CSU, Chico News

Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology Has Grand Opening Jan. 28 Highlighting New Exhibit: Living On Top Of The World: Arctic Adaptation, Survival And Stewardship

Date: 01-13-2010

Joe Wills
Public Affairs
Adrienne Scott
Valene L. Smith
Museum of Anthropology

California State University, Chico’s Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology will have a grand opening and dedication Thursday, Jan. 28, that introduces an exciting new exhibition and pays tribute to the contributions of professor emerita Valene L. Smith to the field of anthropology.

The museum officially changed its name to reflect Smith’s contributions following a vote of the CSU Board of Trustees Nov. 18, 2009. Smith has been an active supporter of the museum since its inception in 1970 and has made gifts and testamentary commitments to the museum totaling more than $4.6 million.

The dedication will be held at 4 p.m. in front of the museum in the breezeway of the Meriam Library complex on the CSU, Chico campus. The ceremony will begin shortly after 4 p.m. with CSU, Chico President Paul Zingg, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean Gayle Hutchinson, museum co-directors and anthropology professors Stacy Schaefer and Georgia Fox, this year’s guest curator and anthropology professor Jesse Dizard, and Smith in attendance. Visitors will meet the students who researched, designed and installed the exhibition. Light hors d’oeuvres and no-host bar will be available. Guided tours will be available until 5:30 p.m.

The museum’s new exhibit, “Living on Top of the World: Arctic Adaptation, Survival and Stewardship,” invites visitors to see the Arctic like they’ve never seen it before, leading them to discover the wonder of the place, the animals and, above all, the people.

For thousands of years, the top of the world has been the home of Arctic peoples. This is also the homeland for polar bears, caribou, walruses, seals, whales, wolves, fox and many other animals unique to this dynamic region of the Earth.

In this exhibition visitors can see some of the ingenious ways that humans have adapted to survive and enjoy life even in such a challenging environment. It may surprise them to learn that the original people to inhabit the Arctic and the array of wildlife found in these northernmost lands may hold the key to our planet’s future and the fate of humankind.

Collaboration is the watchword for the museum this year, as in years past, and the museum has brought together Arctic collections and artifacts from many institutions and private collections. An extensive collection is on loan from the Jensen Arctic Museum at Western Oregon University, several modern Inuit artworks are on loan from the Turner Museum on the CSU, Chico campus, and a rare auklet parka once belonging to Smith and now housed by the Phoebe Hearst Museum in Berkeley is also on display (see below description).

The Arctic exhibit also includes artifacts from the museum’s own collection given by researchers and collectors who donated significant art and artifacts from their Arctic explorations as well as personal pieces from the work life of Smith. These materials combine with the others on loan to weave a cohesive narrative of Arctic life before Western contact and continuing through today.

About the auk parka:

This parka was made for Smith in 1965 by Hilda Aningayou on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Strait. It is made from the skins and feathers of more than 80 auklets. It took three years to fashion the whole garment; two years to hunt the full amount of birds and one year to prepare and stitch the skins and feathers in the traditional manner. While Aningayou made the parka, many younger women gathered to watch her methods. This technique had not been witnessed previously by that generation. A few years later, this parka was featured in Smith’s film version of Three Stone Blades. To anyone’s living memory, this was the last time an auk parka was made by someone in the Arctic.

Future events and hours of museum

• The Museum is open Tuesday–Saturday, 11 a.m.–3 p.m. The exhibition runs through May 24, 2010. The museum is located on the CSU, Chico campus across from the main entrance of the Meriam Library and next to the Turner Museum.

• The museum will host a special storytelling of The Boy and the Loon on Saturday, Jan. 30, at 1 p.m. to collaborate with the local Snow Goose Festival.

• The Northern Lights Lecture Series in conjunction with the exhibit will take place Feb. 26–28, 2010. Speakers from Alaska will speak on a variety of topics and native Arctic issues and concerns. K–6 teacher workshops provided.

• School tours available by appointment.