Arts and Entertainment

Museum of the Aleutians reopens as board searches for new executive director

UNALASKA -- The Museum of the Aleutians is again open to the public, at least a little bit, on Saturdays, as it works to recover from a scandal involving a rare Russian Bible.

The museum's board of directors is now looking for a new executive director to replace Zoya Johnson, who resigned after rare books taken from the museum were found in her home last year. The board has selected a short list of five candidates, and plans to cut it down to four finalists, whose names will be released to the public.

The Unalaska museum received 18 applications. Interim museum director Cynthia Jones said the short list contains candidates with necessary qualifications, including an Aleutian archaeologist from Texas and museum professionals.

The board is under pressure to fill the position before the start of the new fiscal year, or risk a funding cut from the Unalaska City Council, which pays for nearly all of the museum's operations, according to board member and City Manager David Martinson.

Meanwhile, a minor controversy has arisen involving new additions to the museum's collection, 56 boxes of animal parts unearthed during the museum's archaeological excavation conducted in advance of the destruction of an ancient Aleut village, and in advance of the construction of a new Bridge to the Other Side linking two islands on Airport Beach Road.

Jones said the animal parts were sent to Pacific Identifications, in Victoria, British Columbia, and are ready to be returned, but there's a catch.

"Since they were exported without a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authorization and clearance, we need to work with U.S. Fish and Wildlife regarding the return," she wrote in her April 6 report.


The bones were sent to Canada by former Museum Director Rich Knecht, who said via Facebook that he was not aware of any permitting requirements. The animal parts were found in midden piles following utilization by ancient villagers.

This story first appeared in The Bristol Bay Times/Dutch Harbor Fisherman and is republished here with permission.