"Sagpiat of Alaska: Alutiiq material from the Kunstkamera collections"


Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of the Russian Academy of Sciences presents a new publication titled «Eskimosy alutiiq: Katalog kollekcij Kunstkamery (Sagpiat of Alaska: Alutiiq material from the Kunstkamera collections; SPb.: Nauka, 2010. 464 P.)».

In this catalogue for the first time the Museum's unique collection is published dedicated to the traditional culture of the Sagpiat / Aluutiiq people - one of the indigenous peoples of Alaska.

During its centuries-long history, the Kunstkamera, which is Russia's oldest museum founded in 1714 by Peter the Great, has accumulated several hundred thousand objects reflecting the traditional culture of different peoples of the world. Among them, the unique North American collections are of special importance. Russian sea-farers, travelers, researchers, employees of the Russian-American Company, and orthodox missionaries for more than a hundred years brought to the Kunstkamera collections on the Sagpiat / Alutiiq people and other peoples of Alaska and North California (Russian America). Due to these collectors, Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) of Russain Academy of Sciences possesses unique (and the oldest) collections on the indigenous peoples of Alaska and California. The first edition in the series of catalogues of the Museum's North-American collections was "Tlingit: Catalogue of Kunstkamera Collections" (SPb.: MAE RAN, 2007. 272 P.).

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera) possesses the largest ethnographical collection on the traditional culture of the Alutiiq people - around 500 items. This collection represents different aspects of the material and spiritual culture of the Alutiiq people of the early 19th century, before it fell under the European influence. Some of these objects have no analogues in world museums. For the first time the Museum's collections that have never been displayed on exhibitions are published.

Specialists and amateurs will receive access to rare illustrations, photographs and drawings of late 19th - early 20th centuries. The catalogue contains detailed descriptions of all items, as well as information on their measurements, the materials they are made of and some archive data. All objects have recently been photographed and included into the Museum's electronic data base. The descriptions are supplemented with detailed information on the history of acquisition, registration and attribution of exhibits.

The ethnonym ‘Alutiiq' unites several kindred peoples: the people of the Kodiak Island and the neighbouring districts (the Kodiak people), the inhabitants of the eastern part of the Alaskan Peninsula (the Katmai people), and the people inhabiting the Prince William Sound (the Chugach people). In the catalogue, the collections reflecting these peoples' culture are divided into several sections: hunting tools and weapons, house utensils, hats and clothes, ceremonial attributes. This allows studying the Alutiiq culture in different aspects, as well as comparing and analyzing not only the cultures of the different Aluutiq groups, but also the Aluutiq versus other peoples.

Project manager: Julia A. Kupina, PhD, Deputy Director of the MAE (Kunstkamera). Executive team: author of the concept, the introductory article and most sections of the catalogue - Sergey A. Korsun, PhD; scientific editor - Yuri E. Berezkin, Professor, Head of the Department of American Ethnography. Photographic materials have been prepared by Stanislav B. Shapiro and Ekaterina B. Tolmacheva, employees of the Laboratory of Visual Anthropology of the MAE (Kunstkamera). The catalogue was prepared for publication by Publishing House "Aztec".

The catalogue is published in cooperation with and with the support of the "Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Reserve" of Kodiak, the "Koniag, Incorporated" and "Chugach Incorporated" (Alaska, the USA), and the Consulate General of the USA in St.Petersburg.

At present, the catalogue is being translated into the English language in the USA, and is being prepared for publication in Alaska. Distribution of information on cultural monuments by different means, including publication of museum collections, is today one of the most effective ways to preserve the culture of indigenous peoples.