October 23, 2002
SMITH TO HOST WORLD PREMIERE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OF PBS ALASKA DOCUMENTARY
Nationally recognized scientists,
artists and writers, as well as members of the Smith College
community, 'star' in PBS film retracing of one of the most ambitious
expeditions ever staged in America, Edward Harriman's 1899 survey
of the Alaska coast.
Editor's note: Historical images
and still images from the film are available as digital files.
NORTHAMPTON, Mass.-In the summer of
2001, 25 leading scholars, artists and writers, as well as Smith
College alumnae and other members of the Smith community, revisited
one of history's most significant encounters with Alaska's coastline
Their month-long journey is the subject of a two-hour documentary
film for PBS-"The 1899 Harriman Expedition Retraced: A Century
of Change"-which will receive its world premiere at Smith
on Saturday, Nov. 2.
The screening will take place at 7 p.m. in Wright Hall Auditorium.
It is free and open to the public.
The film, by award-winning documentary filmmakers Larry Hott
and Diane Garey of Florentine Films/Hott Productions, brings
together the dynamic elements of railroad tycoon Edward Henry
Harriman's extravagantly ambitious 1899 'family vacation' and
the 2001 Smithsponsored expedition. The modern day explorers,
sailing aboard the 340-foot M/V Clipper Odyssey, engaged many
of the questions that Harriman and his "floating university"
confronted, as well as some he couldn't have imagined. What are
the subsistence hunting rights of Native Alaskans? What is the
future of the Bering Sea fisheries? What impact is global warming
having on the 10,000-year-old glaciers and tundra permafrost?
Can a balance be struck between tourism and environmental stewardship?
The awe-inspiring Alaska coast is the stage on which the story
"More than 100 years have passed since Harriman and his
126 passengers set out on one of the largest and most famous
expeditions the world had ever seen," explained Tom Litwin,
director of Smith's Clark Science Center, who organized the 2001
expedition in partnership with the Alumnae Association of Smith
College and co-produced the film with Hott and Garey.
"The exhaustive documentation of their 9,000-mile journey
left us with a time capsule we re-opened over the course of our
30-day voyage. We took on the bewildering task of assessing a
century of environmental and social change that has swept the
Alaska coast, one of the world's wildest coastlines."
Hott noted that the film captures not only how dramatically Alaska
has changed but also how profoundly our sensibilities about the
environment and the human rights of Native Alaskans have evolved.
"It's a benchmark, of sorts, by which we can assess our
relationship with the natural world and the many rich cultures
that inhabit it."
A highlight of the film is the 2001 group's port stop in the
fishing town of Ketchikan, within the Tongass National Forest.
Expedition representatives returned to leaders of the Saanya
Kwaan (Saanya Clan) numerous sacred objects removed from the
uninhabited village of Cape Fox, near Ketchikan, during the 1899
expedition. The repatriated objects, which included house posts,
ceremonial blankets, totem poles, masks and carvings, had been
in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Harvard and
Cornell Universities, the University of Washington and the Field
Museum in Chicago. Expedition representatives and Smith travelers
joined a "potlatch," hosted by leaders of the Tlingit
Tribe, in a rare ceremony of healing for hundreds of Tlingits
from throughout Southeast Alaska.
"The 1899 Harriman Alaska Expedition Retraced" is Hott
and Garey's 15th major collaboration on a PBS documentary. Their
awards include an Emmy, two Oscar nominations and the George
Foster Peabody Award.
Following its screening at Smith, the film will be shown at the
Smithsonian Institution and is scheduled to air on PBS in the
spring of 2003.
The documentary is a Florentine Films/Hott Production in association
with Smith's Clark Science Center and the Alumnae Association
of Smith College. Its premiere at Smith is part of a year-long
series of inaugural events honoring Carol T. Christ, the college's
tenth president. More information about the 2001 expedition,
the PBS film and a teacher study guide is available at www.pbs.org/harriman.
Funding for "The 1899 Harriman Expedition Retraced: A Century
of Change" was provided by The Natalie P. Webster Trust,
The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, The M.J. Murdock Charitable
Trust, The Allen Foundation for the Arts, The Town Creek Foundation,
Andreas Foundation, David Rockefeller, Jr., ARCO Foundation,
Koniag Corporation, NANA Corporation, John Todd and Dorothy Nemetz
and the ING Foundation.
Smith College is consistently ranked among the nation's foremost
liberal arts colleges. Enrolling 2,800 students from every state
and 55 other countries, Smith is the largest undergraduate women's
college in the country.
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