Sound Collections: Episode 1 - Marilyn Sigmond

Jul 14, 2020

The Pratt Museum 3779 Bartlett Street in Homer
Credit Pratt Museum

SOUND COLLECTIONS is a mini-series that explores the wonders of the found items of Kachemak Bay. From bits of shells collected on the beach to seed pods found in the forest, Sound Collections believes that the things we collect can teach us a lot about the place we live.

You can tune in live to new episodes on KBBI every Sunday at 8:35 a.m.

Hello and welcome to Sound Collections. A new mini-series presented by KBBI Public Radio and the Pratt Museum. Each week, we will be hearing snippets of interviews from community members around Kachemak Bay, exploring the found items that we collect and what they can teach us about our past, present and future.  This week, we will be hearing about the collection of writer and naturalist, Marilyn Sigmund.

Hello, my name is Marilyn Sigman. I'm from Montana originally, but live in Homer. Now, I collect rocks on the beach, all kinds of animal parts from the critters I find there and the occasional mammal parts and I also like to collect wood with knots and unusual shapes. I began delving into the natural collections and also cultural collections at the Pratt museum when I was writing my book Entangled: People and Ecological Change in Alaska's Kachemak Bay.

I'm now working with the Pratt Museum to develop an exhibit about collecting and collections. Well, I arrange what I collect in kind of linear museums on my window seals. I have rose beach rocks, including some fossil rocks.

I've tons of shells, bones, and some pieces of wood with these knots and interesting shapes. Others, I stack in containers on tables and shelves, and I pay some attention to matching some colors and the shapes. The piles also include a lot of single earrings that have stones or crystals in them because I'm always losing at least one.

I can remember the places where I found many of the shells and rocks. I used to have a science supply company for school and I used to collect shells, put together shell kits for them. And, that was called Alaska Scavengers.

But the shells click from Kachemak Bay beaches. They remind me of that my time when I led the beach field trips in Petersen and China Poot Bay for the center for Alaskan Coastal Studies. I remember kind of being there on the beach and sharing my finds, these fascinating creatures that inhabited the shells and kind of sharing with them, how those animals lived in, in the places they lived in.
Several years ago, Marilyn happened upon an artifact that inspired her to embark on a journey to find out what the things we collect have to teach us about the places we live.

Well, probably the one thing that changed my life and actually got me thinking about shifting baselines was something I found on my property, which used to belong to Sam and Vega Pratt. I used to find all kinds of rocks scattered around other properties. Some of them were, had been polished by Sam - arrowheads, which he had collected somewhere other than Alaska.

There's a lot of pumice around, but one day I turned over the stone and saw that it had been hollowed out. And realized it was one of these lamps, these stone lamps that people used to burn seal oil in. So I became curious about where Sam had found that lamp and of course brought it to this property.

 I wanted to learn more about these stone lamps. And that kind of led me to a seven year long quest to write a book about the, all of the peoples in Kachemak Bay over the time they lived here. And that lamp sort of set me off in a different direction in my life.

 These artifacts are a way in to trying to reconstruct and interpret what the past was and more and more, they're serving to also give insight into past climates. One one of the things that I realized for the book was they were still there. You still have to explain why people lived as they lived.

And why, if that changed, why that changed and some of it is cultural possibly, but a lot of it's also we're realizing the archeologists and anthropologists are realizing more and more was environmental change that either caused them to abandon Kachemak Bay as people did or move to places that are more amenable to larger communities and they developed into larger communities after that.

So it's all a way in to what the, the past was like and what we might learn from that.

We'd like to thank Marilyn Sigman for sharing her reflections time and vast amount of knowledge with us. Sound Collections theme music is Masking by Leo Ash. We'd also like to thank all of you, our listeners for tuning in to this first episode of Sound Collections on KBBI Public Radio.

To see photos of Marilyn's collections information about our upcoming exhibit and to submit your own story, visit our website