The Anchorage Museum's collections exist primarily as a means of fulfilling the Museum's mission to collect, preserve, exhibit, and interpret cultural materials which illustrate the art and history of Alaska and the circumpolar North. The Museum has important collections of Alaska Native artifacts, historical and contemporary artwork, and objects that illustrate Alaska's history. Non-northern collections exist to be used in the Museum's exhibit and education programs. The Museum's collections currently consist of over 20,000 pieces that span man's earliest activities in Alaska to the most recent art.
The Museum's collections can be divided into four areas:
The largest component of the Museum's collections is its Alaska Native collections. The first large collections of Eskimo and Aleut material were donated to the Cook Inlet Historical Society in 1955 by Col. Marvin "Muktuk" Marston, Robert Reeve, and Arthur Eide. The historical society's collections became the core of the Museum's collections when the Museum opened in 1968. The Alaska Native collections have grown steadily with material acquired by donation and bequest, and where needed, by purchase. The Museum has strong holdings in contemporary Native craft pieces (baskets, carvings, and skin-sewing), as well as collections showing representative prehistoric material.
The Museum's historical collections contain much material from the American period of Alaska's history. Although we hold important collections of clothes and toys, the Museum is very interested in obtaining materials that illustrate Alaska's mining, trapping, fishing, oil industry, railroads, recreational and military history. We hope that in the expansion that will come in the next several years we will be able to substantially increase our exhibits on the history of Alaska and Southcentral Alaska, which will require much large holdings than we currently own.
The Museum has a very fine collection of art that provides a wide survey of what has been done in this state from the late 18th century to the most recent artistic endeavors. We are always looking to improve our collections by adding new artists to our collections or more important artworks. The Museum has important holdings of works by Sydney Laurence, Eustace Ziegler, and Fred Machetanz, all of whom lived in Alaska. The Museum also has small but important collections of artworks from artists who were in Alaska as part of the WPA program in 1937, or were official war artists during World War II. More contemporary artists such as Joan and Sam Kimura, Pat Austin, Alex Combs, Kes Woodward and Jane Mayhook are also well represented. The Museum is particularly proud of its strong collection of contemporary Alaska Native art, which contains works by Joe and Ron Senungetuk, Jim Schoppert, Larry Ahvakana, Melvin Olanna, Alvin Amason as well as many others. The Museum also has an important collection of Alaska Native craft items, including carvings in walrus ivory and bone, baskets of grass, spruceroot, cedar bark and baleen, bead-decorated moosehide, and masks.
The Museum also holds non-Alaska and non-Northern collections, including good collections of North American Indian, Oceanic, African and pre-Columbian materials, which are used primarily in the education department's eclectic exhibits or in its various art programs. The Museum does not stress the development of these collections, but takes advantage of donations of fine material to add pieces that are used in a wide range of programs.
What the Museum Collects
The Museum seeks art and artifacts that reflect the history and prehistory of this region. Over the next several years, the Museum plans a major addition to the existing building and an expansion to our Alaska Gallery. We hope to expand our exhibits on Native culture in the 19th and 20th centuries and the fishing, mining, logging, and petroleum industries in Alaska. We are looking for objects that reflect life and leisure in Alaska - camping and outdoor equipment, household furniture, clothing, etc. We wish to do exhibits on the history and development of southcentral Alaska and Anchorage.
The Museum also looks to expand and improve its art collection by adding the very best works by artists who have either visited or lived here. We encourage donations and bequests. We would be happy to talk over what we need and want. For more information, please call (907) 929-9240.
Access to Collections
As a public institution, the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center welcomes visitors and researchers who wish to view collections which are held in storage. For more information, please call (907) 929-9240.
For questions about the Museum's collections or permanent collections exhibits, please call (907) 929-9240.