The news came during a week in which Kodiak’s largest repository of Native art also announced the addition of two historic Alutiiq masks on loan from the Château Musée in Boulogne-sur-Mer, France.
The Finnish trip is part of an attempt to revive the art of Alutiiq skin sewing in Kodiak. The museum is founding a sewing circle under the direction of expert Susan Malutin, and the trip will be used to provide research as the circle recreates an Alutiiq parka.
During the first half of the 19th century, Finnish naval officer Arvid Adolf Etholen sailed the Pacific with the Russian-American company, later becoming chief manager of the company.
Before he died in 1876, Etholen amassed a collection of Native artifacts today housed in the National Museum of Finland.
The skin stitchers, accompanied by Alutiiq Museum director Sven Haakanson Jr., will study garments in the museum’s collection, then lead workshops in schools across Kodiak. Students will develop sections of the parka, which will then be assembled in weekly meetings of the sewing circle.
The trip to Finland and the establishment of the sewing circle is being funded by Koniag Inc. and a $50,000 grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services.
Participants in the trip will be selected in a “competitive application process” this fall, according to an email from the museum.
As the museum announced its Finnish adventure, it also proclaimed the addition of two historic masks on a five-year loan. The masks arrived with Château Musée conservator Gaelle Etesse and will be on display soon.
Château Musée, which holds the collection of Alphonse Pinart, a Frenchman who traveled in the Kodiak archipelago during the 19th century, has previously sent parts of his collection to Alaska.
In 2008, 34 wooden masks came to the United States in a traveling exhibit that stopped in Anchorage. It was the first time that the masks had returned to the place they were created.