Saturday, December 19, was a big day in Kotzebue, Alaska. The National Park Service and the NANA Regional Corporation hosted a community opening of the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, Alaska. The opening included songs, Eskimo dances, and the opportunity for people of the region to tour the facility. Community members were excited to view the exhibit highlighting the Inupiaq culture, and they enjoyed watching a film made in the local village of Noorvik. Many of the 203 visitors also took time during the event to peruse the new bookstore and purchase many of the items supplied by Alaska Geographic. Visitor comments were very positive; many people were surprised and happy to hear that they could view the exhibit any time for free. Teachers are already turning in requests to bring their students on field trips.
First envisioned in 2000, the single-story structure is approximately 12,350 square feet. Space includes 8,450 sq. ft. for visitor services and 3,900 sq. ft. for NPS operations. It offers people of the region and visitors from around the world a high-quality interpretive experience of the natural and cultural history of the region, a variety of educational programs, and personal administrative services. The 90-person multipurpose room is being used for programs ranging from Junior Rangers, to research presentations, to native dances. The Heritage Center was designed by RIM Architects and constructed by Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation (UIC Construction). The exhibits were designed by AldrichPears Associates and produced and installed by Formations, Incorporated.
The NPS and NANA are currently planning a larger "grand opening" for June 2010.