Nome’s Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum reopened to the public last weekend after being closed for six weeks.
The museum shut its doors at the end of September to install new exhibits, but director Amy Phillips-Chan says the reopening caps off years of work:
“The way we were able to design the new building, get the old collection moved over to the facility, and create our exhibit for our main gallery is we divided it into two main phases. Hopefully many people here in Nome were able to see the first phase, and then for the past 12 months we’ve been working on this second show that would fill out the rest of our main exhibit gallery to bring the stories and history of Nome to life.”
Phillips-Chan says the process began two years ago. The collection’s 15,000 objects and 12,000 historic photographs were scattered throughout several buildings in town, and they all needed to be catalogued and moved to the new Richard Foster building.
Nearly 500 artifacts are now on view at the museum, including traditional Native tools and crafts and Leonhard Seppala’s lead sled dog, Fritz.
“Fritz is back! We had many people asking where Fritz was,” says Phillips-Chan, “He has a new display that tells the story of the 1925 serum run and the importance of sled dogs to Alaskan communities.”
The new exhibits connect Nome’s history with its present and future. Museum staff worked with over fifty community collaborators to get the stories right: local residents shared their memories, photographs, and even recipes, which visitors can take to try at home.
Phillips-Chan encourages residents to see for themselves:
“It’s pretty cool when you’re able to blend past history and contemporary life in the same exhibit space. When you’re dealing with a community museum, the objects and photographs are right here where they originated. You’re not in DC or even in Anchorage; your communities are right here. So this has been such a great project, and I hope everyone comes to take advantage of the resources and things that are on display here.”
The museum is open Monday through Thursday, 12pm-7pm, and Friday-Saturday, 12pm-6pm. Cost of admission for Nome residents is $4 for adults, $3 for youth 18 years old and under, as well as elders 55 and older. Children under 5 and museum members get in free. Admission for out-of-town visitors is $7 for adults, $6 for youth and elders. Anyone can get into the Carrie M. McLain museum for free, every Friday.
Image at top: Artist Ron Senungetuk speaks with visitors to the Carrie M. McLain Memorial Museum. His work is featured in a special exhibit “Carving a Path of Cultural Continuity.” Photo: Amy Phillips-Chan, used with permission.