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Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History
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Department of Anthropology

Arctic Studies Center

Detail of a sanightaaq (fancy gut parka) collected from St. Lawrence Island in 1923. For more information, go to http://alaska.si.edu/record.asp?id=218. Photo by Wayde Carroll.
Detail of a sanightaaq  (fancy gut parka) collected from St. Lawrence Island in 1923. For more information, go to http://alaska.si.edu/record.asp?id=218. Photo by Wayde Carroll.

The art of sewing sea mammal intestine – also called gut – is an ancient and practical one used to create waterproof clothing and bags, as well as ceremonial attire. During the week-long Material Traditions: Sewing Gut residency organized by the Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum in 2014, Alaska Native artists Mary Tunuchuk (Yup’ik), Elaine Kingeekuk (St. Lawrence Island Yupik) and Sonya Kelliher-Combs (Iñupiaq-Athabascan) studied the design and construction of historic gutskin objects in the Smithsonian’s Living Our Cultures exhibition and Anchorage Museum collection. The artists demonstrated and explained how to process and sew gut to students, museum conservators and visitors. The Anchorage residency was followed by a two-day community workshop in Bethel taught by Mary Tunuchuk and hosted by the Yupiit Piciryarait Cultural Center with assistance from Director Eva Malvich.

The educational videos presented here introduce the artists, examine historic objects made with gut from the Smithsonian collections, and offer detailed explanations and demonstrations. Learn how to process and sew sea mammal intestine (and hog gut as an alternative material for non-Alaska Natives); prepare grass and tapered thread for sewing; and complete a gut basket or gut window project.

To learn more about Alaska Native cultures, please visit the exhibition website Sharing Knowledge at http://alaska.si.edu, where you can also find educational materials in the Resources section.

Alaska Native artists Elaine Kingeekuk, Sonya Kelliher-Combs and Mary Tunuchuk at the 2014 Sewing Gut rersidency. Photo by Wayde Carroll.
Alaska Native artists Elaine Kingeekuk, Sonya Kelliher-Combs and Mary Tunuchuk at the 2014 Sewing Gut rersidency. Photo by Wayde Carroll.


Videos

Introduction (1 video)

Meet the Artists (3 videos)

Studying Historic Museum Pieces (1 video)

Processing Gut (2 videos)

Using an Alternative (1 video)

Preparing Grass (1 video)

Making Tapered Thread (1 video)

Sewing Gut (1 video)

Sewing a Gut Basket (1 video)

Sewing a Model Gut Window (1 video)

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