There are several pairs of snowshoes in the exhibition (“Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage”) and traditional snowshoes are still used for races, but very few make them. Actually so few that when, during the public gallery talk, one of them, George Albert, was asked if it is possible to tell from the design what village a snowshoe comes from he said:
“Well, it is pretty easy now, because if I didn’t make them I know they must be Butch’s!”
Personally I had never even sat my foot in one or seen how they are made, so it was a great experience to observe this workshop here last week and get to meet these artists.
Three Athabascan snowshoe masters with each their apprentice made snowshoes in the Archaeology Lab at the end of the gallery -watched by museum visitors, school classes, journalists and staff. In this way the Artic Studies Center and the Alaska State Council on the Arts hope to document the process and get more people interested in learning this art. And judging from the local media interest it soon might become more difficult to tell what village a snowshoe comes from. See here for instance:
And George Albert has his own Albert Snowshoes blog, although he said he knows nothing about the Internet and that somebody else does the writing and technical stuff.
The ASC had also engaged the local video production company to film the whole event and make short films for education and promotion for similar workshops. The two young men said they were pleasantly surprised by the workshop, as growing up in Anchorage had made them associate the museum with dull school visits and outdated exhibits. Here is the short film they made for the NMNH YouTube channel: