How the Alaska State Library & Museum in Juneau Preserves & Celebrates Alaskan Culture

How the Alaska State Library & Museum in Juneau Preserves & Celebrates Alaskan Culture

Tuesday, 8 September, 2020

Perched on the waterline near the entrance to downtown Juneau, you’ll find the majestic Alaska State Library, Archives, and Museum. Its mission is to preserve, protect, and share Alaska’s artifacts and documents.

Serving as a functioning library, a research archive, and a museum, there’s always a lot going on inside its stunning glass, terra cotta, and wood structures.

The library features reading and research rooms that hold more than 60,000 books and documents. It’s also designed to be a place for community gathering with classrooms and conference rooms, a café (with breathtaking views of the nearby mountains), a children’s craft and play area, and an auditorium.

Photo courtesy of Hacker Architects.

Completed in 2016 by Hacker Architects, the building was designed to reflect Alaskan history and the surrounding landscape. Enormous windows frame views of five nearby mountain peaks and seen from the outside, the soaring roof represents the wings of a bird taking flight. The design won both the AIA Alaska People’s Choice Award and the ENR Northwest Award for Best Government / Public Building in 2017.

Dividing the state library from the state archives is an installation by Alaskan artist Evon Zerbetz. Entitled We are Written in the Layers of the Earth, the glass mural depicts story makers and story collectors, the ‘mark-makers,’ as Zerbetz calls them.

Photo courtesy of Evon Zerbetz.

The 65-foot-long mural depicts scenes from life in Alaska, past and present, real and mythological: a figure flying alongside birds with a paintbrush clutched in his hand, drawing a red mark across the sky. A native woman cutting the fabric of the earth with a pair of scissors. A whale breaching and splashing as it plays in the ocean.

One panel depicts a kayaker under a starry sky, using a paddle-sized pencil to navigate the waves. He floats among the fishes and a seal, leaving a trail of phosphorescence in his wake.

Photo courtesy of Evon Zerbetz.

The museum areas of the building showcase artifacts from Alaskan artists and native peoples in exhibits of handicrafts, photography, illustration, textiles, fine art, solo artist shows, and more.

Photo courtesy of Hacker Architects.

You can also take a virtual trip to the Alaska State Museum via their extensive online exhibitions that showcase photography, paintings, and printed materials representing Alaskan history and contemporary art.

Three recent online exhibits celebrate the spirit of Alaskan women:

  • Alaska’s Suffrage Star turns the spotlight on women who were pioneers in giving women the right to vote.
  • Women of Vision is a collection of art by Alaskan women that spans more than 100 years.
  • Women of Alaska is a curated collection of vintage photos from the archives that depict women how have ‘not only survived, but thrived in times of hardship and discrimination, paving the way for future generations.’
black and white photo of a young woman fueling a vintage airplane
Photo courtesy of Alaska State Library Historical Collections.


If you go…

The info above describes the Library and Museum in Juneau; there is also a State Museum in Sitka. For hours and other visiting info for both locations, see the Alaska State Library and Museum website.

  • Alaska State Library, Archive & Museum
  • 395 Whittier Street
  • Juneau, AK 99801

Top image courtesy of Gillfoto/Flickr.

Want to keep up with our book-related adventures? Sign up for our newsletter!

keep reading

In this ep, we discuss the surprises of life in Alaska and recommend books that transported us there: a vivid memoir, two novels where snow is a character, a story set in commercial fishing, and two foodie books.
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a person desiring to experience the food of Alaska, must be in want of cake. For your consideration, we submit this cake: buttery, sweet, gooey, and rich with tradition.
Food, wildlife, majestic vistas, quiet moments: the images in these Instagram accounts showcase what makes Alaska such a special place. It's rugged, colorful, somewhat dangerous, and celebrates an independent spirit.
It looks like the enchanted library of your dreams, but it's really the East Room of banker J.P. Morgan's 1906 Library, the heart of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City. Commence swooning.
Soft light illuminates floor-to-ceiling shelves of gilt-spined books in the libraries of the Strahov Monastery. But it's not all Latin texts and antique globes: a narwhal horn and a giant crab decorate the hallway.
A sinful but repentant monk, an assist from the devil, an 800-year-old book, potential madness, and a rivalry between Bohemia and Sweden. This story of the Codex Gigas, also known as The Devil's Bible, has everything.

sharing is caring!

Can you help us? If you like this article, share it your friends!

our mission

Strong Sense of Place is a website and podcast dedicated to literary travel and books we love. Reading good books increases empathy. Empathy is good for all of us and the amazing world we inhabit.

our patreon

If you like the work we do, you can help support us through our Patreon! That'll unlock additional content, too — like Mel's recipe for Banh Mi Bowls, and Dave's behind-the-scenes notes for the latest Two Truths and a Lie.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.

This is a weekly email. If you'd like a quick alert whenever we update our blog, subscribe here.

no spoilers. ever.

We'll share enough detail to help you decide if a book is for you, but we'll never ruin plot twists or give away the ending.

super-cool reading fun
reading atlas

This 30-page Reading Atlas takes you around the world with dozens of excellent books and gorgeous travel photos. Get your free copy when you subscribe to our newsletter.

get our newsletter
We'll never share your email with anyone else. Promise.
follow us

Content on this site is © 2021 by Smudge Publishing, unless otherwise noted. Peace be with you, person who reads the small type.