Many times over the years since this web site began I've received requests for information regarding where one might donate memorabilia, photos, souvenirs, or other items of interest collected by those who lived and/or fought in Alaska, more specifically in (but not limited to) the Aleutian islands during WWII.

We appreciate the expertise, help, assistance, and advice from the many folks associated with Alaskan archival institutions who have provided us with some very good information, tips, and things to know regarding your potential contributions.

Some Things to Consider

Sell on eBay or contribute to a museum? This is but one of the many choices you will be facing when dealing with the disposition of a veteran's collection of memorabilia.

Items sold on eBay are often those purchased by an individual looking to maximize profits on a purchase more than likely from an estate sale. A veteran's collection is often disassembled and sold piecemeal by the seller. Thus we find photo albums taken apart, with photos sold by the page or one at a time. The collection is thus destroyed forever with its original owner forgotten.

As our veterans leave us for that final bivouac in the sky, often the items they leave behind are all we have to tell their story. Items that may not seem important to us can be vital in piecing together the big picture, missing history, and answer questions about events that are long past. Museums and other archival institutions are for the most part grateful for donations of anything and everything that has survived the ravages of time. Those items, and the tales they tell, often cannot be recreated or replaced. Items from Alaska, should you decide to contribute them, can be preserved and protected in public archives or museums, accompanied with information about who collected them, and thus be studied and enjoyed by those with historical interests for decades to come.

Having said that, there are times when a museum may not have an interest in your donation. It's nothing personal. As museums become well established and having themselves survived the passage of time they ultimately reach a point where their available display space becomes limited to none existant, and their supportive resources are taxed to the limits. This implies that at some point they must become more selective regarding what donations they are able to accept. Each museum also evolves an institutional mission. Each donation must pass muster and fit the museum's mission before it would be accepted. Many local museums have decided that a donation must somehow connect to its community, region, or state. On occasion a donation may be a duplicate of what a museum currently has in its inventory. In this case the museum may not be able to justify adding another example. In this case, in order for your donation to be exhibited, your donation would have to be an improvement over what another donation brings to the display case. Another point to consider is that a donated item may be too large or in such poor condition that they may not be able to take care of it over the long haul. Some museums, such as the "Museum of Science and Industry" located in Chicago, Illinois, are so large and technically capable that they can accept items such as submarines, airplanes, trains...or even a mummy from Egypt! Other museums, much smaller in size and consisting of only a one-room, climatically uncontrolled effort in a small village simply could not accommodate such objects. Each museum's exhibiting capabilities will fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes. 
Not all archives and museums are alike. Some are relatively inaccessible, visited by only a few researchers a year. Some museums and archives are backed up with cataloging their collections that if you donate something it may be years before the items find their way into collections and display cases where they could be seen. While it is true that most professional museums don't take years to make accepted donations accessible to the public in some fashion, there are some understaffed museums and archives that are faced with this reality. It may also be the case that some artifacts and/or archival materials are only of interest to specialized researchers and may never be exhibited. Some items remain too fragile to exhibit depending upon the technical capabilities of the museum itself. Some museums don't have enough space to display all of their collections at one time. To alleviate this problem some exhibits are displayed only temporarily, being replaced on a rotating basis with another after a period of time. Other donations in acceptable condition are circulated as travelling exhibits, giving these items the chance to be seen by the public as well. Professional museums will never guarantee that something you donate will always be on exhibit, but this shouldn't deter donors from contributing. Ask questions before donating, whether it be in Alaska, your home state, or elsewhere. You want to know that your donated items will be well-cared for by professional staff, and made available for viewing or study by the greatest number of people.

Ask how your items will be cared for or stored, how many people will be able to access them (How many researchers use the archives per year and how many visitors to the museum?), and when and how they will be made available to the public (Will the items be displayed, put into a research collection, incorporated into educational kit that goes out to schools, or ???). The answers will help you decide where you want to donate. While the greatest number of people can access the larger museums and archives, sometimes those already have what you wish to donate, and smaller museums are thrilled to receive them and put them on display.

Indentify the museum with the strongest connection to the materials you wish to donate, and make every effort to place your items there. Such institutions will guarantee the best use of your donation in meaningful ways. Find a connection between the person who owned the material, where they came from or where they served. This would narrow down the region on which to focus. Once you have selected a region, then look for a museum, library, or archival institution that is building its holdings of WWII material, and which either has exhibits or plans for exhibits relating to the subject.

Ask if the museum is privately owned or if it is a public endeavor. Is the museum a non-profit entity with a board of directors or is it a government entity. Understand what, if any, assumed liabilities there may be between the museum and potential donors. Keep in mind that private museums are occasionally dismantled, with their "objet d'art" sold to eBay or other auction facilities. If it is a concern, understand what your rights are in terms of repossessing your donations should a museum cease operations. Make sure you are comfortable with your final selection of the place that would take possession of, care for, and display your treasures.

Send as much information as you can with the items: names, dates, locations, etc. You can donate in the memory of a family member, naming your collection. When photo images are used, they are often credited to, for example, the "Sikorski Collection, Williwaw Archives."

