The Ultimate Guide to Alaska’s Museums
Alaska contains a tremendous variety of culture and history that’s rich and epic — from the Gold Rush of the 1800s to thriving Native communities to spectacular natural wildlife. If you’re eager to learn about them, several the museums and historic towns spread out across the state await you. Take note:
Anchorage: The Anchorage Museum
The Anchorage Museum is the go-to place to experience Alaska’s history, art, science and culture, as well as the Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center. There’s also a planetarium (with an Aurora Borealis presentation), children’s activities and a full-service restaurant.
Anchorage: Alaska Native Heritage Center
The Alaska Native Heritage Center is Alaska’s premiere center for the practice and preservation of Alaska’s Native culture.
Here you can experience live demonstrations of song, dance & art, as well as six authentic life-sized Native village sites.
Another benefit of Fairbanks is its location as a launching pad for visiting Arctic villages where you can experience the culture firsthand.
Seward is a small coastal town on the Kenai Peninsula known for its fjords, glaciers, world-class fishing…and the Alaska SeaLife Center. Here you can check out exhibits and presentations on Alaska’s marine life (don’t forget the puffins!).
If you want to learn about 19th century America through the lens of the William H. Seward family, go to the Seward House Museum and admire the impressive collection of Native baskets, ivory carvings and more.
Talkeetna is known as a take-off point for Denali mountaineering expeditions. If you’re in town, the Talkeetna Historical Society will enlighten you on the town’s 100 year history of mining, flying and the railroad. The centerpiece of the museum is a 12-foot-by-12-foot display of Denali.
Homer is on the Kenai Peninsula at the end very of the road, and it’s absolutely beautiful, with mix of artist and angler vibes. The Pratt Museum houses the art, culture, and science of Kachemak Bay. The Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center is a 60-acre marine national wildlife refuge with great nature trails.
Are you into ghost towns? Go to the abandoned mining town of Kennicott. It’s been more recently managed by the National Park Service as a National Historic Landmark.
Barrow is the northernmost town in the USA, which makes the Inupiat Heritage Center (part of the National Park Service) the northernmost museum in the USA. The Center offers displays on local Native crafts as well as the commercial whaling industry.
Barrow people are also friendly, and without much trouble you can arrange a tour of the village to get a firsthand look at true a Alaskan Arctic coastal lifestyle.
Going to Nome? You might. It’s a great place for exploring the Eskimo villages of the Bering Straits. It’s also where you’ll find Alaska’s best native ivory carvings, baskets and skin sewing. Nome has museum, too, called the The Carrie McLain Memorial Museum. Here you can learn about Nome’s wild gold rush days, the arrival of Wyatt Earp and its sled dog heritage.
Sitka is in Southeast Alaska, and was once the headquarters for the Russian settlement in the 1800s. It’s also home to the Sheldon Jackson Museum, one of the best collections of Native arts and crafts you’ll see anywhere.
The Alaska State Museum is in Juneau, Alaska’s capital. Its huge collection of Native artifacts and Russia-American memorabilia is one of the largest in the state. You can track Juneau’s gold-panning past at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.
Ketchikan is a small town also in the Southeast, and it’s got a handful of interesting parks. The Totem Heritage Center, the Saxman Totem Park and the Totem Bight Park have more totem poles Prepare to see century-old relics, as well as poles being carved on the spot by practicing artists.
Last but not least is Skagway. No museum here, just Skagway itself: 23 blocks of 19th-century buildings preserved to tell the story of the crazed pursuit of gold riches more than a century ago.