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June 7, 2016

SLAM is Juneau's biggest project in 43 years: library, archives, museum

Photos from PCL Construction Services [enlarge]
Opening ceremonies drew a crowd to SLAM on Monday.

One exhibit is a newly fabricated version of a popular piece from the old museum: a tree with eagles in it.

Opening ceremonies were held Monday in Juneau for the $138 million State Library, Archives and Museum — or SLAM.

SLAM is actually named the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives and Museum Building, and it combines the three functions of the state Department of Education — a library, archives and museum — into one 118,000-square-foot building.

They were previously in five separate spaces.

There's a big Northwest connection to this project: the Seattle office of PCL Construction Services is in charge of construction, Portland-based THA Architecture assisted with design, and the Center for Wooden Boats in Seattle shipped SLAM a Bristol Bay “double-ender” fishing boat for display.

ECI/Hyer of Anchorage was the main architect, Schneider Engineering was structural designer, and AMC Engineers was in charge of mechanical and electrical design.

SLAM was years in the making and is one of the last major buildings to be constructed by the state before the oil crash plunged Alaska into a deep deficit.

PCL said in a press release that this is Juneau's largest project in 43 years and is built to last 100 years.

The sleek, bright and airy building is on the site of the old museum downtown. Father Kashevaroff was the first curator in 1920 of Alaska's Territorial Library and Museum.

Besides the exhibit space, SLAM has some 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 can observe work going on in the paper and object conservation lab. There also is a cafe and bookstore, which will open later. Popular holdovers from the old museum include a newly fabricated version of an exhibit showing eagles in a tree.

On the second floor, above the exhibits, is perhaps the most dramatic space: the Richard Foster Reading Room. Former State Rep. Foster was from Nome and a frequent visitor to the state library and archives. The reading room has a soaring wood ceiling and expansive windows overlooking the town and its scenic setting.

A multipurpose space in SLAM is large enough to accommodate 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 extended sessions coincided with Capitol renovations. Lawmakers in special session now are renting office and meeting space in Juneau, and using legislative buildings for some floor sessions.

More than 32,000 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. Costs are below that, though final figures are not in yet.

A PCL manager said the project was under budget and on time.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this article.

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