If you can't travel to the Bush region to experience Native Alaska culture firsthand, visit this 26-acre center and see how humans survived – and thrived – before central heating. This is much more than just a museum: it represents a knowledge bank of language, art and culture that will survive no matter how many sitcoms are crackling through the Alaskan stratosphere. It’s a labor of love, and of incalculable value.
The main building houses meandering exhibits on traditional arts and sciences – including kayaks and rain gear that rival the best offerings of outdoors department store REI. It also features various performances, among them the staccato Alaghanak song, lost for 50 years: the center collected bits and pieces of the traditional song from different tribal elders and reconstructed it. Outside, examples of typical structures from the Aleut, Yupik, Tlingit and other tribes are arranged around a picturesque lake. Docents explain the ancient architects’ cunning technology: check out wooden panels that shrink in the dry summers (allowing light and air inside) but expand to seal out the cold during the wet winter. Dog-cart rides and private and audio tours are all available for an extra charge.