Tag Archives: museum
There is a small local museum on the second floor of the Co-Op Plaza Building in the heart of downtown Fairbanks. I believe that two museums combined forces, with the Community Museum embracing the once separate Dog Mushing Museum, which had fallen on hard times.
The 1962 Bombardier Ski-Doo is a powerhouse of snow, stomping fun. The four-cycle engine produces 7 whole horsepower, and offers a top speed of 15mph. Is that quicker than a horse-drawn sleigh? The little Ski-Doo last raced in the 2006 Tired-Iron Snowmachine Rally, which is an annual event here in Fairbanks.
Dog mushing is a major part of Interior Alaska’s identity, although recreational mushers are becoming a rare breed. Currently, around the same time frame in March as the Dog Derby of 1941, Fairbanks hosts the Open North American Championship dog sled races. The Open North American brings in mushers from around the globe.
The big race for Fairbanks is the Yukon Quest, which runs between Fairbanks, Alaska and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. The 1000 mile race was first run in 1984. The start line alternates yearly between the two cities.
This Yukon style toboggan, circa 1920, is representative of the style used in the Interior Alaska woods. They traveled better than sleds with runners. The woodwork was obviously done by hand, and the sides, and back are made of moose hide. It was built, owned and operated by a famed local trapper.
The museum is full of photographs from all stages of Fairbanks’ history. From the gold rush days of its founding, to the Great Flood, and beyond.
During the tourist season, the film “Attla” has been shown on a weekly basis at the museum. George Attla was the iconic Alaskan dogsled racer. He dominated sprint races, with a career that spanned from 1958 to 2011, doing it all on one good leg. Mr Attla, originally from the village of Koyukuk, passed away in 2015.
On a separate, but related note: The PBS show, “Independent Lens” will be broadcasting an episode on George Attla on December 16. Check your local PBS station for showtimes.
The Russian-American Company was established in 1799. The RAC received a renewable 20-year charter, which granted the company exclusive rights over trade in Russia’s North American territory.
The fur trade led the RAC to build a trading post on the Middle Kuskokwim River in 1841, which they named Kolmakovsky Redoubt. The blockhouse, above, was the first building erected. Eight more structures would also be constructed.
Kolmakovsky was the only Russian redoubt to be constructed in Alaska’s Interior. After the United States purchased Alaska from Russia in 1867, the redoubt eventually transferred to the Alaska Commercial Company.
The blockhouse stood alongside the Kuskokwim River for over 80 years. In 1929, the building was donated to the University of Alaska. The eight-sided log building was dismantled, the logs numbered, and then shipped to Fairbanks. It remained in storage for the next 50 years.
In 1982, the blockhouse, which has a diameter of 17′, was reconstructed behind the Museum of the North, on the UAF campus. In 2009, the University received a grant from the “Saving America’s Treasures” program to to do an all out restoration. A concrete pad was poured, any rotten logs were fabricated as the originals, and the roof was rebuilt. All but one of the interior horizontal roof supports are original.
The spruce logs are all connected by interlocking dovetail notches. There are no windows, only a low doorway, and three narrow musket slots. The Kolmakovsky blockhouse is the only Russian blockhouse ever found with a sod roof, the rest were all built with a plank roof.
Today, the blockhouse from Kolmakovsky Redoubt is still located near the Museum of the North on the University of Alaska – Fairbanks campus. The Kolmakovsky Redoubt site on the Kuskokwim has been placed on the Alaska Heritage list of historic properties and archaeological sites. A detailed excavation of the site was completed during the 1966 and 1967 summers by UCLA professor Wendall H. Oswalt. Well over 5000 artifacts were excavated, which are now a part of the collection at the Museum of the North.
I feel like I’m spinning in circles myself writing posts on here, so I’m going to keep things short & sweet until the issues are cleared up.
The Rose Berry Art Gallery is located on the upper floor of the Museum of the North. The Alaska Territorial Legislature included the museum in the charter for the University of Alaska in 1917. The museum had its first exhibit in 1929, a collection of ethnological, archeological and paleontological material that had been collected by the famed local naturalist, Otto Geist. The large brown bear at the entrance to the museum’s Alaska Gallery is named “Otto” in honor of Mr Geist. In 1929, the University’s small collection of paintings were also placed on exhibit.
The art gallery is home to 2000 years of Alaskan art, from ancient ivory carvings, to contemporary sculpture and paintings.
Artwork by “Rusty” Heurlin is displayed throughout the gallery. Heurlin spent several years living in the bush with his Alaska Native friends. The Muries, subject of the painting above, traveled throughout Alaska by dogsled. Margaret Murie was the first woman to graduate from the University of Alaska.
The gallery has over 3700 works of art on display. The current building was completed in 2005. Prior to that, much of the artwork was not displayed. Even with the new space, the vast majority of the collection is not on display. The Archaeology Collection alone has over 750,000 artifacts.
The work ranges from photographs by Ansel Admas, a painting of Denali by Sidney Laurence, to sculptures including the two thousand year old Okvik Madonna which originated in the Bering Sea region.
In addition to paintings of wooly mammoths, there is a large selection of contemporary art as well. One of the most prominent is a rather large and elaborate outhouse. I did not take a picture of the impressive throne, but I did check to see if it was authentic. It was; it had a styrofoam seat. I did not check to see if it had been used recently.
Admission to the art gallery comes with admission to the museum. Don’t forget to check out the Place Where You Go to Listen. An “ever changing musical ecosystem, giving voice to the darkness, daylight, phases of the moon, seismic activity of the earth, and the dance of the aurora borealis”. It is honestly, quite the experience.
