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Valdez Museum & Historical Archive

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Events Exhibits Newsletter Valdez Information Gold Rush Old Town Model Project Museum Store Links

Temporary Exhibits

Museum Historic Exhibits

The permanent exhibits on display reflect the history of Valdez and the Prince William Sound Region from its earliest days when  Native Americans first occupied the area to the present day.  Following, is a brief visual tour of our Museum.  We hope you enjoy it and look forward to seeing you in person when you visit Valdez!

From the gold rush of 1898 to the pipeline days of the 1970's you can re-live the past and experience the present of Valdez. Visit the Valdez Museum and learn about the history of this dynamic town. 

They came for gold
Thousands of would-be prospectors passed through Port Valdez during 1897-98 to use the All-American Route to the Klondike Gold Fields.  Hundreds of these transients in search of riches stayed here and formed a booming little town at the head of the bay.   Endure the difficulties of the trail and that first long winter through various quotes and photographs from those early days. 
cabin.gif (16802 bytes) Our miner's cabin is an approximate representation of what a typical prospector's cabin would have been like. The pot-bellied stove and bearskin coat are reminders of the harsh winters. You can feel the roughness of the hand-hewn benches and imagine what it would like to be a miner in Valdez's pioneer days. 
Click on the image to see a larger view.

Reflecting the economic importance of Valdez, the army established a fort here in 1900.  Among Fort Liscum's armaments was a Civil War era cannon which stood
guard over Valdez for years and now proudly protects our museum. 

A beacon from the past
The Cape Hinchinbrook Lighthouse lens served as a beacon to mark the entrance to Prince William Sound, and warn mariners of the dangerous shallows nearby.  Funds for construction of the site, 88 miles from Valdez, were appropriated in 1906 and the station was completed in 1910. In 1967, the
lens was replaced by a two headed aero beacon. 

This Fresnel (pronounced Fruhnel), named after the inventor, is made of brass with 68 glass prisms.  It weighs 1,600 pounds.  With a candle power of 234,000, the light could be seen for a distance of 22 miles. 

The light house from which this lens comes, serves as a model for the Valdez Museum logo, and reflects Valdez's history as a transportation center in Alaska.

Click on image to see a larger version.
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steamer.JPG (175724 bytes) A highlight of our museum has to be the fully restored 1907 Ahrens Steam Fire Engine.  The steamer was built in Cincinnati and served the city of Valdez until 1935.

Over thirty volunteers worked for two years to restore this engine to its original 1907 state.  Restoration work was complete in 1984.  The highly polished chrome and glittering gold leaf artwork is a sight to behold.

Click on the image to view a larger version.


Another one the museum's prize show pieces is the Pinzon bar.  The mahogany bar was made in Chicago in 1880 and came to Valdez by way of the horn.  More that a hundred years later people still enjoy leaning against the rail and sharing conversation over the bar.
Click on image to view a larger version.

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Disaster on Good Friday!

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On March 27, 1964, Valdez and much of Alaska experienced a devastating earthquake followed by several local giant waves.   32 Valdezans lost their lives when the Valdez city wharf crumbled into the turbulent waters.  See our dramatic photographs and learn how much damage a major earthquake can do in a small town.

For more information on this disaster and Old Town Valdez, please see our Old Town Model Project page.

Click on image to see a larger version.


A New Valdez

In the 1970's, the relocated town had a sudden influx of people when Valdez became the terminus for the Trans-Alaska pipeline.  Now dozens of tankers dock at the terminal each week to transport the oil to other cities.  Our dynamic display highlights the crucial areas of the terminal facilities and it contains the first barrel of oil to pass through the pipeline. 

Valdez gained notoriety when another disaster happened on a Good Friday, this time it was Good Friday, 1989.  Instead of a natural disaster, this was a man-made disaster when the Exxon Valdez went aground on Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound.  Life was again changed forever in Valdez, Prince William Sound, and around the world as a result of this oil spill.

This original quilt, by Cordova resident, Riki Ott, represents Prince William Sound as it was prior to the Exxon Valdez oil spill.  It is entitled "Slice of Life" and was purchased for the Valdez Museum by the Friends of the Valdez Museum.

Click on the image to view a larger version.

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Your trip to Alaska would be incomplete if you missed this wonderful museum. Fun and educational at the same time, you leave feeling as though you've experienced almost a hundred years of excitement in Valdez.  We're pretty good for a small town local history museum.  Come and visit and see for yourselves. 


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Valdez Museum & Historical Archive
217 Egan Drive
P. O. Box 8
Valdez, AK 99686-0008

(907) 835-2764    FAX (907) 835-5800

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Copyright © 1998 Valdez Museum & Historical Archives
Last modified: January 20,2000