Arctic Studies Center, Anchorage Museum

Anchorage, Alaska

The Smithsonian Arctic Studies Center is a new cultural-center model that serves, and is served by, Alaskan Native communities. Ongoing scientific research and public exhibition make cultural history accessible to the public as it unfolds. The collection, of six hundred and fifty objects, is the largest single loan ever made by the Smithsonian Institution. Returned from Washington, D.C., to their place of origin, they are interpreted in consultation with Alaska Native scholars, curators, and community elders representing fourteen communities.

Stringent conservation requirements for the objects mandated a sophisticated operational, environmental, and structural design. Object mounts and exhibition cases adhere to the strictest seismic-design standards and light-level restrictions. Digital technology supports ongoing interpretation, research, and scholarly inquiry. At interactive, updatable digital stations visitors can uncover multiple layers of discovery for each object, including oral histories, historic photographs, artistic depictions, and a growing body of Native and scholarly commentary. RAA also designed the museum’s identity, signage, and way-finding system.

The Arctic Studies Center embodies the fulfillment of a goal, long held by Congress and the Smithsonian, to distribute its indigenous artifacts to centers of learning near the communities in which they were made. The center reunites contemporary Alaskans with their cultural heritage, giving form to their history and encouraging them to share their life ways.

Anchorage Museum of History and Art

David Chipperfield Architects


Arctic Studies Center (labs and offices): 11,890 square feet

Permanent exhibition gallery: 9,465 square feet

  • Graphis Design Annual, Gold Award

  • Industrial Designers Society of America, Silver International Design Excellence Award

  • Design Awards, Federal Republic of Germany, Nomination

  • Creativity International Awards, Gold Winner, Environmental Graphics

  • Graphis Design Annual, Gold

  • GOOD DESIGN Awards, Environments

© 2014, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, Inc.