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Cordova mostly is for outdoor activities, but save some time to wander around town, make discoveries, and meet people. The Cordova Historical Museum, 622 1st St. (tel. 907/424-6665; www.cordovamuseum.org), mostly in one room, does a good job of presenting some valuable artifacts reflecting Cordova's eventful past, a collection of classic Alaskan art, and some odd and fascinating stuff. There's a historic lighthouse lens, a Linotype machine, the interior of a fishing boat, a parka made of bear gut, basketry, and photographs of fishing and historic scenes. The museum is open summer Monday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm, Sunday from 1 to 5pm; winter Tuesday through Friday from 10am to 5pm, Saturday from 1 to 5pm. Recommended donation is $1.

Cordova is a center for the Eyak, a small but linguistically and ethnographically distinct people, and a crossroads of other Native peoples. Make a point of stopping in at the Native Village of Eyak's Ilanka Cultural Center, at 110 Nicholoff Way, across from the Fishermen's Memorial at the small-boat harbor (tel. 907/424-7903; www.ilankacenter.org). Although small, the center is new and growing, and I always experience a warm link with the Eyak people I met. The collection includes Eyak, Alutiiq, Tlingits, and Ahtna artifacts, photographs, and oral histories. There is also a fully reconstructed orca whale skeleton. A disturbing and powerful totem pole by Mike Webber, in the Native tradition of the "shame pole," reflects Cordova's still-raw anger and grief over the Exxon Valdez oil spill. The gallery sells art, books, and other items made in Alaska, especially by Alaska Natives. Artists sometimes offer classes and demonstrations. Hours are summer Monday through Friday 10am to 5pm; winter Tuesday through Friday 10am to 5pm. Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

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