BY MIKE TRANEL
I appreciate the suggestions Betsy Albecker brought up in her recent letter to the editor about the sculpture the National Park Service plans to install in the Itjen Lot at 2nd and Broadway. I have great respect for Ms. Albecker’s ideas as a 4th generation gold rush family descendant, and I agree that we need to expand the gold rush stories we tell beyond the typical “grubby stampeder.”
The National Park Service manages several lots on Broadway that are owned by the People of the United States. Our plans for these lots are to develop interactive interpretive opportunities, as will be the case at the Itjen Lot, and to preserve green spaces that provide pleasant resting areas for visitors, as we have done at Fifth and Broadway. Some examples of additional exhibits we are proposing in these spaces include a Native Alaskan exhibit in the lot adjacent to the Sweet Tooth Cafe which could include an appropriate sculpture.
We have talked with numerous people in the community about the potential for a series of sculptures in town. We would like to include a woman’s gold rush story in the Fifth and Broadway vicinity, where we are developing an exhibit specific to women’s experiences during this part of our history with the Goldberg Building, the adjacent cribs, and the nearby Moore House and Pullen Hotel site. Near the YMCA building at Fifth and State, we would like to tell the story of the Buffalo Soldiers who were in Dyea and Skagway during the 1898 Gold Rush as part of Company L, 24th Infantry Regiment. These locations could also include sculptures, and there are certainly others that could be done as well. We hope this can be accomplished through partnerships and with significant community participation rather than as solely a National Park Service endeavor.
New exhibits are scheduled to be installed in the visitor center over the coming winter, and I think visitors and local residents alike will be very pleased with the variety of stories being told, such as that of Tlingit leader Chief Isaac, photographer Mollie Brackett, reporter Tappan Adney, and author Jack London. When we began this project three years ago, we knew that the ton of goods exhibit was very popular but that it did not conform to the new standards for accessibility. We thought that creating an outdoor version of the ton of goods exhibit was the best approach since we heard from visitors and local residents alike that we should keep the exhibit in some form. The Itjen Lot design will accomplish this; I believe in a more meaningful way, since it will allow for people to interact with the sculpture for photo opportunities and sit on the crates that comprise the ton of goods. This will provide a feeling of being part of the 1898 experience.
I think that among the best attributes of an outdoor version of the ton of goods exhibit at the Itjen Lot is the fact that it was designed by a local sculptor, Pete Lucchetti, after we opened it up for bids. We hope that it will inspire a series of sculptures in Skagway that tell the wide variety of gold rush stories and attract visitors to all parts of the historic district.