Dear Museum Members and Friends –
I wanted to take this opportunity to give you an update from the museum.
It has been a very eventful past year for the Pioneer Air Museum despite remaining closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The museum board kept setting tentative dates for reopening the museum based on our belief that we would soon be turning the corner on the pandemic and that things would begin returning to normal. A year ago it seemed as if we could still open on our traditional Memorial Day opening date by following social distancing rules, mask wearing, and proper sanitation procedures. The closer we got to Memorial Day the less likely it seemed we could reopen. We set several other reopening dates for later in the year but it finally became obvious that it just wasn’t going to happen. It looks like summer 2021 will not yet present a return to “normal” but we are planning to welcome visitors on a limited basis while we work to improve the museum.
The board has been meeting monthly via Zoom and museum members are always welcome to join us. If you would like to attend these meetings just email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to request a link to the meeting. The next regular board meeting will be held at 6:30 pm March 16, 2021. Please contact us for the meeting link.
This past December Pete Haggland resigned as museum curator. The board took up the duties of the curator on a volunteer basis until we were recently able to hire a part-time Operations Manager, Don Kiely, to help out with day to day affairs of the museum.
Gold Dome Updates:
As many of you know Fairbanks experienced a very wet summer in 2020. One result of the rain was to make it abundantly clear that the museum needed to find a new home. There are numerous leaks in the old Gold Dome roof so we ended up with half a dozen blue tarps spread over various exhibits to protect them from water and channel the water into buckets and trash cans for removal from the building on a daily basis.
Under our old lease agreement with the Fairbanks North Star Borough they paid for maintenance, but under a new lease proposed, the museum would be responsible for it. The borough tried once to fix all the leaks in the dome without success. We have little hope of succeeding where they failed. We are arranging a short-term lease while we begin the process of looking for a new home to better protect and display the collection. We have already identified some promising leads.
It rapidly became apparent that a necessary first step in the process would be to focus and hone the collection so that it conformed to the Pioneer Air Museum’s mission statement which is: “…to collect, protect, and preserve for educational purposes objects that reflect the history of interior and arctic Alaskan aviation through acquiring, restoring, interpreting, and displaying historically significant objects.” Many items currently housed in the museum do not meet the criteria put forth in the mission statement. We have begun the process of deaccessioning about half a dozen homebuilt aircraft along with other items which don’t meet the criteria as set forth by the mission statement. In the April election, museum members will have the opportunity to weigh in on deaccessioning, as our by-laws require approval of two thirds of museum members to dispose of, sell, or liquidate museum assets.
About a year and a half ago the museum hired a collections manager to continue with our cataloging efforts and to manage our inventory. Our collections manager, Rita Butteri, has recently formed a Collections Committee whose job is to advise and make recommendations on specific items in the collection among other duties. Since the committee is not fully formed and functional yet the nuts and bolts details have not been worked out. Suffice it to say any museum members interested in serving on such a committee would be most welcome.
If you are interested in joining the collections committee or volunteering at the museum, contact Rita at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summer 2021 Plans:
Given the ongoing pandemic uncertainty and consequent anticipated low number of visitors to Alaska, we are modifying our hours and plans for the summer season as well. Our plans for the museum this summer involve moving some of the aircraft around in preparation for the deaccessioning discussed above. As those efforts are not conducive to receiving visitors safely, we are modifying our opening plans in order to serve our public and our mission safely. We plan to open by appointment during Summer 2021. If you are interested in setting up a time to stop by, please call (907) 451-0037 to schedule.
Thank you for your support,
Eric Johansen, Board President
IAAAF/Pioneer Air Museum