Telling the Real Story of the North
The largest museum in the Alaska, the Anchorage Museum connects people, expands perspectives and encourages dialogue about the North and its distinct environment. The museum tells the real story of the North, a multi-faceted story that weaves together social, political, cultural, scientific, historic and artistic threads.
The Anchorage Museum began as a public-private partnership to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Alaska from Russia. Thanks to a federal grant, the vision of then-Mayor Elmer Rasmuson, and the fundraising efforts of his wife, Mary Louise Rasmuson, the museum opened its doors in 1968 with an exhibition of 60 borrowed Alaska paintings, and a collection of 2,500 historic and ethnographic objects loaned from the Cook Inlet Historical Society.
The museum’s holdings now encompass more than 26,000 objects, including ethnographic pieces from all Alaska Native cultures, state and local historical pieces dating back to the Russian-American period, and artwork depicting Alaska and the circumpolar North since the 18th century.
The First Peoples of Alaska
The museum’s extraordinary collections invite visitors to explore the full diversity of Alaska Native cultures, including masterworks of Alaska Native art and design from the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian. The museum became the home of the first regional office of the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History Arctic Studies Center in 1994 and a Smithsonian Affiliate in 2014. The Arctic Studies Center supports the museum's mission through research, education, collections and exhibitions.
The Essence of Alaska
The Alaska Gallery presents the essence of Alaska, a land of contrasts and extremes, full of history and diversity. This gallery closes in Summer 2016 for renovation and re-opens Fall 2017. During that time, a special gallery area gives visitors access to a behind-the-scenes look at how objects are being stored and conserved in preparation for the new Alaska Gallery’s opening.
Art of the North
Landscapes, portraits, sculpture, and photographs reveal the land, people, and culture of Alaska and the Circumpolar North. The museum’s art collection features works by a diverse group of artists. A hallmark of the museum is its large collection of contemporary art by Alaska Native artists.
Science, Curiosity, Imagination
Hands-on exploration of the art, history and science of the North make science engaging for all ages in the museum’s Discovery Center, which includes Spark!Lab, a space that uses creative activities to help kids and families learn about the history and process of invention. A 39-seat planetarium teaches all ages about astronomy, the Earth’s atmosphere, the solar system and other Earth science topics.
Past and Present Always On View
The museum’s Atwood Alaska Resource Center holds a vast collection of more than 575,000 historical photographs dating back to the Gold Rush and beyond, along with more than 14,000 publications and 800 maps.
Investigation of the North
The museum is a leading center for scholarship, engagement and investigation of Alaska and the North. The museum’s community programs welcome thousands of visitors every year through after-hours and family programming, field trips, free admission days, and cultural celebrations. Artist interventions, pop-up programs and installations, lectures and curated conversations bring to the museum artists, designers, scholars, scientists and researchers from around the world.
The museum hosts year-round outdoor programs on its grounds, which feature a 2-acre public common filled with Southcentral Alaska’s iconic deciduous birch trees, an array of native plants, meandering pathways and a sculpture garden with art from local and international artists.