There's no better way to get a grasp of Alaska’s history—or really, its many histories— than by visiting the Anchorage Museum. It's the state's largest museum, which explores Native and state history, accented with a lot of art. Highlights include The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, with more than 600 native Alaskan objects, and the Imaginarium Discover Center, complete with marine touch-tank and planetarium and more. Don't miss Sydney Laurence's classic painting of Mount McKinley. Combine a visit here with a walk through the Alaska Native Heritage Center—a free shuttle runs between the two facilities.
Anchorage Museum Audio Guide
This temporary exhibition space also offers dramatic views of the Chugach Mountains, the 250-mile mountain range that embraces Anchorage’s eastern edge.The museum first opened in 1968 and has expanded three times over the past four decades. Anchorage celebrated the grand opening of the museum’s most recent expansion, a four-story west wing with a shimmering glass façade, in 2010. The stunning addition was designed by London architect David… ...more
Learn about marine animals from Southeast Alaska waters. Featured creatures include the sunflower sea star, which is the largest and swiftest sea star in the north Pacific Ocean — they can scuttle 5 to 10 feet per minute. The touch tank is just one of 80 science exhibits in the hands-on Imaginarium Discovery Center.
In Alaska, most whale species don’t have teeth. Instead they grow up to 13-feet-long keratin plates, or baleen, which act like a giant sieve to capture plankton. Iñupiaq whalers discovered the wonderful properties of this sturdy, frost-resistant material. They used heat or urine to soften the baleen, then turned it into fishing nets, lashing and sled runners. Sleds like this early 20th century version were used to transport seals from icepack… ...more
Video, audio and rare artifacts converge to create an unforgettable overview of Alaska Native culture. Marvel at 600 Alaska Native objects on loan from the Smithsonian Institution, including a Tlingit warrior’s helmet, Inupiaq whale hunting tools, and a hand-sewn Yup’ik parka made from 93 ground squirrels. Hear Alaska Native languages and see glimpses of contemporary life.
New York artist Rockwell Kent and his 9‑year-old son spent the winter of 1918 on Fox Island near Seward. They were thrust out of their comfort zone, living in a goat shelter that was a 12-mile boat ride from the nearest village. Kent painted this scene nearly 50 years later from sketches of that adventure. The redemptive glow of the sun and two human figures reflect his emotional journey in the Alaska wilderness.
Inupiaq artist James Kivetoruk Moses grew up hunting, trapping and working as a reindeer herder. In 1953, a knee injury made his traditional subsistence lifestyle impossible, so he began his celebrated art career. This painting illustrates a dance competition between two men during Messenger Feast, a month-long festival.
Scores of optimistic gold prospectors stampeded north to Alaska after 1880, seeing the Last Frontier as a place of potential wealth, great adventure and a second chance. Extracting gold from Alaska’s rugged terrain amid brutal elements was hard work — and could be deadly for the unprepared. This exhibit tells miners’ stories using photographs, artifacts and, of course, gold.
At 20,320 feet, Denali (Mt. McKinley) is the tallest mountain in North America; so tall, clouds often conceal it. But there’s always a great view of it at the museum thanks to beloved Alaska painter Sydney Laurence. He created this 13-by‑8 foot painting in 1929 to capture the immensity of the Last Frontier.
Centuries before Gore-Tex was invented, Unangax hunters stayed dry by wearing waterproof parkas made from marine mammal intestines. In the 19th century, Russian naval officers commissioned gut capes like this one, patterned after their naval uniforms. A skillful Unangax seamstress would need six months or more to sew such a cape.
Natural resources have been central to Alaska’s economic success. The fur trade in the late 18th/early 19th centuries, gold rushes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and oil since the mid-20th century have been key in Alaska’s development. The 1968 discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay, the largest reservoir of oil in North America, led to the construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline.