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MOTA fundraiser slated

October 14th, 2016 | Jim Paulin, The Bristol Bay Times-Dutch Harbor Fisherman Print this article   Email this article  

Neil Hitch, the new director of the Museum of the Aleutians, has plans to make it a more inviting and exciting place in Unalaska.

He hopes the remains of the historic Torpedo Building will guide visitors into the experience within, by turning the dismantled metal frame into a welded outdoor sculpture. The old World War II building was torn down this summer at the Unalaska airport.

When he saw the heap of scrap metal, he saw possibilities.

"I'd like to repurpose some of the materials," he said last week, after six weeks in his new job.

The museum is back in business, following last year's scandal, when it was closed for months, after a Russian Bible was found removed without permission, in the home of former director Zoya Johnson, leading to her resignation.

The number one current priority is preparing for the Nov. 19 fundraiser at the Grand Aleutian Hotel. This will be the first in two years, since it was canceled last year because of the closure.

At last week's board of directors meeting, board members debated proper attire for the fundraiser before deciding not to make any changes to the event which really doesn't have a dress code. But it might appear that way, at least to board member Suzi Golodoff who thought past events were too upscale.

"This is Alaska, you don't have to be all dressed up," Golodoff said. "It's been a pretty high-end thing, a little over the top."

But some people like wearing dressy clothes, said Billie Jo Deffendal. "It was a gala event. People like dressing up for that."

Said Golodoff, "You're not going to see me up there in a little black dress."

Board member and Unalaska City Manager David Martinson compared it to New Years Eve at a Grand Aleutian Hotel restaurant, with a range of sartorial styles, from "dressed to the nines" to "rubber boots and hoodies."

Hitch plans to dress semi-formally, with a jacket, though not a tie. Whether the fundraiser will also serve as the annual meeting was left undecided.

The fundraiser will allow the community to meet three new staffers, Hitch, collections manager Virginia Hatfield, and intern Richard J. Barnes. Hatfield will seek National Science Foundation funding to reactivate the museum's archaeology program, Hitch said.

One of Hitch's first actions as director was to move the gift shop to a more prominent location, into the lobby and out of a side room.

"The gift shop is now more of a focal point, rather than an after thought," Hitch said.

And the gift shop's making money, about $8,000 this year, mainly from cruise ship passengers. Nearly 2,000 visited the museum, thanks to admissions paid with $5 vouchers distributed on the ships, earning another $12,000, he said.

In another fundraising project, the museum's back into non-profit gaming, selling pulltabs at the Norwegian Rat Saloon, Airport Restaurant, and Harbor View Bar and Grill, he said.

Board member Jeff Dickrell reported major plans by the National Park Service to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the bombing of Dutch Harbor next year, commemorating the 1942 aerial attack that killed about 50 people.

Unlike the 40th anniversary celebration, Dickrell said he doesn't expect to see Japanese Zeros flying over town, as that frightened local residents who'd personally experienced the attacks during World War II.


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