Hundred-year ‘treasure’ of Alaska history and culture opens in Juneau

Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan addresses a crowd during grand opening of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives and Museum on June 6, 2016.

Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan addresses a crowd during the grand opening of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives and Museum on June 6, 2016. (Photo by Matt Miller/KTOO)

The new Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives and Museums is now open, and just in time for Celebration 2016, Southeast Alaska’s regular event of Alaska Native dance and culture.

Monday’s ribbon cutting and grand opening of the downtown facility featured Kashevaroff’s great-grandchild. Mary Purvis described how Father Kashevaroff, a Russian Orthodox priest and original curator of the territorial library and museum in Juneau, was especially careful about being accurate while documenting Alaska’s culture and history.

“Grandpa Kashevaroff cared deeply about getting things right when the museum and library first started, he would be so pleased to know that the State of Alaska still cares about getting it right with this amazing new facility,” Purvis said.

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Planning for the new facility started long before 2002 when the State of Alaska purchased the property behind the old Alaska State Museum in downtown Juneau. The former museum, the library and historical collections located in the State Office Building, and the former archives were all running out of space. In addition, the archives building was literally splitting in half. State officials determined that consolidating all of the facilities into one building would be more efficient and help with the preservation of important Alaska artifacts and documents. The new facility was widely known as SLAM, or State Library, Archives and Museum until the legislature formally named the facility in 2015.

Gov. Bill Walker called it a “phenomenal” building and a “treasure.” He credited those who had the vision to create the $139 million facility when oil prices were still high.

“One thing I do say about this building: timing is everything. It was really good timing on somebody’s part. We can afford to cut the ribbon,” Walker said to laughter from the audience. “I applaud those who had the vision of this day, and they let nothing stop them.”

The project included construction of a new artifact vault and the transfer of artifacts. The old museum was demolished. The new facility includes administrative offices and public spaces.

The SLAM building is expected to last a hundred years. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott said it celebrates Alaska’s future and the vision and achievement of Alaskans.

“In coming days, we can celebrate both collectively, symbolically, and really when we say Alaska can build the most beautiful edifices, we can build the most incredible future, and we can do it together as this building is so emblematic of.”

Juneau Sen. Dennis Egan thanked governors and lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle and from outside the Capital City for their efforts in advocating for the 118,000 square foot facility.

“It took from 2002 to 2014, 4 governors, 2 senators, 6 representatives,” Egan said as he started listing off the various public officials. “Hey, it’s a big building!”

Marc Luiken, commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, said over half-a-million man hours of work went into the facility’s construction over the last three years.

“I think God has already provided some providence in the fact that they were able to do that without one lost time injury,” Luiken said. “That is huge for a project like this.”

Harborview School students in the Tlingit Culture, Language and Literacy program sang and danced, and – as the building is intended to benefit all future generations of Alaskans – they were given the honor of cutting the ribbon. The doors were then opened for the museum for those who attended the ceremony.

Tlingit elders Rosa Miller and Marie Olson kicked off Monday’s event by welcoming everyone to Áak’w Kwáan land.

 

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