UAA Engagement Week Highlights Community

The University of Alaska Anchorage is hosting community engagement events this week. The focus is on being urban in Alaska. Bree Kessler is an assistant professor for Health Sciences at the center for community engagement and learning. She says on Saturday a pop up museum will appear for a few hours in a downtown neighborhood.

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The idea of UAA engagement has been around for a couple years, this year focused on urban in Alaska and specifically engaging in your neighborhood. The idea is pulling together the university and the greater community, bringing the university into the community and the community in the university.

What is a pop up museum? A pop up museum occurs for a couple of hours.

Ours will be from 11 am to 3 pm in the parking lot of the Fairview rec center and the idea is that people from the community, and we’re working closely with the Fairview community council, they’ve been a great help to us, people in the community will bring pictures and artifacts that are important to them. It will go into these tents, the museum we’re creating and anyone who comes can look at the objects and reflect on them and write about them and the idea is to create more accurate public memory and history of what happening in that neighborhood and what can happen in that neighborhood.

Will you archive the pop up material somewhere or is this meant to be temporary?

It’s both. It’s meant to be temporary in the sense that it will only meant to be there for a few hours, but the overall plan is that we will scan all the objects and once we have some funding, we will archive it on an interactive website, so that people can see what objects and pictures that were brought to the pop up. And ideally this is part of the centennial projects going on around town over the next year and a half.

You mentioned having the community bring these pictures and momentos and also write about them. Are you hoping to have them write about things right on sight and leave that for part of the archive?

Exactly, we’ve created some sheets that have writing prompts on them. They’ll be in front of the objects or pictures and community members or visitors that come to the pop up museum can reflect on the spot what they’re seeing. For instance, if they see a picture they might write, I have this same picture at home or I remember seeing this house when I was little. Things that connect the community together and again create a better collective memory of what’s happening in the neighborhood.

Are there other pop up museums planned for other anchorage neighborhoods?

That’s the idea. That this is somewhat of a pilot project and we would work with other community councils and other courses. This was a project of the civic engagement course that I teach at the University, through the center of community and learning. So next semester perhaps we would work with another community to organize a pop up in their neighborhood.

There’s also some neighborhood walks being planned this weekend. What neighborhoods are on the route?

Most of the walks are taking place downtown and one is in midtown. They were dreamt up by students in my honor’s class and they’re Jane Jacobs walks. Jane Jacobs was a public space advocate who talked about getting to know your neighbors and walkable cities. So there’s walks that look at art and boutiques downtown. There’s one called the urban survivor and that’s in midtown, looking at REI and survivor skills and a gun shop and thinking about how to be a great urban survivor in Anchorage.

Is there a culmination of the walk? 

The hope is the students will be leading and talking throughout the walk talking about public space and Anchorage and that the reflection will happen throughout the walk. Some of them do end in a particular place, but the idea is to meet new people and there’s not always great ways in cities for strangers to meet each other for spontaneous things to happen. So one of the walks is going to have a flash mob that will occur during it, so the idea is that people on the walk will get to meet other people who will see the flash mob happening and hopefully join in on the walk spontaneously.

That sounds like a lot of fun.

I think it’s going to be a very wonderful walk. That walk is called the Glow and it’s happening Friday night starting at 7 o’clock. It’s open to anyone, but really for people under 21 to show them some great places that they may not have thought about to spend time downtown. In a way to sort of re-appropriate public places in a way that have been utilized before in hot spots.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for Alaska Public Media. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for nearly 30 years. Radio brought her to Alaska, where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting before accepting a reporting/host position with APRN in 2003. APRN merged with Alaska Public Media a year later. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.