City Museum's new interactive exhibit focuses on hydro power in Juneau

Scott Willis, with Alaska Electric Light & Power Co., and Alysia Jones, curator of public programs for the Juneau-Douglas City Museum, stand next to a new interactve exhibit that highlights how hydro power works and the history surrounding it in Juneau.

An new interactive exhibit highlighting hydro power and mining has just been installed at the Juneau-Douglas City Museum.


Through the support of Alaska Electric Light & Power Company, visitors can now experience the process of hydroelectric power and learn about its significance to Juneau’s history.

“Our goal was to create an interactive that depicted both the scientific process and the historical significance of hydro power in Juneau,” Alysia Jones, curator of public programs, said. “Given AEL&P’s long history in Juneau, it seemed logical to work with them on developing this interactive.”

More than a year ago, the local museum approached AEL&P’s Power Generation Engineer Scott Willis about collaborating on the project.

“Juneau not only has a rich history in hydro power generation, but our community continues to benefit today, 100 years later, from these historic projects,” Willis said. “We liked the idea of explaining to school kids how hydro power works, and to do it with historic photographs of features they can still see as they hike on Juneau’s trails today.”

The initial concept seemed simple, but as discussions about the mechanics of the project proceeded, the project quickly grew.

“I don’t think any of us knew what we were getting into initially,” Jones said. “But, everyone was excited about the idea and really worked together to make it happen. It was well worth the wait.”

By combining historical images, text and sketch drawings, the eight foot panel shows how hydro power is created and then converted into electricity, while simultaneously sharing the legacy of hydro power in Juneau.

“This display combines a little science and a little history in a way we hope will be both fun and educational for school children,” Willis said.

The first crank on the interactive allows visitors to start the flow of water into the power plant, while the second one allows visitors to generate power by simulating the turning of the waterwheel and generator, resulting in the lights in the Alaska Gastineau Mill turning on.

The hands-on mining gallery has been a work in progress since its initial opening in the fall of 2010, with new interactives being added each year. The main goal of the gallery is to show how Juneau had become the mining capital of the world for a period of time and how that impacted the community.

“We think that one of the best ways we can discuss the history of mining and its impact is through the technologies that it employed,” Museum Director Jane Lindsey said.

Other interactives in the gallery include a cross-section of the Treadwell Mine depicting the 1917 cave-in developed in conjunction with Commercial Signs & Printing, and a miniature working stamp mill constructed by Hecla-Greens Creek Mining Company. And, although it has only two small stamps, it gives visitors an opportunity to appreciate what 880 full size stamps must have sounded like.

By Friday afternoon last week, kids from the Museum’s Juneau Explorers Week program were already testing the new hydro power interactive.

“It has been rewarding to see how these interactive additions to the gallery enhance visitor experiences,” Jones said. “We are looking forward to monitoring visitor interactions with the new hydro power panel and seeing how it is received by school groups.”

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum would like to thank AEL&P for their generous donation of this panel to the museum’s hands-on history learning.

Willis and Bryan Farrell spent a considerable amount time helping to develop the panel and configuring the mechanisms. The Museum would also like to thank Aaron Elmore and Daryl Miller of Commercial Signs and Printing for their role in this project.

The City Museum is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors and youth 12 and under are free. Annual passes are available for $20 and are good for the passholder and a guest for unlimited visits to the museum. For more information regarding this project call 586-3572. The Juneau-Douglas City Museum is a facility of the Juneau Parks & Recreation Department.


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