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Museums - Tongass Historical Museum Exhibits

Current Exhibits


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Ketchikan is...
Tongass Historical Museum Permanent Exhibit

Long before there was a town here, the Tlingit people maintained a fish camp at the mouth of the stream we call Ketchikan Creek. They came every year in late summer to harvest the abundant run of pink salmon.

In 1887, businessmen from Portland, Oregon established the Tongass Packing Company and built a small cannery here. In the middile of its third season, the cannery was destroyed by fire. Michael Martin and George Clark purchased the land and built a salmon saltery where the cannery had been. Eventually, they opened a general store nearby. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ketchikan has been a mining center, fishing port, cannery town, transportation hub, timber town, regional center of government and commerce and tourist destination. It has been called a variety of names, from "The Salmon Capital of the World" to the "Wickedest City in Alaska."  Through it all, our town has been friendly, resilient, independent, resourceful and proudly Alaskan.

2019-20 Special Exhibit  

March 1, 2019 - January 25, 2020

Solving Problems, Telling Stories: Handcraft in a Harsh Environment

As Ketchikan Museums continues exploring our community’s unique identity through conversations within the community and delving into the accounts and images that carry our history, one symbol keeps emerging: hands. The logger’s wooden handshake, the nurse’s healing touch, the salt-cured scars of the fisherman, the baker kneading elastic dough, the dexterity of an elder sewing beads—These are able, active, working hands, and they created our town.

Our ability to make is at the foundation of our history and culture. This special exhibit explores how vital our hands are to our identity, how important they are in transforming our environment and building our town, and how they keep our community alive today. 


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Be part of the upcoming Tongass Historical Museum exhibit!

Help the museum capture a glimpse of how things are made in our community—just film with your cell phone and email us your video!

Email video and completed release form to

(Photo above: Boat builder Carl Holmberg adjusts clamps as he planks a new skiff in his Nadeau Street shop. Ketchikan Photographer Paul Saari caught this view of the noted Ketchikan craftsman in the late 1950s. Saari remembers that Holmberg had begun to build a 16-foot version of his sturdy, transom-sterned skiffs at about the time of the photo. Holmberg boats were suitable for moderate outboard power or "Norwegian Steam"- oars. KM 2003.2.63.1423)


Virtual Exhibits
Ketchikan Museum is working to increase the public's access to our collections. We are working to digitize our vast photography collection as well as provide high-quality photos of other artifacts for public viewing.  Check out what's currently available online here! -


Past Exhibits
View Past Exhibits here. (Currently under construction)