Prominent anthropologist joins Burke Museum

A noted anthropologist and museum curator will join the UW faculty in a pair of roles beginning this fall.

Sven Haakanson, a former executive director of the Alutiiq Museum in Kodiak, Alaska, who was named a 2007 MacArthur Fellow for his work connecting Native people and museum collections, will join the Burke Museum as a Curator of Native American Anthropology. He will also serve as an associate professor in the department of anthropology starting this September.

Haakanson, a member of the Alutiiq Tribe of Old Harbor in rural Kodiak Island, spent the past 13 years with the Alutiiq Museum overseeing the development of publications, exhibits, and programs in connection with the Alutiiq language and culture. Under his direction, the museum also brought exhibitions, field research, and educational programming to landlocked villages across the island.

Julie Stein, executive director of the Burke Museum, called it an amazing step for Haakanson to branch out after working in Kodiak with the community that he’s been a part of for most of his life.

“We are thrilled and honored that he chose this institution for that step,” Stein said. “We know he is going to transform the Burke Museum.”

Haakanson said he’s looking forward to new challenges that will come with the move and working with new community members.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I’m looking forward to doing a lot of collaboration and working with students as well.”

Before coming to the Alutiiq Museum, Haakanson earned his BA in English from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and his Ph.D. in anthropology from Harvard. He’s also served as an adjunct member of the faculty at Kodiak College, a satellite campus of the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Haakanson has received widespread recognition for his work. In 2012, he was the recipient of the Guardians of Culture and Lifeways International Leadership award from the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums. He was recognized with an Alaska Governor’s Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities that same year. 

Janelle Taylor, chair of the department of anthropology, said the department is thrilled Haakanson is joining the faculty.

“It’s kind of our luck and good fortune that he happens to be an anthropologist,” she said.

Haakanson will teach two classes in the anthropology department per year, but he said he doesn’t yet know what courses they will be.

“I need to get a feel for what the department [needs] and also where I can teach to my strengths,” Haakanson said.

Along with teaching, Haakanson said he hopes to be able to work with the Burke Museum and its collection. He also wants to bring the knowledge of the collection back to the communities the artifacts come from and not only celebrate them, but allow community members to re-learn and enhance upon that knowledge as well. 

Reach News Editor Joe Veyera at news@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @JosephVeyera

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