LOOKING AT PATHWAYS – Pacific High School freshman Virginia Lestenkoff, right, wears a police utility belt as she talks with Alaska Public Safety Academy Corporal Jonnathon Stroebele during the Pathways to Success Career Fair at the Sitka Cloud Teen Center Monday. Dozens of students attended the fair which was held as part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Day observation in Sitka. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Sitka Museum Gets $250,000 from Rasmuson


Sentinel Staff Writer

The Sitka History Museum has something to be thankful for this year, after it received a big grant award from the Rasmuson Foundation Thursday. 

Museum Executive Director Hal Spackman said the $250,000 award will go toward outfitting the new museum space in the renovated Centennial Hall.

“With this gift from Rasmuson we now know we’ll be able to construct the exhibits,” he said. “It was a great relief.”


Sitka Historical Society board members and staff of the Sitka History Museum meet in the new gallery space at Harrigan Centennial Hall this afternoon. The museum was recently notified that it received a $250,000 Rasmuson grant to help create exhibits. Pictured are, from left, Pat Alexander, Ernestine Massey, Sabra Jenkins, John Stein, Kathy Hope Erickson, Hal Spackman, Kristy Griffin and Barbara DeLong. (Sentinel Photo)

Centennial Hall was rebuilt with a wing for the museum, but the Sitka Historical Society was given the responsibility of furnishing it.

The contents of the museum as existed before the Centennial Hall renovation began are being held in storage. The new museum space remains empty as plans proceed for gallery exhibits on Tlingit, Russian and more recent eras of Sitka history. The new museum will also have storage for objects, office space and a research room. 

The project’s price tag is $680,000, Spackman said. 

“That’s a lot of money to raise,” he said. 

With the addition of the Rasmuson grant to the funds previously raised, the museum is roughly $100,000 short of its goal, Spackman said.

“We’re almost there,” he said. “Their donation is very generous.”

Roy Agloinga, Rasmuson program officer, said the museum received the award because it met two criteria: the project is ready to build and it’s going to provide a large benefit to the community and state. The foundation thinks the museum’s plan to build artifact storage space along with its galleries is a good idea, he said. 

“The ability to put the collection storage in a space that is safe is important for the historical society and objects,” he said. 

“We’re excited that we can make a difference,” said Rasmuson Communications Manager Courtney Brooke Smith.

Spackman said the grant award “is validation of the community support.”

The museum plans to make up the remaining funds with other grant awards and fundraisers. One upcoming benefit is a big New Year’s eve party the museum will co-host with the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

“We’re going to continue to have our fundraisers that we’ve done and promote history,” Spackman said. 

“History can be fun, it can be exciting,” he said. “This town has a story to tell and we’re glad to tell it.”


The museum is slated to open next summer, just in time for the sesquicentennial celebration – the 150th anniversary of the transfer of Russian Alaska claims to the United States.

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