Dr. Sheldon Jackson, museum founder, had the distinction of serving in three pioneer fields during the late 1800s, founding Protestant missions and schools, establishing the public school system, and introducing domestic reindeer. In his travels he reached many sections of Alaska, as well as the coast of Siberia, gathering the majority of the artifacts now seen in the museum. Located on the campus of Sheldon Jackson College, the museum was established in 1888 to preserve the natural and cultural history of Alaska. The building, listed on the National Register of Historic Sites, was constructed in 1895 and is the oldest concrete building in the state. Since 1984, it has been one of the Alaska State Museums.
The collection is extensive and includes items from the Inupiat, Yup'ik, Unangax, Athabascan, and Northwest Coast cultures. Masks, carvings, tools, and boats from all the cultures are exhibited here; highlights include an Unangan baidarka (skin kayak) and Tlingit dugout canoe.
In the center of the gallery are drawers that contain artifacts organized by category (rather than culture). Compare tools, children’s toys, and hunting and fishing tools. Because the items were collected at the turn of the century, you can trace the impact of European materials on Native crafts.
The Museum Shop carries Alaska Native handicrafts, arts, carvings, baskets, dolls, and silver, as well as publications and graphics relating to the collections.
The museum also hosts films, and will coordinate with local wildlife festivals for thematic arrangements, like the scrimshaw and whale-hunting display during Sitka’s WhaleFest.
- Summer: Daily 9am-5pm
- Winter: Tu-Sa 10am-4pm
- Adults: $4 summer, $3 winter.
- 18 & under & Friends members: free
- Museum Pass: $15.