Climate change gallery highlights "Changing Alaska"

Lex Treinen/Sun Star Reporter
September 18, 2012

UAF’s Museum of the North’s new Changing Alaska gallery highlights the impacts of climate change on Alaska, but the museum’s installation is only half of the story. Museum employees visited four communities across the state as part of the museum’s ongoing campaign to attract younger Alaskans to science.

The exhibit includes a spherical screen globe, a tree slab from North Pole, a pair of differently colored ptarmigan and informational placards.

Part of the new climate change gallery at the UAF Museum of the North is a piece of petrified wood that has been around for the centuries. The gallery also includes informative plaques on the walls, and a screen shaped like a globe that informs readers about the physical changes of the earth since its birth. Sept. 18th, 2012. Erin McGroarty/ Sun Star

“Changing Alaska is just the tip of the iceberg of what we have in our collection at the museum,” said Roger Topp, the Museum’s Head of Production. “And our collection is just the tip of the iceberg of what is out there in the world.” Changing Alaska has already visited Nenana, Nome, Glenallen and Kenny Lake, according to Chris Cannon, Special Programs Coordinator in the Museum’s Education and Public Programs wing. According to Cannon, there was good turnout at all of the communities, except Nome where a snow storm this spring cancelled classes and forced a quick rescheduling.

The communities were selected based on their own interest in hosting the gallery, and the museum’s interest in attracting potential students to UAF. “It’s trying to get a younger audience interested in science,” Cannon said. It’s also about making science more “accessible and understandable” to the younger generation, possibly even interested in studying at UAF, Cannon said.

The Museum of the North teamed up with the Anchorage Museum and the Challenger Learning Center in Kenai to develop a curriculum. Each museum had a specific job, with Topp in charge of creating a film that will was shown at each community on the globular screen. The other two museums also brought mobile units to more remote communities, but each museum focused on those closest to their region.

The installation was funded by NASA as part of its “Eyes on the Arctic” grant program. The grant mandated that there be a traveling unit to show in remote areas in the state. The museum is not new to traveling installations, as they are currently doing a similar project with a planetarium. The focus on a changing Alaska is an especially important aspect of what Topp sees as a museums duty to the community. “A lot of people think of a dusty old cabinet when they think of a museum,” Topp said, “but now museums have to focus on displaying the research that is taking place.” The exhibit is particularly important to Alaska.

“We all live in Alaska and climate change will particularly affect the polar region,” Cannon said.

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