Kayak Conservation Project

Kayak Conservation Project Conservation project funded by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services

Over 100 collection objects, including four full-size skin-covered kayaks, model kayaks, and kayaking accessories, are being preserved through this effort. Most items are extremely rare and some, over 100 years old – often the oldest known examples of their kind. Conservators work in the gallery and are available to answer questions on Mondays from 9 to 5 PM, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 2 to 5 PM. This project is made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Save America’s Treasures is a federal grant program made in collaboration with the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, IMLS, and Save America’s Treasures’ private partner, the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
05/19/2016

Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology

Traditional kayak maker Alfred Naumoff creating a model based on a kayak in the Peabody's collection. Naumoff was part of the team of consultants who worked with Peabody staff to learn about the kayak's construction and determine the best way to conserve it, and he continues to create a lifeline to traditional Alutiiq culture by running workshops on making kayak models at the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska. With thanks to Sven Haakanson for the photos!

One of our conservators captured this great time-sequenced panorama shot of another conservator at work on a kayak. Come...
08/12/2013

One of our conservators captured this great time-sequenced panorama shot of another conservator at work on a kayak. Come visit the conservators at work in the gallery by August 28.

One visitor asked about gender roles in the creation and use of these objects. While the kayaks were likely used primari...
04/23/2013

One visitor asked about gender roles in the creation and use of these objects. While the kayaks were likely used primarily by male hunters, the women of the community would have played a crucial role in the success of the hunt: they made the waterproof gear, such as this gutskin parka, that hunters would wear in the kayak.

Visitors often ask how the conservators clean the hundred-year-old kayak on display in the Kayak Conservation Gallery. R...
04/16/2013

Visitors often ask how the conservators clean the hundred-year-old kayak on display in the Kayak Conservation Gallery. Recently, our Anthro 1025 students got a chance to see for themselves. Here, a student uses a soft paintbrush to sweep debris into a specialized vacuum after gently dusting the surface with a vulcanized rubber sponge.

Visitors often ask how the conservators clean the hundred-year-old kayak on display in the Kayak Conservation Gallery. Recently, our Anthro 1025 students got a chance to see for themselves. Here, a student uses a soft paintbrush to sweep debris into a specialized vacuum after gently dusting the surface with a vulcanized rubber sponge.

“I didn’t know where I belonged until I found this” – Alfred Naumoff in reference to building Alutiiq kayaks. He...
04/02/2013

“I didn’t know where I belonged until I found this” – Alfred Naumoff in reference to building Alutiiq kayaks. He is one of the few Alaskan natives who possesses the rare knowledge of how to do so. The consultants’ visit to the Peabody revealed that working with these objects is about more than just preserving culture; it’s about revitalizing it.

An anthropology student writes:Last week, three consultants from the Alutiiq museum met with the Kayak Project team and ...
03/20/2013

An anthropology student writes:
Last week, three consultants from the Alutiiq museum met with the Kayak Project team and Harvard’s Museum Anthropology class to answer questions and learn more about the objects in the collection! Meet the team and get the inside scoop.

On the left, the director of the Alutiiq Museum Sven Haakanson talks about how kayak paddles are custom made for their owner. Sven grew up in Old Harbor, Alaska, and as a child knew little about the Alutiiq history. Today, he works to revitalize lost arts and revitalize knowledge of Alutiiq heritage through his work both at the museum and throughout the communities on Kodiak Island.

In the middle, Susie Malutin discusses the design of a waterproof, gut skin skirt that would have been worn in the kayak. Susie specializes in the art of skin sewing and has been able to discover much about waterproof sewing techniques from studying tear repairs and patching techniques preserved on the kayak. Susie recognizes that every little detail on an object has a distinct purpose, and by looking at the tiniest of stitches she is able to uncover the finest craftsmanship.

