Gettin’ Hammered

After spending the last 7-and-a-half years in Washington, D.C., I’m making my way across the country to Haines, Alaska to intern at the Hammer Museum for the summer.  I have never been to Alaska, but I’ve wanted to go for a long time, and to be honest, I really like hand tools.  I guess spending most days with a sledgehammer at my last job gave me a new-found appreciation for a device that’s designed simply to hit things.  There’s a lot of beauty in simplicity.

I should also add that I’m working towards my MA in Museum Studies at the George Washington University (GW for those of us who like our acronyms), so this blog is not only a personal account of this journey, but something I need to complete for credit.  But I like to write, so it’s a win-win.

So. Here we go.

Currently, I work at a used bookstore processing book donations, so it was fitting when I ran across a copy of this book today.  It’s an account of life in Haines told from the woman who writes the obituaries for the town’s local Chilkat Valley News. I’m only 30 pages into it, but it’s already got me excited.  As someone with a passing interest in anthropology, I love people’s stories, and it seems like people in rural Alaska have particularly amazing ones–I received my internship packet today, and reading through the biographies of the folks who run the Hammer Museum made my life look bleak by comparison.  For example, Dave, the museum’s founder, is a longshoreman (I had to ask what that was during my interview, as I grew up in the land-locked suburbs of Phoenix and the not land-locked but certainly not fisherman-driven suburbs of Philadelphia) and won his original land in Haines in a state land lottery in the 1970s. His own collection is what started the museum, and he purchased and refurbished an old building to house the objects.  Another man has over 40 years of experience as a plumber and electrician. One guy was a kayak guide, and one owns his own tour company.

Haines sounds like a completely different world from Washington, DC, and while YES, the Smithsonian is a great resource (said everyone to me ever), I’ve had three Smithsonian intern/volunteerships, so  it’ll be informative to see the world of museums from a different angle.  The Hammer Museum gets about 3,700 visitors a year–note that that’s about 1,200 more people than actually live in the town, and most of them are cruise visitors. The museum’s collection sits inside a 1,120 square-foot house, and it’s staffed by all volunteers and two summer interns.  It sounds like the interns run the whole show during the busy season, so I’ll certainly be getting a first-hand look at the daily operations of a small museum.

Oh yeah, did I mention that Haines is a cruise port, and that it looks like this?  Sure, it’s not all about the looks, but I can’t lie, it helped my decision quite a bit.

My flight takes off on May 12th, and after spending a few days in Phoenix to adjust to a closer time zone and assure my parents that I haven’t gone completely crazy, I’ll be flying up to Juneau and taking a ferry from there.  T minus one month and counting!


See? I’m not totally new to this hammering thing. Taken at the Ren Faire in 2011.


14 thoughts on “Gettin’ Hammered

  1. Pete

    Haines…I thought you wrote that you were going to Alaska? Just some ‘Alaskan’ humor, we do not consider any cities surrounded by Canada to be part of the real Alaska. Living in the North of the state I have always wanted to see the inside passage and i suggest if you get a few days off to try the Alaskan ferry and have a look..I am told it is truly awesome. best of luck on your summer job.

    1. rachelcannon4 Post author

      Ha! Well, I know very little about the state, but I do have a friend who got an internship in Fairbanks for the summer–does that count as the real Alaska?

  2. Rob

    The Hammer Museum gets about 3,700 visitors a year–note that that’s about 1,200 more people than actually live in the town, and most of them are cruise visitors.

    Is that more or less than are in the Natural History Museum at any given moment?

    Your post doesn’t say when you’re coming back (hopefully not never!).

  3. rootchopper

    What? I don’t get to ride bikes with you this summer? Boo!
    Seriously, congratulations on the internship. The ladies of the Rootchopper Institute spent 2 weeks in Alaska last summer and except for the grumpy old people on the cruises and buses they had a blast.
    Oh, and by the way, Philadelphia is not land locked. It has an ocean-going port. (As does Albany, my hometown. Not that I ever saw any ships when I lived there.)

    1. rachelcannon4 Post author

      Fair enough. I was about an hour north of Philly and I guess we were close enough to the Delaware River that I should know better. I will note the change.

  4. Jeffrey H

    As the great Sheldon Brown once wrote, “Many civilized people have trouble releasing the full amount of energy in a hammer blow that they are physically capable of; to do it right calls for deadly accuracy and a certain amount of barbaric abandon.”

    And as I will be saying to rental customers all summer long: have fun, be safe, we’ll see you when you get back.

  5. Marianne Harding

    I enjoyed meeting you at the store last week. I am the one who mentioned that I had read the book you are reading abut Haines, Here is a link to the National Geographic show I mentioned about the Yukon vet. She spends most of her time in the Canadian Yukon but she collaborates with the American Bald Eagle Foundation in Haines. A trio to Haines to hekp care for some juvenile eagles was included in the first episode. Hope to run into you again before you leave,

    1. rachelcannon4 Post author

      Thanks for the link! I’m excited to check it out, and even more excited to see the bald eagles…I found a travel guide for Southeastern Alaska at the store, and I didn’t realize they were so numerous. It was good to meet you too! I’ll be there for the next week.

  6. rootchopper

    Here are two books I like about life in Alaska that were best sellers back in the day. Coming into the Country by John McPhee and Going to Extremes by Joe McGinnis. Maybe Carpe Diem has copies. If not, let me know if you are interested. You can borrow mine.

    1. rachelcannon4 Post author

      Hmm…I might have to borrow them. The only problem is my to-read list is about 7 books thick right now and I can’t possibly take them all. I might just buy the Kindle editions of all of them.


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