The Museum of the North -- Alaska in Microcosm




Voted “Best Museum in Alaska”, the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks is a self-proclaimed “microcosm” of Alaska, constructing the historical, cultural, and natural landscapes for those curious enough to meander within its walls.
 
The museum even opened a wing in 2005 that mirrors the physicality of Alaska, its ridges, glaciers, and even the aurora. Within the new addition, the Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery is housed, featuring 2000 years of Alaskan Art. The museum collections include more than 1.4 million artifacts and specimens representing millions of years of biological diversity and thousands of years of cultural traditions in the North.
It may very well be the best museum in Alaska, but is it all that it claims? Is it Alaska in microcosm? Join me as I make my way through the museum and try to put together a singular image of Alaska from the thousands of objects that, here, are inherently Alaskan.
·         Placed in the various collections are artifacts, meaning man-made, from sites dating from as much as 13,000 years ago.
·         The museum contains world’s largest collection of polar dinosaurs. Housed inside are the over 8000 species of insects in Alaska, which is a poorly documented area of study. This collection is very valuable. Featured on display are all 35 species of dragon fly that are found throughout the North. The four-spot skimmer dragonfly is Alaska’s State insect.
·         The Ethnology of Alaska—basketry, beadwork, ivory carvings, masks, dolls, clothing, tools, comprising over 13,000 objects from the mid-1800s on are littered throughout the Rose Berry Alaska Art Gallery, as well as the other collections.
·         In addition, 3000 objects of “Western Manufacture” from the Nome Gold Rush -- tools, goods, folk art, firearms, and Russian American materials.
·         The museum maintains the single largest collection of Alaska plants, and the tenth largest mammal collection in North America with over 10,000 specimens, including the world’s only restored Ice Age Steppe bison mummy at 36,000 years ago, named Baby Blue.
·         Alaska’s largest display of gold shines at the Museum of the North.
·         Strengths in prehistory and historic Eskimo culture from St. Lawrence Island and early Denali and Nenana collections from interior Alask.
·         Featured upstairs is The Places where you go to listen -- an evolving sound and light environment that mimics solar and lunar phases in real time.