Haines is small but mighty. This small Alaskan port on the Inside Passage has a number of excellent things to see. At the head of any list are the American Bald Eagle Foundation that specializes in bird rehabilitation and has a fine museum devoted to Alaskan wildlife and very historic Fort Seward with its Officers’ Row. However, Ruth & my day began at the Sheldon Museum that is mostly devoted to items that relate to Tlingit culture. This native group more or less dominates this area of Alaska.
Don’t miss this museum! It is well-known for its assemblage of native artifacts that began as a private collection. Our host that day was a young man named Zach who preferred to be addressed by his Tlingit name, which was Tushkei. Living in his grandparents local house was important to Tushkei. The first thing that he showed us was this museum’s proudest possession, a Tlingit clan hat. This 1740 headgear was recently appraised at more than one million dollars. Named the Murrelet Hat, it is known for and named for the bird atop it. It was used for ceremonies and was recently returned to this town as an important cultural asset. The marbled murrelet on this hat is a small seabird in the auk family that is not extinct but is endangered. They are known to be fast-flying birds.
Tushkei pointed out to us a Tlingit war helmet, a Russian nesting trunk used by fur traders and made in China, and some rare Chilkat blankets. I was especially taken by an illustration of the Eldred Rock Lighthouse. Eldred is the oldest lighthouse of its kind in Alaska. This museum has some truly remarkable artifacts!
The Sheldon is one of 2 museums in this quiet village of 2,500 people. The other museum that was in the next block from the Sheldon is devoted to the simple hammer. This tool that has been in use for more than 3 million years is surprisingly complicated, and this museum does a good job of explaining why. This museum has 1,800 of them to look at and think about.
Getting to Haines and back to our boat were eventful, and we appreciated the free shuttle that got us around this town. Haines weather is mild compared with other destinations in Alaska. It averages only 60 inches of precipitation each year, and it threatened but did not rain while we were there. During solstice times it averages 6 hours of daylight. It has a mild enough climate that it sponsors a state fair every July. It calls itself The “Adventure Capital of Alaska” and lives up to this name.