This museum in downtown Anchorage may house artefacts that are hundreds of years old, but its high-calibre collection—and its solid connection to the community—makes it feel like a living museum.
Even though the art-gallery-sized space feels intimate, this is the largest private collection of its kind in Alaska. The museum was started by the First National Bank of Alaska in 1976, as a way for the bank’s owners, the Rasmussen family, to create a space for high-quality art and artefacts largely from Alaska's native tribes, such as the Northwest Coast Indian, Athabascan, Aleut, Yupik and Inupiaq tribes.
Wells Fargo bought the museum in 2000 and has its own piece of Alaska history to share: the bank and delivery service used to ship gold out from the Klondike during the gold-rush days of the late 1800s and early 1900s, while also bringing in both miners and materials. To date, the museum’s collection now has about 6,000 artefacts and works of art, as well as 4,000 books, in museum branches around the state; this Anchorage flagship, though, has 900 pieces on display, including traditional clothing, a collection of historic Alaskan business tokens, a Bering Sea kayak covered in traditional seal skin, and paintings by such famed Alaskan artists as Sydney Laurence, Fred Machetanz and Eustace Ziegler.