Your last chance to see the Eagle Tree, Science on a Sphere, the Tlingit house posts, and other permanent exhibits at the Alaska State Museum is Friday. The facility in downtown Juneau will be permanently closed to the public this weekend as staff continue boxing up artifacts for this summer’s big move.

The 24,000 square foot museum will be torn down to make way for a new 118,000 square foot facility that is now under construction on the same site.

The museum’s Bob Banghart said they’ll begin moving artifacts into the new vault in May. All of the permanent exhibits on the second floor of the Museum have already been packed up in wooden crates and metal cases, or covered and stacked on pallets. Salvaged animals and flora from wall dioramas along the ramp that spirals around the Eagle Tree have been set aside. Artifacts in the basement collection are being carefully packed up and prepared for the move.

That six weeks is our actual moving time. So, we have to have everything done in advance. Think of it like a play. You’ll spend months and months and months in rehearsal, development, and everything. The play only lasts like six weeks and then it’s done.”

The second floor of the existing facility is currently arranged as part storage area, part art salon with the display of notable pieces in the museum’s collection produced by Alaskan artists with familiar names like Boxley, Schoppert, Davis, Woodie, Baltuck, Craft, DeRoux, and Laurence.

Banghart said the original schedule for demolition of the current museum was pushed back several weeks after gusty winter winds played havoc with the new vault’s tent or a temporary, inflatable roof covering. They also have to wait for the paint, floors, and other interior materials to release manufacturing gasses before they can condition the air and begin safely moving any artifacts inside.

“The downstairs collection vault is enormous. It’s three times bigger than what we have currently,” Banghart said. “It’s going to be the finest collection facility north of Seattle anywhere.”

The physical structure of the building doesn’t encapsulate the spirit and necessity of collecting and preserving history. It’s just a place to do it. As time moves forward, the buildings need to change because they wear out. But the obligation doesn’t change. It still has to be there and it has to be preserved and collected in the best possible fashion.”

A Final Friday event will feature food, music, and a Five Decade timeline where patrons, artists, staff, and volunteers can add their memories to a new display along the museum’s spiral ramp.  The event starts Friday, Feb. 28th at 5 p.m. and runs until 9 p.m.

Admission for the entire month of February is free.

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