Major grant to support Bus 142 conservation work
A $500,000 federal grant from the National Park Service and the Institute of Museum and Library Services will help the University of Alaska Museum of the North prepare Bus 142 for public exhibition during the summer of 2024.
The money will fund extensive conservation work on the 1940s-era bus, made famous by the book and film “Into the Wild.”
In 2020, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources removed the bus from the spot where it was abandoned off the Stampede Trail near Healy, Alaska, and brought it to the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The university signed an agreement with the state to care for the bus and make it available via a free public exhibit.
“Since acquiring Bus 142, museum staff have been diligently cataloging, researching and preparing for this undertaking,” said Angela Linn, ethnology and history senior collections manager at the museum. “This included comprehensive consultations with professional conservators who have over 30 years of experience in the field.”
Preserving historic automotive artifacts requires specialized skills, Linn said. Museum staff and student employees will work with the conservators, B.R. Howard and Associates, to mitigate damage to the bus caused by vandalism, weather conditions and biological growths such as lichen and moss.
Conservation efforts will include making structural and paint repairs, cleaning, replacing windows, and preserving the graffiti and epitaphs left by people who visited the bus on the Stampede Trail. The team will also apply protective coatings to prevent further metal deterioration and fading.
“Conservation treatment is an essential step in the process of preparing museum objects for long-term exhibition,” said Patrick Druckenmiller, museum director. “This work must be done before the bus is ready for exterior exhibition.”
Members of the public can view the conservation work in person weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. from the lobby of the Usibelli Building at UAF or via the Bus 142 live webcam. A preliminary virtual exhibit of Bus 142 is also available online on the University of Alaska Museum of the North webpage.
While the grant will give a big boost to its efforts to create the Bus 142 exhibit, the museum will need to raise significant additional funds to make the final exhibit a reality, which includes constructing a cover for the bus. The museum is working with the nonprofit Friends of Bus 142, which functions as the news and fundraising home base for the “Into the Wild” global community. Local partners include JL Properties and Avis Alaska.
ADDITIONAL CONTACTS: Angela Linn, ethnology and history senior collections manager, 907-474-1828, email@example.com; Megan Koch, UAMN director of visitor services and marketing, 907-474-6941, firstname.lastname@example.org