More from The Museum of the North
The smaller of the two skulls came from a gray whale. Gray whales typically show up in Alaskan waters during April. May and June are the best months for sightings. After that, these whales make their way up to summer in the cool waters of the Bering & Chukchi Seas. Their migration in the Pacific Ocean can be as much as 7000 miles one way. They start their journey south again in mid-October, reaching Baja California in December and January.
Male gray whales reach 45 feet in length on average, with females growing a bit larger. Weight runs between 30-40 tons for both sexes. Unlike humpbacks, they have no dorsal fin. Lifespan is estimated to be 50-60 years. Of the three original populations of gray whales, the eastern Pacific stock that spends part of the year in Alaska waters, is the largest. The northern Atlantic population is extinct, and the Korean, or western Pacific population is now severely depleted.
The larger of the two skulls is from a bowhead whale. The bowhead is Alaska’s official state marine mammal. Unlike the gray whale and humpbacks, bowheads spend their entire year in arctic and sub-arctic waters. Their great arching head can break through sea ice to create breathing holes, and their blubber can reach 20 inches thick, accounting for half their weight. Bowheads are extremely vocal mammals, which in addition to communication, seems to aid in navigating the ice filled waters of the Arctic. The bowhead may have the longest lifespan of any mammal on the planet at an estimated 200 years.
Bowheads run 45-59 feet in length, and weigh 75-100 tonnes as adults. Their population is still listed as threatened, with a world-wide population of 8000-10000. The Alaska population is doing the best, with the population tripling in the past 30 years.
In all, Alaska has at least 14 species of whales that spend some, if not all of the year in its waters. The museum expects to put a full humpback skeleton on display soon. This particular humpback whale washed ashore near Anchorage, where a team from the museum collected the skeleton, then transported it over land to Fairbanks. The skull alone, weighed 807 pounds.
Alaska once had dinosaurs. A pachyrhinosaurus skull like this one, was found along the Colville River on Alaska’s North Slope. The pachyrhinosaurus roamed northwestern North America between 71 million and 67 million years ago. Distantly related to the triceratops, the pachyrhinosaurus was a large, if unaggressive beast. Reaching 20 feet in length and around 4 tons in weight. They lived in herds, were herbivores, and seemed to migrate long distances.
In Greek, pachyrhinosaurus means “reptile with a thick nose”. Like the triceratops, the pachyrhinosaurus had a thick, boney neck frill. Unlike the triceratops, the pachyrhinosaurus did not grow horns, but had a large knobby growth protrude from it’s nose.
Thanks to the Encyclopaedia Britannica for the pachyrhinosaurus rendering; and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game for the whale photos. And a special thanks to Ancient Greece for the name pachyrhinosaurus, which in a perverse way, I enjoyed typing over and over, because the word seemed to freak out my computer.
Located on the West Ridge of the University of Alaska campus in Fairbanks, is the Museum of the North. The museum takes on the daunting task of introducing visitors to the vastness and diversity, that is Alaska.
“Otto” has been greeting visitors to the museum since its inception. He stands, all 8’9″ of him, at the opening of the Gallery of Alaska. The gallery is divided into the five main geographic regions of the state: Southeast, Southcentral, Interior, Western Arctic Coast and Southwest. Originally from Herendeen Bay on the Alaska Peninsula, Otto weighed 1250 pounds at the time of his death.
Locked in the permafrost, mammoth skulls have often been found by miners, as they worked the frozen ground for gold. Thirty-one, known, species of Pleistocene mammals roamed Alaska’s ancient grasslands with the mammoth.
Blue Babe is probably my favorite exhibit at the museum. An extinct, mummified, steppe bison, that was discovered in the permafrost by placer miners in 1979. The bison died around 36,000 years ago, killed by an American Lion. The claw and tooth marks can still be seen on the carcass. Shortly after the kill, just before winter, the bison was covered by silt. It was then entombed in cold earth and frozen until excavated.
There are only two other discoveries from the permafrost, that have been reconstructed and put on display like Blue Babe. One a juvenile mammoth and the other an adult mammoth, both are at the Zoological Museum in Leningrad.
The American Lion, now extinct, was around 25% larger than the modern lion. They roamed North America in the Pleistocene epoch, 340,000 – 11,000 years ago.
The museum is open every day in the summer, and slightly shorter hours M-Sat in the winter. Admission is $14 for adults.
When we were in Quebec, The Curator, The Brazilian and I visited the Gilles-Villeneuve Museum, which is just north of Montreal.
The museum opened in 1988 in an old post office building. By 1995, the museum had outgrown the original building, and moved to its current location. The museum receives, on average, 20,000 visitors a year.
Villeneuve began his racing career on snowmobiles in Quebec. It was his main source of income as a professional driver starting out in his late teens. In 1974, Villeneuve won the World Championship Snowmobile Derby, which only heightened his popularity on the ice.
In 1977, McClaren offered Villeneuve a ride in five Formula One races, making his debut at the British Grand Prix. He finished ninth in that race.
Dropped by McClaren, Villeneuve signed on to race for Ferrari for the final two races of 1977 and the 1978 season, picking up his first win at the 1978 Canadian Grand Prix. In 1979, Villeneuve finished 2nd in the Formula One World Championship.
In total, Villeneuve won six Formula One races, with his last win coming at the 1981 Spanish Grand Prix.
Gilles Villeneuve died on 8 May 1982. During his final qualifying session at the Belgian Grand Prix at Zolder, Villeneuve came over a rise at 140mph, and hit the back of a slower moving car driven by Jochen Maas. Villeneuve’s Ferrari went airborne for over 100 meters before nosediving into the asphalt and disintegrating as it somersaulted. Villeneuve was 32.
The museum is full of Gilles Villeneuve memorabilia, including his personal Ford 4WD pickup. It’s well worth a stop if you’re in the Montreal area.