The Don and Jane Kemp Collection: Alaskan Ivory Carvings and Native Crafts

Comprised of 53 miniature objects given to the Luther College Fine Arts Collection by Jane Kemp in 2008.
Preus Library
April 6 - May 23, 2014

Don and Jane Kemp

Don and Jane Kemp’s relationship to Alaska ran deep. Don first arrived there in 1965 as a member of the National Guard, finishing his service in Juneau in 1968. From 1966 to 1977 he worked for the Alaska Department of Health and Welfare, also in Juneau. He took a leave of absence from 1970-72 to earn his master of social work degree from West Virginia University. Don joined the faculty of Luther College in 1978 as the director of the Social Work Program. He retired in 1997, the same year he received the Social Worker of the Year award from the National Association of Social Workers, Iowa Chapter. After his retirement, he served as Associate Professor Emeritus at Luther and as the Executive Director of Winneshiek County Habitat for Humanity. Don died at the age of 62 on March 4, 2003. 

Jane Kemp went to Alaska in 1967, intending to stay for only the summer, but her plans changed after meeting Don. They were married in Juneau in 1969 and their daughter, Anna, was born there in 1974. Jane worked for the Alaska Department of Health and Welfare and the Alaska State Library, taking a break to earn her master of library science degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1971. She returned to Alaska and took a library position at the Juneau Public Library and was later an administrative assistant for the Alaska Supreme Court. When Don and Jane moved to Decorah in 1978, Jane worked at various positions for Luther College until joining the faculty of the Luther College Library in 1981. She has been the Circulation Librarian, Library Department Head, a teacher in the College’s Paideia I program, and Supervisor of the Fine Arts Collection. In that capacity she has guided development of the collection from 300 pieces to over 1500 works of art. 

During their time in Alaska, the Kemps collected various objects created in the region, especially small ivory animals and spruce root and grass baskets that were made by Native Alaskans. Most of the objects they collected were purchased at the ANAC Cache, the Alaska Native Arts and Crafts Cooperative, which was an outlet for Alaska Native arts and crafts in Juneau. Some items were acquired through Don’s extensive travels within Alaska in connection with his position in state government.

Visit the Luther College Fine Arts Collection website for more Information on the Don and Jane Kemp Collection.