This was another rainy day (off and on) so we planned mostly inside
things to do. Temps remained in the 50s F. all day.
That's pretty chilly in late July even by Anchorage standards, where the
average high temperature this time of year is 65 F.
I love art, science, and
history museums. The Anchorage Museum covers all of those categories. After reading about the
museum's recent ten-year, $106
million renovation/expansion I had to see what was inside. Today was a perfect day to visit.
Bottom line: I'm totally impressed with this museum and
highly recommend all visitors to Anchorage go see it. Sometimes I'm a
real cheapskate but I feel like I got great value for my $9 entry fee (discounts
are given for kids, seniors, military, etc.). Regular admission is $12
Per the museum's website, if you have a Bank of
America or Merrill Lynch card, you can get in free the first Saturday of
the month. I didn't know that until later. Check the website or call
the museum before visiting to see whether you qualify for any obscure
discount like that.
If I lived in the area
I'd become a museum member and volunteer in some capacity at this magnificent place. It's a
wonderful resource for the community and the state of Alaska.
Bronze sculpture by Jim McCain titled, "Earth, Sea,
Sky/Cycles of Alaska Seasons"
Jim's a bit museumed-out right now so
he dropped me off downtown at the museum this morning and drove to Samís
Club to get the tires rotated on the truck. That took a while but I had
plenty to keep me busy at the museum.
He came back for me in what seemed like a blink of the eye because I had
so much to see.
In real time I was at the museum for 2Ĺ
That barely gave me time to see all I
wanted to see, however. I could easily
spend a day in there. It is chock full of interesting art, history, and
One of many Native masks in the Living Our Cultures
I want to go back sometime to see what
exhibits have rotated in and out and to spend more time reading the
information with the permanent exhibits. I'll encourage Jim to go with
me the next time. I think he'll enjoy it, too.
There is an excellent review and description of the museum in one of our
visitors' guides: (WhereTraveler.comís 2012 Alaska Where, the Complete
Travelerís Magazine: Bring on the Bears, p. 19) and in The Milepost
book referenced above. My information in this entry also comes from the
museum's very professional
The Anchorage Museum and beautiful park-like entrance, called The
Common, cover two full city blocks in downtown Anchorage.
I took a lot of photos of the landscaping and flowers. Some are shown in
this entry. I'll save others for a separate entry about the city's
beautiful cultivated floral displays.
The new section of the building, completed two years ago, has a stunning
four-story faÁade made with
double-pane glass panels that have shades inside. They can be used to
conserve energy and protect exhibits from damaging ultraviolet light.
This is a photo of the exterior from the museum's website:
The addition (west wing) has four floors. The original museum (east
wing) has two floors. You can see a map of the building
The pictures I took from the entrance facing C Street don't
show the upper floors as distinctly as the angle in the
Locally produced and recycled products were used as much as possible in
the new addition.
The whole building qualifies for certification in a national energy and
environmental design program.
Even before I knew all that, I was struck by the beauty of the place inside
and out. It just feels good to be there.
SECOND LEVEL: LIVING OUR CULTURES EXHIBITS
When I paid my admission I was encouraged to begin my visit on the
second floor of the new wing. That was good advice, because it was
my favorite part of the museum and I spent the most time there.
flagship exhibit is called Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage:
The First Peoples of Alaska. This very large exhibit encompasses all eleven (or
more) cultures that have inhabited the region for over 10,000 years.
includes an extensive collection of Native Alaskan objects that were
formerly housed or exhibited at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington,
DC. The extra space in the new wing allows the Anchorage Museum to display many more
artifacts and art works than it could previously.
Each Alaska Native cultural display is housed in a separate large glass
showcase that includes representative clothing, masks and other
ceremonial garb, artwork, tools,
and various household objects.
This is part of the display that features the Athabascan culture:
I took several dozen photos of items
in the showcases. There are thousands of interesting items; only
a few of them are shown here.
Part of the
Haida cultural display
Part of a larger display of masks and other
Some items from
one of the other Native cultures
Each artifact is either labeled or
identified on nearby panels with sketches and descriptions:
Touch screens at the ends of each display case allow visitors to zoom in
on photos of many of the objects inside to learn more about them through
oral histories and archival images.
I spent a while playing with that intriguing feature at several of the
display cases, which decreased the time I had to spend in other parts of
The Native exhibition also includes seven large flat-screen monitors
with 8-10-minute videos and photos of contemporary Native cultures.
Visitors can sit or stand to watch the films, which play continuously:
I watched almost all of those as they played, sometimes taking photos of
the pictures on the screens:
Another area in this exhibit that is separated by a partial wall from
the showcases and video art installation is a sound-art display where
visitors can listen to Native storytellers and sounds from the natural
environment. I didn't have much time to listen to those stories today.
ALASKA HISTORY GALLERY
This is another very large exhibit located on the second floor.
While I was wandering through the displays a docent (on the left in the
next photo) was giving several visitors a
narrated tour. I'd like to go back sometime and listen to all that
information but I didn't have time for it today.
Life-sized example of an old hunter's cabin, boat,
"Wash Day" at a typical frame house in Anchorage in
the early 1900s
This gallery includes permanent exhibits of artifacts and art
representing Alaskan history and culture. There are maps, photos,
full-scale displays, and dioramas.
Subjects include centuries of Alaska Native cultures, the Russian
occupation, the gold rush, WWII, statehood, and contemporary history.
Here is a sampling of what you can see in the history gallery, starting
with Native Alaskan artifacts similar to those in the Living
Our Cultures exhibits on the other wing of the second floor:
Some objects traded by Eskimos from prehistoric
times through the late 1800s
Eskimo carved ivory pieces,; some are hundreds of
Colorful beaded sled dog blankets
Part of the display about life in Alaska during the Russian
Detail from the display re: the practice of
Part of the display documenting the period of
There are many more exhibits in the Alaskan History gallery. I had to
zip through it to have time to see what else the museum offers. Keep
going to see what else is there.
Continued on the next page . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil,
and Cody the ultra Lab
© 2012 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil