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Information age

Teen docents, interpreters help keep MAC visitors in the know

Walk into the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture this summer, and you’ll meet teen interpreters and docents. In this time of institutional turmoil at the MAC, the young people remind us how important museums remain for past, present and future generations.

Plateau Tribal Teen Docent Program

Description: Two teens from the Spokane Tribe, along with two teens from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, guide visitors through the museum’s American Indian Collection.

We met: Klarissa Brittain of the Spokane Tribe. The Washington State University education major will show you the teepee made of lake tules, and the beaded moccasins that trace the history of the Plateau Indians in the Northwest.

Note the triangles in one pair, representing mountains, and the Northern Pacific railroad symbol in another pair, representing the railroads arriving in the West.

What she’s learning: “I will be proud of my heritage and embrace it, and not let anyone get me down about being Indian.”

Support: The teen docents, who earn minimum wage, put in about 30 hours a week, under the guidance of Richard Bruce of the Kalispel Tribe of Indians, who is a museum assistant/graphic designer. Financial and educational support comes from the Spokanes, the Coeur d’Alenes, the Kalispels and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation.

MAC Teen Interpreter Program

Description: Twenty-four teens each work six hours a week guiding visitors through the museum, focusing mostly on “Dig It! The Secrets of Soil” – a Smithsonian Institution exhibit.

We met: Bailey Allen, 17, of Ferris High School, and Hunter Olsen, 17, of St. George’s School. The soil exhibit encourages museumgoers to understand dirt in a new way.

“You don’t think about the fact life could not exist without this thing that you try to scrub out of your clothes,” Allen said.

What they’re learning: “Museums offer an interactive experience. There is a lot of information here (not) available on the Web,” Hunter said.

Support: The students will earn a $500 stipend at summer’s end. The program, under the auspice of Ginger Ewing, the museum’s curator for cultural literacy, was made possible, in part, by a grant from retired doctor Elizabeth Welty of Spokane.

The MAC is located at 2316 W. First Ave. in Spokane. For hours and more information, go to or call (509) 456-3931.

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