Library Inuit program draws children in


Recorder News Staff

Up in the children's room of the Amsterdam Free Library Saturday sat a long conference table covered in a white linen cloth.

Above the cloth sat age-old artifacts.

Hand-sewn boots made of real leather and animal fur with intricate stitching rested at one end.

At the other stood tiny totem poles and a long pipe with a string of robin's egg blue beads hanging down the side.

In between rested a dozen other pieces, from a long pair of hand-woven mittens to a purse made of white fur.

They were pieces of the Walter Elwood Museum collection from the Inuit tribe in Alaska, and they were brought to the library Saturday for a special children's program.

"They didn't waste anything. They preserved everything for their own use," said Amsterdam Free Library Children's Program Coordinator Katie Capel of the Inuits.

Capel spoke to the children gently about how fragile the pieces were but shared with them the stories of how they were used and how similar some of the things are to what is used today.

"But this is one of a kind," she said.

After seeing the mittens, 5-year-old Araya Chicoine ran to her coat across the room and came back waiving her own glove.

"It's just like mine!" she yelled.

After Capel completed her explanations, the 5-year-old said she also loved the purse and shoes.

"I like them because of the fur."

Her sister, 12-year-old Hailey Chicoine, said she thought the exhibit was fun.

"We thought it would be cool to see," she said of why she and her three siblings went with their dad.

Every Saturday, children have the opportunity to head to the library for a program of crafts and reading, but this week was a bit more special.

After the children were taught about the artifacts, they were given posters and told to draw what they learned.

Some drew their best renditions of the artifacts.

Other wrote words around their drawings that described what they saw.

Six-year-old Abby Thompson said she thought the exhibit was "cool."

There with her aunt Sandy Smith, Thompson attends the children's program every Saturday.

"I think it's amazing," Smith said of the Saturday program. "I think it's great for the children. They learn a lot and they learn things that they don't learn anywhere else."

Thompson became even more excited when her friends from the Saturday program began showing up.

They explored together and paired up for the posters later.

Pat Horrocks, who brought her granddaughters Amani and Carmen Rivera, said they come almost every Saturday.

Horrocks said the kids love the projects, but she was especially excited this week, knowing that the Walter Elwood Museum is not yet back up and running.

"I'm glad they can show them here because the museum's been closed," she said, adding that she's looking forward to it reopening. 

Capel said she and library director Nicole Hemsley tossed around ideas of what they could do for Saturday programs, and knowing they had a relationship with the museum and museum director Ann Peconie, they jumped at the chance to bring pieces in.

"We're just trying to think about ways to bring the topics that we talk about to life," Capel said, adding that she hopes to continue the partnership in the future. 

She said the Inuit exhibit was perfect as the pieces are so relevant to what it's like right now during the winter.

"It's just really cool because we go to the store and buy Uggs, well these are the original Uggs," she said. "I'm just trying to have them (the kids) relate the lives that we live today to the lives of these people that lived so, so long ago, that they weren't really that much different."