Kiosks - Barrow, Alaska

Marth Hopson and grandson Michael walk across the tundra for the kiosk opening scene.
Marth Hopson and grandson Michael walk across the tundra for the kiosk opening scene.

Located at the northernmost point in the United States, Barrow is Alaska's largest eskimo village. ARM chose to place two climate research facilities in the Arctic because it is a region particularly sensitive to climate changes. Many residents in Barrow maintain traditional lifestyles and rely on subsistence foods such as whale, seal, polar bear, walrus, duck, caribou, grayling, and whitefish. In 2002, discussions with community leaders in Barrow, Alaska, revealed that one of their highest priorities was to develop a museum display on climate change and environmental impacts in the Arctic. The community wanted to include information about impacts on their culture and traditions and an add emphasis on the importance of elder knowledge in educating their youth.

On the kiosk, Bernie Zak explains how an instrument works.
On the kiosk, Bernie Zak explains how an instrument works.

ARM Education and Outreach subsequently developed an interactive museum kiosk for the students and community of Barrow. The kiosk features interviews about climate change with educators, subsistence hunters, and elders from the Barrow community accompanied by interviews with ARM scientists and other researchers from the area. In the kiosk, community members speak of environmental changes such as thinning sea ice; the annual freeze-up occurring later each year; and changes in tundra plants such as local berries.

The table below shows a sampling of the type of traditional knowledge shared by Barrow community members.

Elder Observation
Sadie Neakok Climate change has affected the river ice. In the past, the ice was frozen and secure enough to set nets for gill net fishing in September. Now the ice doesn't freeze until October.
Percy Nusunginya Climate change has affected the shore-fast sea ice and where a lead occurs in the ice. This affects where the animals are available and consequently affects food availability for people.
Arnold Brower, Sr. Drier weather in Barrow affects plants. Berries, a traditional subsistence food, do not grown well in the drier weather. I believe that climate change has also affected wildlife in the area. There are many small birds and migratory wildlife that used to be abundant but are no longer around.
George Leavitt Climate change on the North Slope has increased erosion greatly. My house used to be 40 feet away from the bluff, but in the last 20-25 years, there has been so much erosion, the house is now directly next to the bluff.
Harry Brower, Jr. The sea ice is thinner now than ever before. Whale hunters need to be even more cautious because of thawing and cracks in the ice.
Eugene Brower In the fall and spring is when I see the greatest changes. It is warmer in the spring than usual and it freezes later in the fall. Also, we aren't getting the multi-year ice to the degree we used to have in the fall time.
Iñupiat bowhead whale hunter in traditional skin umiak. Photo taken by John Nusunginya
Iñupiat bowhead whale hunter in traditional skin umiak. Photo taken by John Nusunginya

In 2003, the first kiosk in the Climate Change: Science and Traditional Knowledge kiosk series was installed at the Iñupiat Heritage Center where it remains on permanent display. The Alaska kiosk project was a collaboration between ARM and the Iñupiat Heritage Center (IHC) and truly represents the excellent working relationship that exists between ARM and the host community. The IHC provided guidance on issues of cultural sensitivity and played an important role in facilitating interviews with Alaskan natives. The IHC staff also contributed their time and expertise of Iñupiat culture and history as the kiosk went through several development stages, including translation into the Iñupiaq language.

Many hours of interviews were recorded while filming for the kiosk in Barrow; however, not all of the information could be included in the kiosk due to space limitations. In 2005, the Education and Outreach program released a video archive with more than 100 interviews which address a wide range of issues related to climate change (animal migration patterns, wind patterns, Barrow history, etc.). The archive is an excellent tool for preserving oral tradition and provides a wealth of information that can be used by students for interdisciplinary studies.

Kiosks Available Online

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