One idea, from Banghart, is to establish a curator training program at the S-J Museum and Stratton. Artist Teri Rofkar says she’s excited about that idea, because such a program could allow more artifacts to be housed in Sitka.
“I’ve been involved in a couple of projects, some of them going back into the late 90s, when we found some old baskets that carbon-dated at 5,000 years old,” Rofkar said. “Those are stored in the basement of the State Museum in Juneau. So they’re not really a good access for us here as far as research, and yet they came from Baranof Island. I realize they can’t have everything from the Sitka area, but there are a few pieces that are really key for research.”
Sitka resident Karen Lucas mentioned a proposal she’s spearheading to form the Sheldon Jackson Society. The group, she said, would aim to collect oral histories and other interpretations of the history of the college, which was once affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. Lucas says she also hopes to further the Christian aspect of the campus’s heritage, and hopes the campus will one day host a Christian school of some sort.
“During the academic year, something small, Lucas said. “Start out small. Probably K through 8 for beginners, just to get started. It’s kind of one of those developing things when you start a school.”
That plan, Lucas says, is in its infancy at the moment, and will require a lot more discussion if it’s to get off the ground. As of February 1, the remaining core S-J campus, including the Hames Center, is the property of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.
Regardless of specific plans, just preserving the story of Sheldon Jackson College, and the school that came before it, is important to people like alumna Isabella Brady. She says the school has a loyal following because it took in many students who had no other place to go, and turned them into leaders.
“Plus that was during the tail end of the Great Depression,” Brady said, “so I think actually, physically, we were able to survive because we had three meals a day here, we worked half a day, went to school half a day, and went to study hall in the evening.”
Banghart says the state museum system will be a participant in a community vision for Stratton, he also says it’s up to the community to lead that vision to realization. Tuesday’s meeting, he said, was the first of what he hopes will be many conversations.
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