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by Wildcat Dianne
August 5, 2010
The UAF Museum of the North
Larissa and I started our Museum of the North Adventure around the mineral and science exhibits. There was a very interesting exhibit on the minerals that can be found in the Alaskan Arctic including Azurite, a beautifully colored blue and green stone. After seeing the mineral exhibit, we hit the historical exhibits that had some very interesting specimens and facts about people who came to Alaska and settled in the Arctic. What I liked about this part of the exhibit and museum is that most of it was about women who came to either find wayward husbands or native women who married white settlers and lived their lives here as furriers, hotel owners, or other businesses. There was also a hand-carved chair made of moose antlers that had me wondering "where does one put the beer bottle?!"
After spending the first half-hour or so together, Larissa and I split up, and I hit the Special Exhibit called Forced To Leave: WWII Detention of Alaskan Japanese-Americans and Aleuts.. It was a mesmerizing and fascinating exhibit of the history of the Aleutian Islands during WWII along with the forced deportations of Japanese-Americans living in Alaska. As you know after Pearl Harbor, the US Government felt that Japanese-Americans were enemies of the people and felt they needed to be deported from their coastal hometowns into internment camps in Idaho, New Mexico, and other landlocked states. There was a small population of Japanese-Americans or Nisei who lived in the Juneau area of Alaska who were not immune to the deportations and in 1942, thousands of them were sent to Minidonka in Idaho and other camps until the end of the war. Japanese-American males who felt it was their duty to fight for the USA enlisted and became part of the 442 combat unit that saw bloody combat in Italy, France, and Germany from 1942-1945.
The other part of this exhibit detailed the Japanese invation of Attu Island in the Aleutians and how they treated the natives of that island. There were 42 residents of Attu who were deported to Japan in 1942 and only half of them survived the Japanese prison camps to return to Alaska after the war. One was a white female teacher who survived to write a book on her experiences as a prisoner of the Japanese. One does not hear much about these experiences of WWII and the Aleutian Island Theater is one that is considered an unknown war. I knew the Japanese had invaded the Aleutians from reading about it, but I didn't know that Japanese-Americans were deported to the Lower 48 or that residents of the Aleutians were subject to horrible treatment and imprisonment by the Japanese invaders. I learned a lot about this horrible time in history while looking at this special exhibit, and I was so engrossed in it, I felt like those cartoons where someone is bopped on the head and birds are floating around the character's head when I finally came up for air.
After a long time in the main Museum, Larissa and I caught up with each other and went to the Rose Berry Gallery for a short tour before hitting the gift shop across the hall near the museum entrance. The souvenirs here are expensive, but with a little looking you might luck out and get something for a steal. I wound up getting a moose Christmas ornament for my tree that was made by a local artist for $6 and decided to see if Amazon has any of the books that interested me for less money.
The UAF Museum of the North is open daily from 9-9. Photo taking is allowed and I would allow a couple of hours to visit this great source of history and culture.
From journal The Golden Armpit (I Mean Heart) of Alaska
March 20, 2007
From journal Indoors in Fairbanks