Alfred Naumoff has been building Alutiiq kayaks for over 30 years. He learned the art in high school from community elders, and today he is one of the last traditional kayak builders. On the right, Alfred teaches us about how the wood is carefully molded into its curved shape and how the kayak is all held together by a complex system of knots. By observing the piataluq – meaning “three-person kayak” in Alutiiq – Alfred is able to learn more about the lost art of kayak making.

An Anthropology student writes: How did one single Alutiiq hunter manage to bring down an enormous whale, by himself in ...
03/14/2013

An Anthropology student writes: How did one single Alutiiq hunter manage to bring down an enormous whale, by himself in a kayak? By using a poison-tipped spear, like the one pictured above. According to Sven Haakanson, Director of the @Alutiiq Museum, this wildly dangerous endeavor was something like "going up to a bear and sticking it with a needle." This is just one of many insights gleaned from the Peabody's collaboration with the Alutiiq Museum, and we are thrilled to have the opportunity to learn more!

Alutiiq skin sewing workshop in the gallery attracted a crowd. Overheard: "Susie Malutin in a natural teacher!"
03/14/2013

Alutiiq skin sewing workshop in the gallery attracted a crowd. Overheard: "Susie Malutin in a natural teacher!"

A lot of excitement in the Peabody Museum this morning as the consultants examined the kayak on display.
03/11/2013

A lot of excitement in the Peabody Museum this morning as the consultants examined the kayak on display.

PBS documentary filmmaker shooting Alutiiq consultants as they visit a rare three-hole kayak in the gallery.

Ever seen Nanook of the North? Wonder how so many people could fit into one kayak? Well, at the Peabody Museum, you can ...
02/15/2013

Ever seen Nanook of the North? Wonder how so many people could fit into one kayak? Well, at the Peabody Museum, you can see for yourself. The baidarka (kayak) we have on display right now is so large that it was once used to store Alaskan bear specimens donated to the Smithsonian. (Note the model for a similar 3-hole baidarka in the background.)

How cool is this? For today only: a model kayak represents the "Conservators at Work: Alaska's Historic Kayaks Renewed" ...
01/07/2013

How cool is this? For today only: a model kayak represents the "Conservators at Work: Alaska's Historic Kayaks Renewed" exhibition and the Kayak Conservation Project on WGBH's digital mural overlooking the Mass Pike.

Our intern Lilyan found this great historic photo of a three-hatch kayak. Riding in the center hatch gave the passenger ...
06/14/2012
CONTENTdm Collection : Item Viewer

Our intern Lilyan found this great historic photo of a three-hatch kayak.

Riding in the center hatch gave the passenger a seat of leisure and an air of authority over the Native peoples, especially during the early period of exploration. After the colonization of Alaska three-hatch kayaks were used to transport priests and regular passengers between villages, making the image of a top hat between two traditional hats a much more common sight.
http://content.lib.washington.edu/cdm-ayp/item_viewer.php?CISOROOT=/thwaites&CISOPTR=3&CISOBOX=1&REC=1

Wondering why the center rider in this kayak model wears a top hat? Three-hatch kayaks have a long history of transporti...
06/14/2012

Wondering why the center rider in this kayak model wears a top hat?

Three-hatch kayaks have a long history of transporting passengers along the shorelines of Alaska, beginning with the early Russian traders. In fact, the first written account of a Russian passenger is from Captain Cook’s 1778 voyage:
"…he came in a Canoe carrying three people attended by twenty or thirty other Canoes each conducted by one man…"

As part of the Save America’s Treasures grant we are currently treating several models in the conservation lab.
06/12/2012

As part of the Save America’s Treasures grant we are currently treating several models in the conservation lab.

It's not all about the kayaks; there are about 100 other objects in the conservation project, like this small hide and g...
05/22/2012

It's not all about the kayaks; there are about 100 other objects in the conservation project, like this small hide and gut skin pouch originating from the Aleutian/Pribilof Islands. It features a linear motif of dyed skins sewn onto a black background.

