Anchorage museum exhibit reopens after earthquake damage repairs
The Nov. 30 earthquake did plenty of damage in Alaska, but one exhibit at the Anchorage Museum survived thanks to good planning.
The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center reopened this weekend after being shut down for repairs after the earthquake. According to the museum’s website, the arrangement is the first of its kind — featuring hundreds of indigenous Alaska artifacts loaned by the Smithsonian Institution.
Though some protective glass displays were cracked, museum officials say the damage could have been much worse.
"There was a lot of testing, design and thinking that went around 'how do we make sure these objects are protected?'" said Monica Shah, the Anchorage Museum's director of collections and chief conservator.
Shah said the displays in the exhibit were protected by 12-by-6 foot glass panels. Specially engineered to be shatterproof, they did their job, revealing only chips and cracks which were subsequently replaced.
However, there’s only one supplier of the glass in all of North America. Shah said the exhibit had to remain closed until the supplier could send the glass, which took time.
"And so we did have to order it and it takes time to make the glass, they don't have in stock. And so that's why the exhibit has been closed for so many months,” Shah said. “We've been waiting for the glass and also needing to care for the objects really carefully and look at each object and so we had staff from the Smithsonian come here to examine each object."
While museum officials didn't know what they'd find in their post-quake survey, they quickly realized the damage was minor compared to what it could have been.
"The museum really fared well,” Shah said. “We were lucky. A lot of our damage was cosmetic, not structural."
The center’s main exhibition is titled Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska. For more information, visit the museum’s website here.
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