Funding by Congress in 1988 created the Arctic Studies Center, a permanent program for northern research and education within the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. Today, the ASC continues to dedicate its energies to "the study of northern peoples, their history and environment."
The ASC home page has an informative and symmetrical layout which users can navigate easily. It gives detailed information about the ASC, a listing of its staff and steering committee; and contact information. The site has links to resources in archeology, anthropology, and education, to museums, exhibits, and collections, and to Native American resources. A selected bibliography of published ASC materials and a listing of ASC research are provided. Users may view a detailed listing of exhibitions, and consult a glossary of Arctic wildlife vocabulary.
Current ASC features include a virtual exhibit highlighting Siberian and Alaskan cultures; a portfolio of Arctic animals and a fun memory game; a detailed look at new developments in paleo-archeology and the ancient circumpolar world; reports on developments, research and its guiding ethical principles in the Arctic; notes from scientists' studies of the Nenets people; the delicate and debated issue involving ownership of recovered artifacts; a fascinating presentation of Yup'ik masks; an exploration of the Vikings' journey 1,000 years later; and an examination of the Alutiiq Dance and its ceremonial dress.
ASC recommends particular presentations be viewed with multimedia applications. Although links to download needed plugins appear on the site, Internet Wave is no longer available. Other applications download fine, and the help/notes are of assistance. The disappointment of a few broken links, is quickly countered by ASC Director William Fitzhugh, who explains that the ASC does not have an internal webmaster, and must contract out the website maintenance annually and based on their budget.
The Arctic Studies Center provides a well-balanced look at the Arctic peoples, their cultures, and environments. The information and ideas that may be gleaned from the ASC site are endless. Scholars and students of anthropology, archeology, sociology, and Native American and environmental studies will find this site most useful. High school teachers will find it great potential for enhancing social studies for their students. In this time of great efforts to preserve and conserve globally, to study and learn culturally, and to define and redefine historically, it is all the better for us socially that it can be shared with the assistance of web technology.
Cynthia E. Saylor
Instructional Services/Reference Librarian
The University of North Carolina at Pembroke