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Alumna Curates McClung Exhibit on Alaska Native Art

When Christine Dano Johnson walked across the stage at commencement in May, she knew her work on campus was far from finished.

Johnson at McClung Museum of Natural History & Culture

Christine Dano Johnson holds a Yup’ik box featured in her mini exhibition, Land, Spirit, and Sea: Alaska Native Art from the 19th and 20th Centuries, at the McClung Museum.

Following her graduation from UT, Dano Johnson turned her focus onto polishing her curatorial experience. This led her to curate her first solo mini exhibition, Land, Sea, and Spirit: Alaska Native Art from the 19th and 20th Centuries, at the McClung Museum.

The exhibition, which opens Tuesday, July 12, features her research into the McClung’s Alaska Native collections and an array of material culture reflective of the worldviews of the Iñupiat and the Yup’ik people. It will run through October 19.

Kiiñaguk (mask)

Kiiñaguk (mask), c. 1890, Tikigaq Iñupiat, Driftwood, Gift of Louis Philippe Wulff, 1949.4.101.

The exhibition’s display of everyday and ceremonial objects draws upon research Dano Johnson completed for a 2014 American studies seminar paper titled “Not Just Objects: Alaska Native Material Culture” at the museum. The paper detailed her study of more than one hundred Alaskan Native objects of material culture in the museum’s collections and was subsequently published in Pursuit, UT’s journal of undergraduate research.

Dano Johnson is a former resident of Alaska and has expressed concern over the “common curatorial practice of lumping all native Alaskan cultures into one monolithic group (i.e. ‘eskimos’).” Through her work with artists, elders, and other leaders from the source cultures of these artifacts, she has endeavored to assign objects correct names, which has helped the museum correct their collection records and is highlighted in her Land, Sea, and Spirit mini-exhibition.

Dano Johnson, a former curatorial intern and assistant at the McClung Museum, is coordinator for Friends of the Knox County Public Library. She is currently conducting research in Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska.


Jessie Holder Tourtellotte (865-974-2152 jholde11@utk.edu)

Catherine Shteynberg (865-974-6921, cshteynb@utk.edu)