Web posted Wednesday, May 8, 2002

photo: culture

Native culture is one of the main focuses of the Pratt Museum, which has been acknowledged nationwide as one of the best museums of its size in the United States.

Pratt Museum home to art, cullture, nature

Sponsored by the Homer Society of Natural History, the Pratt Museum focuses on the natural and cultural history of the Kenai Peninsula. Exhibits include artifacts from the area's prehistoric peoples to homesteaders and modern inhabitants. Aquariums and a tidepool tank feature live Kachemak Bay sea creatures. Feedings are held each Tuesday and Friday at 4 p.m., and families are encouraged to attend.

This year, the museum hosts a special exhibit entitled "Looking Both Ways: Heritage and Identity of the Alutiiq People," on display from May 3 to Sept. 10. The exhibition comprises hundreds of rare objects from traditional Alutiiq culture, and was six years in the making by the Smithsonian Institution and the Kodiak Alutiiq Museum. It highlights new anthropological and archeological research in the Gulf of Alaska region involving the study of cultures over a 10,000-year time span.

Also on exhibit are remote video cameras that visitors can operate to view life on a seabird rookery and on a river where brown bears congregate to feed on spawning salmon.

The museum's outdoor exhibitions have grown considerably in recent years. The Harrington homestead cabin adjacent to the museum was built in the mid-1930s and has been home to dozens of people settling in the area. The historic cabin has either an actual homesteader as host for the visitor or an award-winning oral history recording talking about their pioneering experiences. The botanical garden in front of the museum contains 150 species of native plants. Behind the museum workshop, a spruce forest is the site of art exhibits and a self-guided ecology trail. "Facing the Elements," an exhibit of outdoor sculptures is featured in July and mid-August.

The Historic Harbor Tour is another event the museum sponsors during the summer and is a great way to learn about the fishing industry of lower Cook Inlet.

The museum's collection of quilts, one of which is made every year by Homer quilters, is one of the finest in Alaska. With themes ranging from historical to cultural to natural history, they have produced a beautiful record of the area.

The highly acclaimed "Darkened Waters" exhibit, about the Exxon Valdez oil spill, continues to be one of the most popular attractions at the museum. A larger version of this exhibit has traveled to museums and science centers throughout the United States.

A new exhibition focuses on the latest outbreak of the spruce beetle, the tiny insect that has ravaged spruce forests throughout the Kenai Peninsula and Alaska periodically for centuries.

Besides being one of just five fully accredited museums in Alaska, the Pratt is one of Homer's top art galleries. Changing exhibits feature the work of renowned artists from the Kenai Peninsula, elsewhere in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

All facilities at the Pratt Museum are wheelchair accessible. The Museum Store features Alaska-made arts and crafts, educational and collectible merchandise and books. Admission to the Museum Store is free. Museum admission is $6 for adults, $5.50 for seniors, and $3 for ages 6-18, or $20 for a family of four. Summer hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily. In the winter, the museum is open noon-5 p.m. every day but Monday.

For more information, call 235-8635.