Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center

With its clear signage and prominent location at the edge of downtown,
Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center can't be missed.
A beautiful display of indigenous clothing
and other items.
The Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center is a free attraction not far from downtown Fairbanks. The center is open to the public between 8am and 9pm daily, which allows visitors to choose a flexible time to stop by. 

While most tourist centers mainly offer brochures and a couple of staff members you can quiz for advice regarding your trip, the Morris Thompson Center virtually doubles as a free museum. It's easy to spend an hour or more there exploring the exhibits, taking in all the artifacts on display, and simply learning about life in the Last Frontier. Many of the stories shared within the exhibits are centered on the people—both relatively famous and virtually unknown—who have helped carve Fairbanks and more generally Alaska into what it is today.

The Visitors Center includes a gorgeous garden.
One of those people is the late Alaska Native leader Morris Thompson for whom the center is named. Thompson, who had a White father and Native mother, became an assistant for the Bureau of Indian Affairs in the early 70s, and later became the youngest Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. He also served on the University of Alaska Board of Regents. Tragically, Thompson died in the Alaska Airlines Flight 261 crash with his wife and one of his three daughters in 2000. The Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center was completed and dedicated to him in 2008.

A mockup of a typical Alaska cabin, open for visitors to walk through.
The cabin's interior.
A basic cooking range.
One central highlight of the center are the interactive exhibits. Visitors can walk through a model of an Alaskan-style cabin, which includes the bare-minimum essentials needed to survive a tough, cold winter. It's quite a realistic display!

Guns, sewing equipment, and other tools used in daily life.
I also throughly enjoyed the thematic display cases of items used by Native Alaskans. As someone who loves to create, I was drawn to the traditional clothes and sewing equipment. 

Naturally, I think it's the tactile aspects of a culture that allows outsiders to understand the traditions of a people. Seeing how a group of people sustain their lives and adapt to their environment is special. 

Fishing tools and more items used in daily life.
The outdoor cabin adjacent to the center.
An arch of
reindeer horns.
Beautiful mosaic work outside the entrance.
The center's outdoors are also worth noting. There is an extensive garden toward the rear of the building with ample seating; a great place for an outdoor lunch on a nice day. 

Additionally, there is more artwork to view in the form of ceramic tiling in the cement and a prominent reindeer antler arch. Furthermore, there is a second Alaskan cabin outside. In fact, the outdoor cabin was owned by a prominent Alaskan couple, uprooted from its original property, and rebuilt as it previously existed right on the center's compound!

I believe Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center is clearly a top destination if you're visiting Fairbanks. The experience is not only free of charge, but you will walk away with a wealth of knowledge—priceless!

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