This information from Bruce Kato, Chief Curator of Alaska State Museums: "All donations of property to a museum should be documented with receipts and/or deeds of gift. For donations valued at over $5000, they will need Form 8283, which has a section to be completed by the appraiser and another for the recipient of the property. Helpful info on valuations and deductions: IRS 's online publications on deductions and valuations:

Alaska includes what is referred to as their "big three" museums and/or libraries. They are similar in terms of what they collect as well as accessibility to researchers and students. Fairbanks has the largest campus, but certainly Anchorage is also very large. Juneau has the southeast branch and should not be forgotten. In some cases you should not discard the possibility that your collection may well be a better fit with more remote museums, such as the "Museum of the Aleutians!" Give them all close and special scrutiny.

By donating your items, you are preserving an important part of history, and the legacy of the person who collected them. You are making sure that the items will be available for future generations to help them learn the story of the past. Your gift will live on forever.

Included below you will find information about various museums and archival houses around Alaska. Find one that fits your item's description and genre, then contact the appropriate facility directly. Web site URLs as well as phone numbers and points of contact when available have been provided for each.

Good luck!

For artifacts such as uniforms, trench art, dolls, baskets, Russian Orthodox church icons, and other non-paper items:

Airplane and Aviation related Items

Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum
4721 Aircraft Drive, Anchorage, AK 99502
Phone: 907.248.5325     FAX: 907.248.6391

Art, Native Culture and items related to Anchorage or Alaska History

Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Center
121 West 7th Avenue, Anchorage, AK 99501
Phone: 907.343.4326  Fax: 907.343.6149
Archives 907.343.6189; Collections 907.343.6182

Natural History and Wildlife, Art, Native Culture and Gold Rush

University of Alaska Museum of the North
PO 756960, Fairbanks, AK 99775-6960
Phone: 907.474.7505   Fax: 907.474.5469

ANY AND ALL items related to Alaska, Alaska Native Culture, Alaska History, Military, World War II, Gold Rush, Russian America, Immigrant groups and more

Alaska State Museum
395 Whittier St., Juneau, AK 99801-1718
Phone: 907.465.2901   Fax: 907.465.2976
Museum Services: 888.913.6873
Email: Henrikson, Steve E (EED) []
Staff: Steve Henrikson, Curator of Collections 907.465.4826
Alaska Veterans Memorial Museum
VFW Post No. 9785, 10527 VFW Drive, Eagle River, AK 99577
Phone: 907.694.2866
Staff: Col. Suellyn Wright Novak, USAF Ret., President; John Peck, Vice-President; Forest Brooks, Secretary
Other Contacts:
Prince William Sound Museum

2207 Spenard Road
Suite 207
Anchorage, Alaska 99503
POC: Ted Spencer, VP, Exhibits Design and Archives
Phone: 619-460-3792 (relics & archives issues)
Staff: Joe Shen, President (907-440-4639); Ted Spencer, VP (619-460-3792); Sue Cogswell, Secretary/Treasurer (907-222-2440); Mark Earnest, Board of Directors member City of Whittier (907-472-2327); City of Whittier (907-472-2327 ext. 101)

Cultures of the Aleutians, Russian America, World War II

Aleutian World War II National Historical Park and Visitor Center

Aleutian World War II National Historic Area
240 West 5th Ave
Anchorage, AK 99501

Museum of the Aleutians
PO 648, Unalaska, AK 99685-0648
Phone: 907.581.5150  Fax: 907.581.6682

For photos and items on paper

Special Collection about World War II in Alaska and especially the Aleutians. Collecting photos, diaries, books, calendars, newspapers, anything on paper. Most accessible archive for researchers and students

Archives and Special Collections Consortium Library
University of Alaska, Anchorage

3211 Providence Drive
Anchorage, AK 99508
Telephone: (907) 786-1849
Fax: (907) 786-1845

For items on Paper, such as government documents, reports, photos, catalogs, newspapers

Alaska Historical Collections
Alaska State Library

PO Box 110571
Juneau, Alaska 99811-0571
Telephone: 907.465.2925
Fax: 907.465.2990

Books, newspapers, photos, oral history interview tapes, magazines, movie films

Alaska & Polar Regions Collection
Elmer E. Rasmuson Library

310 Tanana Loop
PO Box 756808
Fairbanks, Alaska USA 99775-6800
Phone: (907)474-7261

For Home Movies and Films

Alaska Moving Image Preservation Association
Consortium Library

3211 Providence Drive
Anchorage, AK 99508-4614
Phone: (907) 786-4980
Fax: (907) 786-4981
E-mail: Michele Miller, Executive Director,
Kevin Tripp, Archivist,

Out-of-state/Out-of-country Aleutian/Alaska Museums

Wings Museum
Aviation Museum, Surrey, England
Redhill Aerodrome
Kings Mill Lane
Redhill, Surrey RH15JY

If you have corrections/updates, please send to:

Online since 27 Aug 2008
Last updated: 04 Jan 2013 11:54