UA Museum of the North Receives Donation to Update Gallery

Oct 1, 2014

The University of Alaska Museum of the North received a personal gift which will enable it to begin work on a $5 million upgrade to the Gallery of Alaska. 

Longtime university of Alaska Fairbanks supporters Joe Usibelli (Use-eh-belly) and Peggy Schumaker donated $1 million to allow work to begin on renovations to the university museum’s oldest gallery.  The Gallery of Alaska was built in 1980.

Credit University of Alaska Museum of the North

Director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North Aldona Jonaitis (Joe-Night-us) says the gallery is a visual representation of the story of Alaska.

“We divide the gallery into the five sections of the state; southeast, south central, interior, arctic and western coast, and the Aleutians.  And in each section we have items from all of our different collections.  Birds, mammals, fish, archeology, art, paleontology, insects, plants.  And each section of the gallery gives you a really good feeling of what the environment and the history and the natural and cultural history of that area is all about.”

Jonaitis says the donation will go to updating the gallery which is in desperate need of repair. She says the Museum of the North is the only museum of its kind in the state.  And the Gallery of Alaska is a center piece.

“It’s got the largest collection of Alaskan gold on public display, it has the real mummy of a 36,000 year old step bison that died in the interior of Alaska.  It’s got amazing materials that deserve to have a much better setting.”

Usibelli, graduated in 1959, served on the museum’s advisory committee during the campaign that raised $19 million for the expansion.  Shumaker is a former Alaska Writer Laureate and a professor emerita at UAF.