Thanks to a recently awarded grant, the Alaska State Museum will have the funds to move its collection into its new building, as well as train staff from museums across the state on how to properly handle and store exhibits.
The State Museum got the news last week that it won a $78,439 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, state Curator of Museum Services Scott Carrlee said. With the money, the museum will bring in 27 people from 12 different museums around Alaska for multiple week-long stints across an eight month period, he said. The grant will pay for the helpers’ travel and hotel nights.
During the eight months, the visiting staff members will learn the ins and outs of moving exhibits while they pack up the museum’s 32,000-piece collection in phases — starting the second week in October — and eventually move it to a new storage facility behind the current museum building, and later into the new building itself.
Carrlee said various museums in Alaska contacted the State Museum and wanted to get involved with the moving process, sparking the idea to turn the huge task into a unique learning opportunity.
“It’s amazing how many museums around the state are moving into their own buildings,” Carrlee said. “People who work there said this would be a great learning experience.”
The program is a boon to both the State Museum and the participating smaller museums, he said. The State Museum will benefit from having helpers who already know a thing or two about museums and how to care for the items inside. The staffers who participate will be able to take valuable skills back to their own museums, such as those in Sitka and Cordova, preparing them for moves of their own.
Carrlee said that if the grant hadn’t come through, the museum would have had to hire and train people who didn’t have a background in museums. He said the staff was relieved when they got the news.
“We’d moved pretty far forward in the plan, so we were kind of sweating it,” he said.
The new, state-of-the-art storage facility will be completed in February, Carrlee said. At that time, the team will have six weeks to move the collection from the current building into the vault via a tunnel. The then-empty building will be torn down and construction will begin on the new facility, which will be attached to the storage vault.
Museum staff will begin constructing exhibits in the new building during the winter of 2015, Carrlee said. The new museum will open in the spring of 2016.
• Contact reporter Katie Moritz at 523-2294 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.