Anchorage Museum makes admission free for Indigenous Alaskans

glass building with letters
The Anchorage Museum exterior declares the land Dena’ina homelands (Anchorage Museum)

The Anchorage Museum is no longer charging an admission fee for Alaska Native visitors.

The new policy went into effect at the start of the year. Museum Director Julie Decker said no proof of identity is required.

“People can state that they’re Alaska Native … at the front admission desk, and they will not be charged admission,” she said.

The move was not controversial for the museum staff or the board, Decker said. She points out that a significant portion of the museum’s collection comes from Alaska’s Indigenous cultures.

“I think it’s really a celebration of our place, of who we are,” she said. “I think it’s recognizing the Alaskans and people who have made this their home for millennia.”

Several museums in Canada offer free admission to Indigenous people. It’s not common in the United States, but the Anchorage Museum isn’t the first.

Michael Fredericks is Yup’ik and grew up in Anchorage. She says the museum’s work to amplify Indigenous identity attracted her, specifically its very visible land acknowledgement.

“When the signage went up on the side of the museum that says ‘This is Dena’ina Elnena,’ I was pretty blown away by that,” said Fredericks, who owns a strategic consulting firm called Salt.

The cultural affirmation, in massive letters on the museum’s facade, prompted Fredericks to become a museum member for the first time, and to begin bringing her son there. Now she chairs the museum’s governing board.

Fredericks said she’s excited by the new admission policy. When she was growing up, she said her Yup’ik identity made her feel “othered” even in her own hometown. She didn’t feel the museum was meant for her.

“By giving Indigenous people free admission, it’s not just about saying, ‘Hey, we’re eliminating the financial barrier to this place,'” she said. “It’s saying: This is your place … . You come in and make this your place even more.”

 The free admission applies just for general entry. Alaska Native visitors would still have to pay for special events, workshops and classes.

Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent at Alaska Public Media. Reach her at Read more about Liz here.

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