Global Politics

French-Alaskan cultural exchange

Off the coast of northern France, there's a 13th century castle turned museum where schoolchildren are studying masks and artifacts from Kodiak, Alaska. They were collected by a French explorer. The director of the museum tells his story of his expedition in 1870. the museum cherishes the collection but knew little of the collection, at least until this Alaskan historian and artist traveled to France to check out the artifacts. He says the French explorer saved her culture single-handedly. The next year, the director of the museum in Kodiak got involved and began a six-year effort to get the French museum to loan the artifacts to his museum. He says the French government might try to keep the masks, but then in 2005 the French museum got a new director who was more receptive. This photographer from Alaska was part of a meeting between the two museum staffs in France. The Alaskan museum director says this meeting was the turning point. It still took two more years of negotiations until 34 of the masks came home to Alaska. The two museums are continuing to collaborate and there might be a permanent loan of some of the masks to Alaska.

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