Final Friday marks last public day for Alaska State Museum

Various items and artifacts from the Alaska State Museum have been packed up and prepared for their move to the new vault that is now under construction. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Artifacts from the Alaska State Museum’s mining and minerals display, pre-statehood display, and the kids area on the second floor have already been removed and packed up. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Alaska State Museum’s Bob Banghart explains the moving process amidst pallets and crates of artifacts that have been staged on the second floor’s display space. Signs posted to the top of stacks read “Caution! Artifacts Here”. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Alaska State Museum’s Bob Banghart points to a listing of early staff on the Five Decade timeline that is spread along the wall of the spiral ramp. It will be on display during the Final Friday event at the Alaska State Museum on Feb. 28th. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Five Decade timeline that is spread along the wall of the spiral ramp will be on display during the Final Friday event at the Alaska State Museum on Feb. 28th. It includes listings of staff and artists, posters of major exhibits at the museum over the years. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Science on a Sphere shows ocean currents in this view. Located on the first floor of the Alaska State Museum, it’s expected to remain on display through the Final Friday event. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

Temporary inflatable tent is intended to provide protection for construction workers and materials on the roof of the new vault. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

North and east sides of the current Alaska State Museum with the new vault and construction crane visible in the background. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

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 180,000 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.