Team Amirault's Taj II touring America & Canada Blog

Fairbanks, Alaska’s Centerpiece

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The Fountainhead Antique Auto Museum located in the Fairbank’s Wedgewood Resort is a remarkable collection of seventy richly restored antique autos and matching vintage period clothing. The glory of early auto art is celebrated here complimented expertly with dresses that we wanted to sneak out of the building. Tom Cerny, a successful wealthy businessman, put this collection together as a way to preserve Alaska’s auto history with vehicles which started as early as 1898. As harsh and treacherous as the roads were – people wanted cars. We were fascinated by this unique set of exhibits including the room where they work on the restorations.

Sweet!

A turquoise one – my first choice.

So shiny…..

The radiator caps were works of art.

Love the car – not so much the outfit.

Bright white one was elegant.

Headlamps were oversized on this model.

Like jewelry with a dress – headlamps were stunning

My favorite dresses – oh so elegant.

A jaunty hat and shiny black limo completes the look.

Yummy

Two evening dresses so delicate they required a secure special box.

More luscious headlamps

The museum encouraged our tour participants to dress up and pose in one of the Model T’s for fun photo memory.

University of Alaska Museum of the North

This is a remarkable museum that shares so much information about the North country that it is a bit overwhelming. It was educational, fascinating and filled with important material for our monthlong visit to Alaska. I was impressed with the concise descriptions of the native peoples influence as illustrated with artifacts and art. Most of the artifacts were in glass cases so photos were awkward but I included some regardless. This is a very worthwhile stop and not to be missed if you truly want to learn about Alaskan history – geologically, demographically and economically.

Replicas of actual clothing fashioned and worn by the first people.

The beadwork and basketry was elegant and very colorful. Hunting and trading provided the materials for clothing and artwork – all animals hunted by the early tribes were used entirely – no waste and the was an important statement about the reverence these people felt toward living things.

In an exhibit about Alaska’s rich geologic layers it became clearer why mining and harvesting of ores and minerals was and continues to be so important in Alaska. Oil is just one of the vital resources in the state’s economy. Gold remains important and there are still vast deposits very deep in the ground. Most of the jade mined in the world comes from Alaska and is mined by one of the larger tribes and sent to Japan for finishing as jewelry.

Rich colorful sculptures in native wood such as the totem pole above often marked the territory of a tribe or clan. The colors are incredibly vibrant and deep.

Tiny beads in intricate patterns makes these artifacts priceless and an essential part of Alaskan history.

Animals play a major – almost outsized role here – there are more moose, bears; caribou and ravens in Alaska than people – and their spirits are celebrated in clothing and artwork.

Many of the mammals in the above illustration originated in the northern part of the continent, yet many migrated across the bridge between Asia and America and died out here. The predecessor of the horse started small here, but migrated then grew in stature and status in Asia. Mammoths and mastodons occupied the Northern tundra during several geologic periods.

These Early sculptures – above and below – completed by prehistoric Alaskan people – demonstrate the similarity of early people’s art forms around the globe.

Athabaskan Tribal Village

Outside of Fairbanks along the Yukon River, we visited an Athabaskan Tribe’s Village that had been preserved to show us how this important tribe lived, fished and dressed for the cold ruthless winters. We actually tried this coat on and felt the amazing warmth it provided the wearer. This tribe had vast settlements in the Alaska interior and Native American tribes as far south as Florida can trace their connections to this amazing group. Later in the tour we met with young tribal members who are working hard to preserve their culture and share their music and songs.

The docent explained the different furs used for clothing and bedding – Fox, rabbit, ermine, mink, as well as moose and caribou all were significant and plentiful.

These elevated structures were where food such as salmon or meats were stored to help protect vital food supplies from the animal competitors.

Homes and other dwellings were often adorned by huge moose antlers a tribute to the hunters

Salmon fishing is vital to the tribe’s sustenance – thick filets were smoked and dried for consumption during winter months when game was scarce

Salmon filets handing in the smoking shed – a delightful aroma.

Above is the fish wheel – an amazing instrument used to harvest the salmon when they are swimming upstream to return to their birthing site and lay their eggs. The wheel turns as the fish pass through and they are scooped up for the fisherman to harvest.

More from Fairbanks and our trip along the Yukon River.

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