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Collecting During Conflict

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Thurs., May 2, 2013 | 7 – 8:30 pm

Tsar Peter the Great began collecting ethnographic material from around the world in the late seventeenth century and used his royal collection to found Russia’s first museum, the Kunstkamera, in 1714. Objects from the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska began to arrive at the Kunstkamera in th mid-late 1700’s, a century before the existence of most Western museums. 

The history of Russian expeditions to Alaska and the formation of the Russian-America Company (RAC) provide context for understanding the Tlingit objects housed in St. Petersburg’s Peter the Great’s Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Kunstkamera (MAE). By tracing the history of Tlingit and Russian interactions, one is abl! e to learn the different methods Russians used to acquire Tlingit objects and how the events on the coast, particularly the Tlingit/Russian wars of 1802 and 1804, directly influenced the type of objects they collected. 

Using the MAE collections, it is possible to illustrate the activities of Russians in Alaska and demonstrate the superior quality of the objects they collected.  By combining historic information with the collections, this lecture examines the family tree of Russia’s collectors in Alaska and illustrates the complex relationship between the Russian Empire, the Russian-American Company and the Tlingit people.

Ashley Verplank McClelland is currently on the FONA Steering Committee as a representative of The Bill Holm Center for the Study of Northwest Coast Art. She is a Ph.D. student in the Art History program at the University of Washington.