A little over a century ago the American Museum of Natural
History launched its ambitious Jesup North Pacific Expedition to
learn more about the peoples inhabiting the remote easternmost
extension of Siberia and the northwest coast of North America. In
"The Museum at the End of the World: Encounters in the Russian Far
East," anthropologists Alexia Bloch and Laurel Kendall tell the
story of their journey through this same part of the world in 1998,
retracing the old expedition as they link the expedition legacy of
artifacts, photographs, and archival material from the museum in
New York to the present-day descendants of its subjects.Contrasting
the time of the Jesup expedition with their own travel, the authors
reveal a physical and cultural landscape that was profoundly shaken
over the past century, first by Soviet control and then by that
empire's unraveling. "The Museum at the End of the World" is not
the story of a heroic adventure but rather a series of
conversations about Siberian culture with museum workers, native
scholars, performers and artisans, and a great variety of ordinary
people. They reveal a strong concern about past legacies, cultural
preservation, and their uncertain future as they struggle to
reinvent themselves.The authors' combination of travelers'
curiosity and professional inquiry provide a compelling portrait of
life in the Russian Far East and a meditation on the fate of
culture and tradition in the face of hard economic times and sudden
autonomy after decades of state control.
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