Point of View: Homer’s Pratt Museum and Park offering free community education and conversation opportunities this spring

As the Pratt Museum and Park’s director of Lifelong Learning Experiences, I’ve been gifted with the great honor and opportunity to curate some educational experiences to offer this diverse and wonderful community.

As our museum and world emerge from some challenging times, with the global pandemic shutting down so many of our activities, we’re excited to offer free programs to enrich the lives of our community members, and encourage you to visit our museum once again!

For school groups this spring, we are providing free tours of our award-winning exhibits, which highlight the cultural and natural history of our region. We have a super collection of artifacts and stories about the people who have lived in this area, and amazing mounts and skeletons of whales, bears, wolves, birds, and much more to share, with engaging interpretive text written about their lives and their stories. We also have a remarkable collection of cultural and natural history-themed art work interspersed throughout our museum, which highlights the perceptions and experiences of this place by its residents and visitors.

Ask your teacher to contact us and set up a tour, and we’ll be happy to tailor your visit to the curriculum that is most relevant and timely to your current focus of study.

For everyone’s enjoyment, we’re hosting a series of free Tuesday evening films for viewing and discussion, which cover topics important and relevant to the people of our region. We’re screening these in coordination with related historic and current events, so Iditarod films during the Iditarod race, oil disaster recovery films close to the anniversary of that terrible and tragic time, and an award-winning documentary on the importance of fishing and basketball to many small coastal Alaskan communities, screened during the big high school tournament championships in March.

The conversations following our screenings have provided rich and rare insights into these cultural and historic events, with participants in the Iditarod, and in the oil spill cleanup, showing up at the museum to share stories from their experiences. Such rich and colorful memories shared, some joyful and some not.

Don’t miss out on the coming opportunities to enjoy these films and join these conversations. In coming weeks we’ll share films on the return of the sandhill cranes, the importance of sustainable fisheries and films about the dramatic and disproportional changes our region faces with the rapidly warming and destabilized climate.

In partnership with the Alaska Humanities Forum, we’ve also been hosting monthly free conversation gatherings that we call “Compelling Community Conversations,” which provide a chance to examine the stories and work of other Alaskans, and then discuss how the issues represented relate to our own experiences, thoughts and actions.

These are also held during weekday evenings between 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., with the hope that people can drop in after work and after dinner, without it being too late. Our upcoming conversations will highlight the importance of leadership and mentorship in rural Alaskan communities, and the role of journalism in our lives. Contact us and come by to join in!

We’re excited to have the museum open currently Thursdays through Saturdays from 11 a.m.-4 p.m., and plan to expand our hours for the summer next month.

Entrance is free to members and $13 for Alaskans. We also welcome new volunteers to join our team. Check out our website at www.prattmuseum.org for more information on our museum and programs. We hope to see you again soon!

Kenneth O’Brien MS MA is director of Lifelong Learning Experiences at the Pratt Museum and Park, located at 3779 Bartlett St. in Homer.