State Museum hosts lecture on ravens tail weaving Wednesday

Posted: Sunday, February 06, 2011

Twenty years ago, the Friends of the Alaska State Museum sponsored a group of weavers to create the first original “ravens tail” ceremonial robe to be woven in Southeast Alaska since the early 1800s. Eight primary weavers—and over a dozen more in supporting roles—completed the robe after 1,800 hours of volunteer labor.

Janice Criswell, Bonnie Fitzjarrald, Mary Lou King, Kay Parker, and Janet Schempf are veterans of the project, which was conceived of by Delores Churchill, the famous Haida weaver from Ketchikan. On Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. at the museum in Juneau, the weavers will reunite to talk about their experiences weaving the robe, which they named “Hands Across Time,” reflecting upon the assistance they received from the weavers of centuries ago to enable the rebirth of an extinct form of weaving.

Unlike most objects in the museum, the robe is used periodically for traditional ceremonies. It was officially dedicated at Celebration ’92, where it was “brought out” before hundreds of Alaska Natives gathered for the event. Dr. Walter Soboleff danced with it for the first time, joining Juneau’s Yan Shu Kaa Dancers. Since that time, the robe has been used at numerous events, including graduations, naming ceremonies, weddings, and potlatches.

Contemporary weavings, as well as a rare fragment of an original robe, will be displayed in conjunction with the lecture.

Admission is free for the lectures in this series taking place every Wednesday noon hour through March 9. The series is an annual program of the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums, held in honor of the institutions’ first librarian and curator, Father Andrew P. Kashevarof, who served from 1919 until his death in 1940.

Discounted winter admission for museum visitation is $3. Visitors 18 and under are admitted free of charge. An annual pass that allows unlimited visits to the Alaska State Museum and the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka is available for $15.

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