The University Record, March 8, 1999

SI students capture Alaskan Yup’ik heritage on CD-ROM

By Jay Jackson
School of Information

A team of School of Information (SI) graduate students has collaborated with members of the Yup’ik Eskimo community and museums around the world to develop an interactive program based on the “Agayuliyararput (Our Way of Making Prayer)” Yup’ik mask museum exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution.

The masks are a profound form of communication between the Yup’ik people and the spirit world, and are used to ask for the things that they need for their survival.

The CD grew out of a collaboration initiated by the National Museum of the American Indian of the Smithsonian with the School of Information to create an online version of the exhibition, which was curated by Ann Fienup-Riordan of the Anchorage Museum of History and Art and members of the Yup’ik community.

“The students created a multimedia compact disc that contains both a convenient desktop version of the museum’s original traveling exhibit and a series of stories, videos and lessons that together offer insight into the lifeways and cultural heritage of the Yup’ik people who live along the west coast of Alaska,” says Maurita Holland, associate professor and assistant to the dean for academic outreach.

To celebrate the release of the “The Living Tradition of Yup’ik Masks” CD, SI is hosting a special free lecture and performance by the Nunamta Yup’ik Eskimo Dancers of Alaska. The group will perform “Central Yup’ik Eskimo Past and Present: Traditional Art, Music and Dance” at 3 p.m. March 28 in Hale Auditorium.

The Nunamta dance group also will take part in the Ann Arbor Pow Wow, “Dance for Mother Earth,” on March 27 at Crisler Arena.

Chuna McIntyre, a multimedia artist, scholar, linguist and educator who was instrumental in shaping the CD, will lead the dance group in performing traditional music and songs, some of which are included on the CD.

A brown-bag lecture will be held at noon March 29 in Room 411, West Hall. McIntyre will speak on “Traditional Yup’ik Art, Music and Dance and the Development of the Living Traditions CD-ROM.”

“The [Smithsonian] exhibit has displayed more than 200 masks from international collections at sites throughout the United States since 1996. The final showing of the collection is slated for this summer. After that, the CD will be an ongoing source containing the images of this exhibit, plus additional educational resources created by the students,” explains C. Olivia Frost, professor and associate dean for professional programs.

“Through audio, video, images and interactive technology, viewers can experience the richness and vibrancy of the largest collection of traditional Yup’ik masks anywhere in the world, hear the voices of Yup’ik elders responding to the masks, and interact with modern Yup’ik artist Chuna McIntyre,” says Tim Peters, master’s student and principal developer on the CD team.

The CD also contains stories about the making of the masks and the restoration efforts that went into saving them. Accompanying educational materials and links to online lesson plans for educators make the CD a valuable classroom tool.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation provided substantial project funding. The CD team members, part of the SI’s Cultural Heritage Initiative for Community Outreach (CHICO) project, also created a companion Web site, www.si.umich.edu/CHICO/. CHICO is a multidisciplinary, nonprofit project that works with diverse communities and cultural organizations.

To purchase the CD-ROM, $14.95 plus shipping and handling, call 647-7650 or visit the CHICO Web site.