Bus 142 Interpretive Plan

The interpretive approach for Bus 142 centers on the bus itself as an observer of twentieth century Alaska history. Our Interpretive Advisory Team has worked to create a set of guiding themes to center our discussions. Through three discrete exhibits (outdoor, inside our Gallery of Alaska, and in our Virtual Exhibit), we will consider a broad approach to this  historical object and its unique ability to tell the story of Alaskans and outsiders alike.

Would you like to comment on our Interpretive Plan? Reach out to our team  or submit your response to our ideas here.

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five spoked graphic with bus 142 at the center


Land Use and Stewardship by Indigenous Peoples

The Bus 142 exhibits will begin by acknowledging the 14,000 year history of occupation by Indigenous peoples across the lands now known as Alaska. Generations of Dene peoples have lived on and stewarded the lands and waters along the northern foothills of the Alaska Range and across Interior Alaska. Through local Alaska Native first person narratives, artwork, photographs, cultural belongings, and archaeological objects, visitors will be introduced to the cultural context into which Bus 142 was deposited when it arrived in Fairbanks and was eventually abandoned along the Stampede Trail.


Interior Alaska Settler History

Alaska's colonial history began in 1741 with the arrival of explorers representing the Russian monarchy. The Indigenous peoples were systematically enslaved despite their defensive efforts. This period also marked the begining of the extractive resource industry in Alaska with the fur trade. In 1867, the American government purchased the territory and established it as a district of the U.S. military. 

The various settlers who came to Alaska as part of the boom-bust economic cycles that would follow made an impact on the land, by establishing and growing new urban centers. Bus 142 and its presence on the Stampede Trail intersects with these stories in various ways:  its likely arrival in Alaska in the late 1940s as a military transport bus, its use in the growing urban center of Fairbanks as a metropolitan transit bus, and its transition to the Stampede Trail as housing for a family engaged in a road improvement project designed to develop an access route for the removal of mining activities in the foothills of the Alaska Range.

Our exhibit will highlight how the settler history of Interior Alaska set the stage for Bus 142's arrival on the Stampede Trail.


Knowledge of the Alaska Wilderness

Alaskans often define themselves through their connection with the land and waters of Alaska.  Hunters, trappers, fishers, hikers, mushers, boaters, foragers, recreational users, and observers alike engage with Alaska's wilderness in its myriad forms. 

The knowlege of how to stay safe in Alaska is passed down through generations and across communities. It is partially depicted in the mythology that has been created about Alaska through literature, in films, songs, and other creative expressions. It is part of what draws millions of visitors to the state each year. 

But there is not one set of values, perspectives, or ways to connect with Alaska’s wilderness and the knowledge about it. Our exhibit will examine different ways people of varied backgrounds view the "wilderness" of Alaska and how the bus played a part in that.


Rites of Passage / Spiritual Journeys

Young people often engage in risky behaviors, perhaps in an attempt to prove something to themselves or others. This might take place as a formal rite of passage or it may be the result of some individual effort to gain a new way of seeing the world. 

When emerging from a "near miss" experience, individuals sometimes express a deep personal, sometimes spiritual, change. Our exhibit will examine the many forms of risky behavior that is demonstrated across the state and what draws individuals to come to Alaska as part of that personal challenge.


Sites of Memory

Sites of memory serve as gathering places for people who have a shared experience or history. Individuals join together to remember that history, sometimes in celebration and other times as an act of grieving. Our exhibit can serve as a site of memory for those who have gone missing in Alaska in the past and present.

Alaska has over 1500 people on the missing persons list, a disportionate number of whom are Alaska Native. We hope to raise awareness of this problem, encourage discussion and engagement around the issue, and acknowledge those whose stories have been lost to history and erasure.