Juneau’s largest project in 43 years, the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives, and Museum promises to bring to life the community’s heritage and history dating back to the turn of the 19th century. At 118,000 square feet, and after almost 15 years of planning and construction, the project is celebrating its grand opening one year before the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase.
A LOOK INSIDE
On first entering the building, visitors are transported into Alaska’s history through the atrium, a dramatic high-ceilinged lobby that includes an eagle tree and a giant detailed map of Alaska made of terrazzo. The exhibit-hall doors open to a complete history of Alaska’s origins. There are areas devoted to the native people of Alaska, exploration of the 49th state, resource extraction, maritime history, World War II and political history, transportation, and modern Alaska. “From the very beginning of man’s inhabitancy until now” is one of the overarching themes of the exhibit floor.
Perhaps one of the most dramatic places in the building is the Richard Foster Reading Room, which includes a soaring wood ceiling and sprawling windows overlooking the town and mountains. The library’s research area is shared by the Archives department and contains official government documents dating back to 1884, photographs, and audiovisual material. Here visitors can request material from the Historical Collections department of the library.
“Much of the project success can be attributed to one word . . . communication,” said Bob Banghart, deputy director of the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums for the state of Alaska. “Combine that with a highly motivated team and a level of cooperative and creative problem solving, and the overall project has exceeded everyone’s expectations. Having PCL at the table with the owner and design team had a significant impact on bringing desire and delivery into balance.”
PRESERVING ALASKA’S HISTORY
With the new museum being constructed on the same ground as the original museum, the team was presented with the challenge of how to preserve existing artifacts during construction. The team developed a phasing plan for construction of two secure vault spaces—each about 10,000 square feet—to store the artifacts until the museum section was constructed. After the vaults were complete, a temporary tunnel was built to allow moving of the 32,000 artifacts into the secured vaults during the harsh Alaskan winter prior to demolition of the old museum.
During different stages of construction, it became apparent that certain artifacts couldn’t be moved into the new museum after completion, owing to their size. The project team took these extraordinary pieces into account and built large sections of the new museum around the artifacts, ensuring that certain temperatures, humidity levels, and thresholds were maintained during active construction. One particular artifact they had to build around was an umiak 40 feet in length; a umiak is a boat made of walrus skin stretched over a driftwood frame. Not only did the project require the first use of a tower crane in Juneau in an estimated 30 years, but it is the only known time an umiak has been moved using a tower crane.
The Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives, and Museum celebrated its grand opening on June 6, 2016, and the overall vision hasn’t changed since day one: to develop and maintain a state-of-the-art facility that collects and manages the care of objects and documents representing the peoples and history of Alaska while telling their story in their own voices.