200 families from Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin to move to the Matanuska Valley to farm. In a very short time, a colony was established. Some of the Project buildings still exist in Palmer, and I was lucky to have Sandra to show me some of them. I was smitten with the tiny houses. I really, really want one. Sandra also showed me a new track of Colony-inspired houses that were equally adorable.

After our visit to the Musk Ox Farm, Sandra took me to the Palmer Historical Society Museum. It’s a small museum, but I really loved the chronological display of the development of Palmer, with artifacts and photos from the Colony beginnings.

I bought a couple goofy Alaska postcards.

So, that was Thursday. My workshop on Friday didn’t start until 5:30pm, so we had a good chunk of the day to explore Anchorage. I had a couple museums/galleries on my list of things to see, and Sandra obliged me.

I was intrigued to find out that Anchorage has exhibits in the most surprising places. Sandra first took me to the Alaska Native MedicalCenter. That’s right: a medical center, with primary care and hospital services. And with many exquisite displays of native Alaskan art throughout the hallways. Each display case held masterfully crafted works: basketry, beading, sculpture, clothing. I would happily visit again.

 And, there was a most amazing craft shop at ANMC. This shop is all volunteer run, with strictly native Alaska art. When I walked in, a gentleman at the counter asked, “May I help you?” I responded, “I want one of everything!” Before I left the shop, I did purchase two items: a small ivory and baleen container, and a pair of ivory and baleen earrings. I typically don’t (can’t afford to) spend money on such extravagances, but I was in Alaska. How often am I going to be in Alaska?

Our next stop was at a bank. Yes, a bank. There is a fabulous Alaska Heritage Museum at a Wells Fargo bank. This museum is free. And there are wonderful displays with nice descriptions explaining the history of events, craft techniques, tools. I was intrigued by a berry-gathering tool: it had fork-like prongs along side a large spoon shaped container, made of wood. It looked perfect for gathering blueberries.

We also made a stop at the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers’ Co-Operative. This small store sells items made from qiviut, all hand knitted by native Alaskan women from various far flung locations in Alaska. They don’t sell fiber or yarn, just finished items. Lovely finished items.

After our tours, Sandra and I rested at a local bookstore so I could gather my thoughts before the evening’s workshop. That evening, I taught Spinning With Silk Hankies. The guild has some wonderful folks in it. I thoroughly enjoyed my introduction to them, although I’ll admit that by the end of class, it was dizzyingly late for me (8:30pm Anchorage time, but 12:30am Lake Ann time).

I’ll share more about the guild and its members next time.


  1. Susan Stark aka WIHHFebruary 4, 2014 at 1:40 PM

    How cool. I am living vicariously through you. :) I am reading Donna Druchanas' "Arctic Lace" about the Oomingmak Musk Ox Producers, etc. I have some musk ox fiber right off the tundra via a trade and am anxious to make good use of it. Oh, and my nickname for my husband is Oomingmak - "bearded one". :)

    1. Hi Susan! That's a very good book. I plan to use it to decide how to re-knit the qiviut yarn I'm getting from the tunic.

  2. Are you familiar with Tiny Houses? I think you can find them by doing a meta search. Intriguing.

    1. Hi Vicki, I am somewhat familiar. Most of them are too tiny. I'd like something small but capable of handling my fiber "issues".

    2. I certainly understand "stash issues"! Maybe one Tiny House for you, and one for the fiber?