Alaska Notebook: Dena'ina exhibit draws a delighted crowd

Opening Day

It is not surprising to visit a museum in New York or Boston and find the building too crowded for viewing comfort. But Anchorage? When did that happen?

Sunday, as a matter of fact, when a huge throng ignored the lure of televised pro football and the blue skies covering southcentral in favor of the opening of the Anchorage Museum's exhibit on the Dena'ina Athabascan people.

The much anticipated exhibit, which runs until mid-January, is a tribute to Southcentral's first people, their culture and way of life. Artifacts from museums all over the United States (and occasionally Europe) are part of the show.

After opening ceremonies in the museum's atrium, which included a variety of dance groups, the audience rapidly made for the Dena'ina exhibit but soon found a swirling human traffic jam amidst the fishing and hunting artifacts, examples of traditional clothing, mounted photographs, and panels offering interpretation.

But the wall-to-wall crowd was so excited by the exceptional effort the museum made on behalf of the Dena'iana smiles were everywhere (except perhaps on the faces of parents briefly separated from their children). If the exhibit could not be seen in quiet contemplation, the people of Anchorage were to be seen in the best of good humor. This was magic: A museum bringing joy to its visitors.

If you did not go, you missed a special occasion. But you still have plenty of time to enjoy the exhibit. And you will have company if you go. Many people who attended Sunday's celebration are returning to see what they missed while caught in the roiling crowd.

-- Michael Carey