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Sheldon Jackson Museum January 2023 Artifact of the Month is a Pair of Tlingit Moccasins

by LAM Webmaster on 2023-01-17T08:30:00-09:00 in Artifact of the Month, Sheldon Jackson Museum | 0 Comments

pair of mocassins with floral beading and Alaska spelled out in beadingThe Sheldon Jackson Museum’s January artifact of the month is a pair of Tlingit moccasins (SJ-I-A-584). The moccasins likely date to sometime between 1928 and 1940, when the original collector Rev. Jackson Webster was living in Sitka and acting as the Presbyterian Minister. The moccasins were donated to the museum by Webster’s daughter, Mary Ellen Hanks, who served as a Volunteer in Mission at Sheldon Jackson College between 1982 and 1984. 

The maker of the moccasins is unfortunately unknown, and the footwear have considerable damage and signs of wear, but they are notable for several characteristics. The soiling throughout, including on the soles, suggest they were worn. The white felt vamps are discolored to the point of nearly blending in with the adjacent buckskin. The proper left vamp has two holes on one side and is missing some of the beads from the letter A in the word, “Alaska.” The moccasins are hand-sewn, the thread is loose in several places, and the stitching is largely unevenly spaced.

Despite the damage and imperfections in the moccasins, they are a beautiful example of footwear, unique among other examples in the museum's collection. The January Artifact of the Month is the only pair of white moccasins, the only pair with beaded words across the top of their vamps, and the only pair with cuffs cut in a zigzag pattern at the top. The beaded floral pattern on the vamps, sewn with light blue, orange, and red beads, is also distinct. Most of the moccasins with floral beadwork in the collection feature easily identifiable Northwest Coast foliate designs, with symmetrical patterns and bead colors that mirror one another, or alternatively feature flat Athabascan floral motifs or representations of berries and leaves. 

The Sheldon Jackson Museum has sixteen pairs of moccasins in the permanent collection. Many of those moccasins and the January artifacts of the month may be seen during hours of operation – currently Wed. through Saturday between 10am and 4:00pm. The Sheldon Jackson Museum is currently open Wednesday-Saturday, 10 am-4 pm and by appointment only on Tuesdays. Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, and free for ages 18 and under and active duty military and their families (with an ID). 

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