- Associated Press - Monday, May 30, 2016

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - A new state museum, library and archives building is opening in Juneau, a project years in the making and one of the last major buildings to be constructed by the state before the oil crash plunged Alaska into a deep deficit.

The sleek, bright and airy facility is located at the site of the old museum downtown. It is named for the late Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff, who became the first curator of the Alaska Territorial Library and Museum in 1920, according to state Sen. Dennis Egan, who sponsored the law naming the building.

Besides exhibit space, which is being kept under wraps until the June 6 opening, the facility boasts playful touches, such as a massive map of Alaska, Canada and Russia on the entrance floor, sprawling murals and a display case for community art.

Visitors will be able to observe through glass the work happening in a paper and object conservation lab. There also is a cafe and bookstore, though the latter isn’t expected to be open right away. Popular holdovers from the old museum include a newly fabricated version of an installation showing eagles in a tree.

The building has a multipurpose space ample enough that it could host a joint session of the Alaska Legislature, said Linda Thibodeau, director of the state division of libraries, archives and museums.

Legislative meeting space was an issue this year and last because of extended sessions that coincided with Capitol renovations. Lawmakers in special session now are renting office and committee space in Juneau and using legislative buildings for some meetings and floor sessions.

During a tour of the facility Friday, boxes were stacked in a corner of the space designated for the library and archives as staff moved in.

Previously, the museum, library and archives were not under one roof, and each had its issues - structural concerns, cramped quarters, seeping water and problems with pipes that caused some close calls.

“That’s Alaska’s history,” Thibodeau said. “And it’s really something we can’t lose.”

More than 32,000 museum artifacts and 60,000 books were relocated by staff as part of the move, according to Bob Banghart, the division’s deputy director.

He said $139.5 million was budgeted for the new building, and costs are below that, though final figures are not in yet.

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