Front-End Evaluation for the Dena'ina Exhibition at Anchorage Museum
This front-end evaluation study provided information about how potential visitors to the Dena'ina exhibition (scheduled to open at the Anchorage Museum in 2010) might think and feel about the exhibition's themes. Twenty interviews were conducted with a diverse group that included people with Dena'ina and other Native American cultures. The key findings were: There was a lot of diversity about what participants knew, or didn't know, about the Dena'ina, and how the Dena'ina culture was similar to others. People knew about the effects of contact on religion, education, and dress. Non-Natives (as well as Alaska Native people) admitted how little they knew about the Dena'ina. After looking a four photos of objects with labels, the shaman doll provoked the most discussion; the string calendar was the least-familiar object. Comments reflected people's interest in the power of the shaman doll, and several related it to Catholic practices. Comments about the puffin-beak rattles were mostly about liking the object and wanting to hear the sound. Some were concerned about how and where the beaks were obtained. People's comments touched on broader themes, including the historical ties between the Dena'ina and the Navaho; the impacts of contact on Native art and trade items, and contemporary social issues. They liked the use of the we voice, not the they voice, in the Dena'ina labels and in the current Yup'ik exhibition at the Anchorage Museum that makes extensive use of first-person quotations. The report concludes with recommendations based on the findings of this study as well as on findings from other front-end museum evaluations in the visitor studies literature.