Ethnology & History

The ethnology collection,  which includes over 13,000 objects, is an official statewide repository for Alaska’s ethnological and anthropological collections. As such, the department seeks to develop a comprehensive collection of material culture from the state’s nine Native cultures (Iñupiaq, Siberian Yupik, Central Yup’ik, Dene/Athabascan, Tlingit, Haida, Tsimshian, Unangax/Aleut and Alutiiq/Sugpiaq) in order to serve a wide and expanding range of audiences. We hold artifacts from nearly every one of the 229 Federally Recognized Tribes (Alaska Native villages), and from all of the cultures represented by the 20 distinct Native languages in Alaska. In addition, objects from Siberia, Canada, and Greenland serve as comparative examples of other circumpolar people. Exceptional collections include basketry, clothing, household items, dolls, and subsistence tools.

    We hope to illustrate the continued vitality and ingenuity of these people, as seen in the objects used in daily life, through time. Contemporary life is documented through the changing tools and artifacts of life in modern-day Alaska. Original works of art and craft are included in the collection to show the connection to the iconography and symbolism of the past, while allowing for the incorporation of a current voice.

The history collection represents a wide range of material culture relating to Alaska's early settlers, from the Russian American period through the present. It contains over 3,000 artifacts representing the changing technology of gold mining, of aviation, and life in the sometimes-inhospitable Interior of Alaska in particular. With this collection, we aim to tell the story of those who made their homes along the banks of the Chena River and built the town of Fairbanks into the second-largest city in Alaska, a major transportation hub for Northern Alaska, and the home of the University of Alaska. Notable collections include firearms, gold extraction technology and equipment, mountaineering gear, and household items, as well as Leonhard Seppala's sled dog racing trophies, John Logan's motorcycle, and Ben Eielson's airplane.

The collections are available to researchers upon appointment and for loan to other institutions.


Senior Collections Manager: Angela J. Linn, M.A.
Curator Emerita: Molly Lee, Ph.D.


The Ethnology & History collections are available online!

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Go behind the scenes with the Ethnology & History department blog at Wordpress!