True North comes to life at Anchorage Museum

For Alaskans, history and cultural traditions are intertwined in a complicated and very personal narrative unlike that found anywhere else in the United States. The combination of a vast landscape and diverse residents means a tapestry of many colors that require sensitive storytelling. We are shaped by our environment.

The Anchorage Museum recently unveiled new spaces that seek to continue the story of Alaskans past, present and future. The Rasmuson Wing and Art of the North Galleries bring an additional 25,000 square feet of art space to house previously-stored works by notable individuals like Sydney Laurence, a 19th century Romantic Period artist who spent copious amounts of time in Alaska's wilderness. The new wing is bright, airy, yet warm, with dramatic accents of modern art, including a whimsical family of bears decked out in feathers and positioned so as to remind us of the playful, childlike qualities we may have let slip from our own selves.

A favorite piece, however, caught my eye as soon as I ascended the stairs. A bear, created with sweeping, colorful strokes, stares directly at visitors with a clear gaze, the words "Everything I love is here," scripted beneath. Kodiak artist Alvin Amason painted the bruin as a nod to his family's Alutiiq ancestry and a reflection of the deep devotion to land, sea and each other.

The Anchorage Museum also completely remodeled its Alaska exhibition, where scores of Last Frontier school kids, families and visitors have spent time learning about the timeline of our Far North. Telling the story of Alaska through a revealing and grittily honest voice, the exhibition reflects the ingenuity, technology and intimate knowledge of people who have made their home here for centuries.

An intuitive virtual "pathway" leads visitors around the exhibit, moving forward in time, exploring themes and absorbing Alaska's history as it relates to contemporary issues. Look for science, art, design and cultural aspects that appeal to all ages, too, as the museum recognizes the value for younger visitors who may be visiting with parents or grandparents.

The Anchorage Museum is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $15/adult, $12/Alaska resident, $10/senior, student, or military with ID, and $7/children ages 3 to 12. A museum membership yields unlimited free admission and exclusive members-only invitations and discounts. Individual, family, and VIP memberships may be purchased for rates ranging from $70 to $500, and feature different benefits. Contact

Jeanette Moores, Public Relations and Marketing Manager for the Anchorage Museum, says there are many upcoming events that may appeal to senior members of the museum. A Senior Social class is scheduled to begin in November, free to members and open with regular museum admission to others, and will entail the intricacies of social networking using museum exhibits as a platform for sharing images and impressions. Running through January 2018, the Senior Social class is designed for those age 55 and older who are unsure about new applications, smartphone etiquette, video, photography, and other aspects of the handheld digital devices we've come to rely upon for daily life. Go to the Anchorage Museum website for a complete listing of all class schedules and sign up information.

Erin Kirkland is a freelance travel writer and author of the "Alaska On the Go" guidebook series. She lives in Anchorage.

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