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Rural Alaska

Dunleavy administration considers selling historic Alaska museum to save money

The Sheldon Jackson campus is pictured Sunday, Dec 13, 2015. (Photo by James Poulson, Sitka Sentinel)

SITKA — A historic Alaska museum and library may be sold at the direction of Gov. Mike Dunleavy, according to a state official.

The Sheldon Jackson Museum and adjacent Stratton Library building in Sitka, southwest of Juneau, are under consideration for sale or transfer, The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported .

Patience Frederiksen, Alaska's director of libraries, archives and museums, informed a legislative subcommittee about the Republican governor's plans last Friday.

The museum founded in 1897 by Presbyterian missionary Sheldon Jackson is Alaska's oldest concrete structure. Sheldon Jackson College sold the building and its renowned ethnographic collection to the state in 1983.

"The idea is that the building and its collection will be sold, and we will remove any state property but that the collection would remain with the museum and we would try to find someone in Sitka who would purchase the facility and hopefully with the end of operating it," Frederiksen said.

She said admission fees only cover operations and maintenance, not payroll and benefits for the facility's two full-time and two part-time employees.

Museum advocates oppose the sale and said its artifacts help educate the state’s school children and an international audience about Alaska’s Native people.

State Sen. Bert Stedman of Sitka, a Republican, said there is "no way" the state is going to sell the museum and its holdings due to temporary budget difficulties.

“The historical significance of the SJ Museum is extremely high,” Stedman said. “It’s on the National Historic Register and has a collection that surpasses anything in the state or at the Smithsonian Institution.”

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