Though the Anchorage Museum has a hyperlocal focus on Alaska, the curators understand that, thanks to climate change and the Arctic (not to mention reality TV), the rest of the world is also very focused on the state. A recent expansion and retooling of the museum’s permanent exhibition about Alaska will reflect the state’s ever-expanding role in the world. But the hyperlocal will remain, of course. Along with the small museums that dot the state and the museum at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks (also well worth a visit), the Anchorage Museum tells the story of the Native peoples who have lived on this land for years, as well as the Russians, Europeans, and, eventually, Americans who moved in to claim the land as their own. The museum also has a strong emphasis on art of, and inspired by, the state.
At almost 16,000 square meters (or 170,000 square feet), this kid-friendly history museum is the largest in the state. The Smithsonian Institution's Arctic Studies Center showcases more than 600 indigenous Alaska artifacts while touch screens offer oral histories. There’s also a 1,400-square-meter gallery that focuses on Alaskan history, including early exploration, the whaling industry and the gold rush. A hands-on creative lab helps kids test their critical thinking skills and rotating exhibitions highlight local and international art and culture. There are also exhibits of contemporary and historic photographs.