Since its opening in 1968, The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center, 625 C Street (907-929-9200) has committed itself to collecting, preserving, exhibiting, and interpreting cultural materials representative of the art, history, and cultures of Alaska. Originally, it opened with an exhibition of 60 borrowed Alaskan paintings and a loan of 2500 historic objects from the local historical society. The museum has been enlarged several times and is currently in the midst of a 100 million dollar addition.
The museum received its first accreditation in 1973 and in 1992, it became home for the Alaska office of the Smithsonian’s NMNH Arctic Studies Center. The Anchorage museum is considered a world-class museum and with its location right in the middle of Anchorage, it welcomes over 180,000 visitors annually while also serving as a cultural center for the community. Its 16-20 exhibits change frequently and its ongoing education programs for both children and adults are a valuable resource.
The Bob and Evangeline Atwood Alaska Resource Center within the museum maintains a library of more than 12,000 titles with a focus on history, ethnography and art of Alaska and the North. The archival collections include more than 500,000 photographs which are available for on-site research. The museum’s library/archives are in frequent demand by publishers, scholars, and researchers.
When it comes to young learners, the museum’s education program is superb. There are many activities just for children. Add into those, the official move of the popular Imaginarium Discovery Center into the Museum in August and the draw to children will increase immensely. A dynamic traveling exhibit, Science in Toyland will be displayed in combination with the new Children’s Art Gallery. Imaginarium staff will be coming to the museum as well and will continue to present hands-on demonstrations even as the expanded Imaginarium due to open in Spring of 2010 continues its construction. STAR WARS: the Exhibition and BODY WORLDS will both be coming to the Anchorage Museum in 2010.
The museum serves the entire state with traveling exhibitions and by sharing exhibitions with museums in Unalaska, Bethel, Homer, Ketchikan, Kenai, Fairbanks, Kodiak, and Juneau. Recent exhibitions have included: Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity; Tibet Mountains and Valleys, Castles and Tents; Woven Treasure: The Coverlets of Norway; and several exhibitions of Korean and Japanese ceramics. The many programs honor the diversity of immigrant heritages in Alaska and the far North.
Within the 140,000 square foot museum, there are multiple galleries, a children’s gallery, a large atrium, two classrooms, and a 230 seat auditorium for programs, classes, and special events. There are 35 full time employees and over 300 volunteers who work as docents, in the shop, in education programs, and in the various collections and exhibition areas.
The new expansion will feature the Smithsonian’s Institutions’ Arctic Studies Center which will become home for one thousand Alaska native artifacts from the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian. In addition to the Imaginairum, there will be expanded exhibition space, an enlarged visitor’s center, gift shop, and caf. The design of the new faade was done in London by David Chippefield Architects and the fritted glass, designed to withstand the harsh Alaska winter, is being supplied by Overgaard Ltd. of Hong Kong.
The Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center is open Tuesday-Sat Sept 14 through mid-May and every day from May 30 through Sept 13. If you visit Anchorage, this beautiful museum should be on your list.