Capt. Cook's legacy lives on

Exhibit finds a home in Kenai

Posted: Thursday, July 05, 2007

Capt. James Cook has returned to the Kenai Peninsula.

The new exhibit, "The Journals of Captain James Cook," has been installed for visitors at the Kenai Visitors and Cultural Center in Kenai.

It took almost a year, and several collaborators to make the exhibit happen. The first edition copy of the journals was donated by Mary Margaret and Carle B. Casey of Kasilof and a second edition copy of the journals also was donated by Donald Mellish The installation was made possible by a grant from the Alaska State Museum Grant-In-Aid program.

These journals are completely intact with all the original images and maps that were printed more than 200 years ago. Most first and second edition journals, if one can find them, have had the maps and prints cut out and sold.

Bill Heath, a Kenai Peninsula photographer, documented the prints and maps and the images were enlarged and printed on canvas for display, thus making it possible to retain the journals in their original form.

The visitors center worked in conjunction with Kenai Peninsula College to create the first History Internship opportunity, which allowed two history majors to examine and research the journals and then write informational text boards, explaining the different aspects of Cook's voyage in Alaska waters. The history interns were Owen Dicks and Shane Lopez.

Lopez spoke at the opening of the exhibit in May, standing in front of the materials he had worked to create.

"I am appreciative to the cultural center for letting me look through the journals, ... as any history student enjoys," he said.

"The past can often be as mysterious as the future, and whenever we're looking through journals, and through lives of people who lived hundreds of years ago, it's hard to know what happened, what they did," he said.

"That's what the study of history, especially for history students and historians, is. It's questions. It's questions about who these people were, and why we've remembered them. ... We have these same questions about Capt. Cook.

"Where did he come from? Who was he really? Why was he able to rise through the ranks of the Royal Navy, and become a captain who was sent on expeditions that were important in his time, which importance has lasted until ours?" Lopez asked.

Those questions and others led the exploration of these unique journals. The voyage has finally culminated in "The Journals of Captain James Cook."

Visitors can make their own journeys to the visitors center to learn more.

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