The photo shows before, during, and after conservators got their hands on it. First, they assessed its condition and noted the skin strips have begun to lift away from the pouch and are becoming vulnerable to loss. Then they cleaned the pouch's surface with a low-suction vacuum and soft brush. They also humidified each strip using dampened blotter paper, then re-positioning the strips and weighted them in place. They secured the skin strips to the bag with a stable acrylic adhesive.

A model of an Alutiiq style kayak. You may recognize it from above!
05/16/2012

A model of an Alutiiq style kayak. You may recognize it from above!

Timeline Photos
05/16/2012

Timeline Photos

Conservators are currently surface cleaning the hull of both the Alutiiq warrior kayak (on the left) and the Yup’ik ka...
05/14/2012

Conservators are currently surface cleaning the hull of both the Alutiiq warrior kayak (on the left) and the Yup’ik kayak (on the right) from Nunivak Island.

While this is a woman's kakiwik (an Alutiiq sewing kit), men would have brought similar sewing kits with them in their k...
04/16/2012

While this is a woman's kakiwik (an Alutiiq sewing kit), men would have brought similar sewing kits with them in their kayaks to repair any damage the skins of their kayaks sustained.

A demonstration workshop led by Sven Haakanson (Director of the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska) and Alfred Naumoff (tr...
03/13/2012

A demonstration workshop led by Sven Haakanson (Director of the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska) and Alfred Naumoff (traditional kayak builder), with Susie Malutin (skin sewer)

Kayak Conservation Project's cover photo
03/12/2012

Kayak Conservation Project's cover photo

This article captures the excitement that surrounded the Alutiiq consultants' visit to the Museum last week.
03/10/2012
Kayak at Harvard museum offers gateway to vanishing culture - The Boston Globe

This article captures the excitement that surrounded the Alutiiq consultants' visit to the Museum last week.

Alutiiq warriors’ kayaks - like the one in a special room at the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at Harvard University - were normally buried with their owners. “It’s one of a kind,’’ said Sven Haakanson, executive director of the Alutiiq Museum and Archaeological Repository in Kodiak, A...

02/21/2012

Wondering what this kayak project is about? Here's an excerpt from the grant proposal explaining its significance: "Kayaks and their accessories embody a chain of indigenous technological knowledge, craftsmanship, and spiritual beliefs passed down through generations. The warrior kayak is likely one of the last of this type of vessel to be manufactured. When it was made, Alaska Natives manufactured traditional items in traditional ways --and learned manufacturing skills through apprenticeship. The kayaks are not simply rare types of watercraft. They are rare ethnographic treasures from one of the United States' least-known Native peoples."

A tale of two boots: a sealskin pair dated to 1933 (cleaned, humidified, padded, and tears repaired). Stop by the kayak ...
02/21/2012

A tale of two boots: a sealskin pair dated to 1933 (cleaned, humidified, padded, and tears repaired). Stop by the kayak gallery to check out the progress on objects like these. Over 100 Alaskan artifacts are being conserved alongside the kayaks.

Before and after: a wrinkly water-resistant cap made of gut, after staff conservators re-shaped it. But they still have ...
02/08/2012

Before and after: a wrinkly water-resistant cap made of gut, after staff conservators re-shaped it. But they still have questions for the team visiting from the Alutiiq Museum team next month. What kind of gut is it made of...walrus? seal? Maybe sea otter? And what should the final shape be?

Kayak Storage area. Four of the 15 kayaks stored in this area are being conserved.
01/27/2012

Kayak Storage area. Four of the 15 kayaks stored in this area are being conserved.

Address

Peabody Museum, 11 Divinity Ave
Cambridge, MA
02138

Opening Hours

Monday 12:00 - 15:00
Tuesday 14:00 - 17:00
Wednesday 14:00 - 17:00

Telephone

(617) 496-1027

Alerts

Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Kayak Conservation Project posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.

Category


Other Museums in Cambridge

Show All