Delving into Alaska’s Art and History with a Delta Sigma Arts Fellowship

Looking through art in museum storage

Anchorage Museum intern Mark Hansen in museum storage

Mark Hansen ’14 grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, just minutes away from the Anchorage Museum. The old imposing brown-brick edifice and the museum’s contents made lasting impressions on him, and he recalls being mesmerized as a kid by the dioramas depicting the state’s history.

“The dioramas showed how native groups built their houses, set up fish camps, how they organized hunting parties, et cetera,” Hansen said recently during a telephone interview. “And it goes from there; the gallery meanders around to the 1964 earthquake and the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. That was always my favorite part.”

His curiosity to see behind the displays and learn about the inner workings of the museum compelled Hansen to pursue a summer internship there this year. “”I wanted to see the other side. I’m hoping to learn how a museum operates,” he explained.

Hansen’s internship is being funded by Bowdoin’s Delta Sigma Arts Fellowship, one of many grants that Bowdoin Career Planning awards in a competitive process to students to help them pursue otherwise uncompensated summertime work. The Delta Sigma grant supports internships in the arts.

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Throughout the summer, Hansen will work in different museum departments, from collections and exhibitions to programming and education. So far, he’s done a range of different tasks: he’s debugged lumber for new installations (the wood must be frozen twice to kill insects); organized the warehouse; researched art and artists for wall labels; inspected art for damage; and unearthed odd objects in the museum basement, such as old whalebone boat spars.

At the moment, Hansen is doing archival research for an exhibition on footwear planned for the fall. The state’s extreme climate requires a certain inventiveness with footwear.”We have a lot of really cool boots and mukluks,” he said. “We’ll design the exhibit in a way to tell the story that footwear has played in Alaska’s history.”

Hansen’s internship, which has him working with exhibitions of native and contemporary art, will also round out his art education, he says, from the creation of art to the other end of its arc, its exhibition in a museum or gallery. Although Hansen is an earth and oceanographic science major at Bowdoin, he is also an artist. “I’ve taken art history and made a lot of art and now I get to see what a museum is like,” he noted.

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