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The New Anchorage Museum

You may not think a visit to a museum would normally be on your list of must see places to visit in Alaska, but a visit to the Anchorage Museum [1] earlier this week gave me reason to believe otherwise.  I am really excited about visiting the Anchorage Museum this summer as it has been under renovation and expansion for the last three years. The Grand Opening occurs on May 22nd for the new Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center, the Imaginarium Discover Center, and the Thomas Planetarium among other new features of the museum.

The new 9,000-square-foot Imaginarium center will feature more than 80 exhibits, including even bigger and better versions of the Imaginarium’s most beloved features, as well as renowned exhibits from the world’s best science museums. About 25 percent of exhibits at the museum were conceived specifically for the Imaginarium Discovery Center.  I had the opportunity to walk through the Imaginarium during my visit and am really excited about bringing my own family there once it opens.  In addition, the new Planetarium will be a welcome addition to Anchorage’s facilities for both visitors and residents – many of us have never seen or experienced a Planetarium before.

The 10,000 square foot Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center will showcase over 600 Alaska artifacts on loan from the Smithsonian Institute.   The artifacts will be on display and interactive touch screens will allow for 3-d presentations and explanations of the significance of the artifacts. The Museum will also present two temporary exhibits for the summer that will be worth taking viewing as well.   Glories of the Greatland exhibit of Bradford Washburn’s black-and-white Alaska landscape photographs will be incredible to view.  Washburn has always been one of my favorite photographers and is a recognized as an expert on Alaska’s mountains and glaciers.

Kiska and Adak: War in the Aleutians is the second temporary exhibit that will be on display. Early in World War II, Kiska Island was a hotly contested battlefield that figured prominently in Japanese and U.S. news.  The exhibit includes digital art by Dirk H.R. Spennemann taken during historic preservation fieldwork with the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The exhibit also includes objects from the museum’s World War II and Cold War collections.

The Museum is located downtown Anchorage, and is within walking distance of several Anchorage hotels [2].  The Park Connection Motorcoach [3] uses the Museum as its summer base in Anchorage and the Museum is included in most Park Connection fares, including cruise transfers from Whittier and Seward [4].  The Museum also has a fantastic new restaurant called The Muse, which is operated by the owners of the Marx Brothers – one of Anchorage’s finest restaurants.