Pratt Museum Garners Excellence in the Museum Profession Award
At the Museums Alaska annual conference in Haines last month, the Pratt Museum was honored as the recipient of the association’s Excellence in the Museum Profession Award for the Gray Whale Project. This is the only exhibit or project award given by the association, and recognizes the Pratt once again as a leader among the state’s 80-plus museum institutions.
“More than just an exemplary exhibit, the Pratt Museum’s Encounters: Whales in Our Waterssurpassed the level of public involvement and investment normally considered possible in a community museum exhibition,” said Museums Alaska President Angela Linn. The exhibit project started 14 years ago, in 1999, when museum volunteers collected the carcass of a juvenile gray whale found in Kachemak Bay. Its bones were cleaned by volunteers, catalogued by visiting students, conserved, studied, and finally, during the summer of 2012, articulated under the guidance of local bone expert, Lee Post. In January 2013, the large components (backbone, tail section, skull, flippers), were transported by more volunteers, who carried them into the special exhibits gallery where the whale was suspended—whole again after 13 years.
The only shortcoming to Encounters is that it was, in fact, too short. Although this exhibit lasted six months (longer than any recent exhibit at the Pratt) and caught the early summer visitors, many urged for it to stay in place indefinitely. Luckily, the gray whale’s role in community building is not done. In a couple of years, many of those volunteers are hoped to return to help move their 1773-pound whale once again. When the museum throws open the doors of a new building, the whale will be waiting, in a new permanent installation, to greet its many supporters.