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The museum's mission is to acquire, conserve, investigate, and interpret specimens and collections relating to the natural, artistic, and cultural heritage of Alaska and the Circumpolar North. Through education, research, and public exhibits, the museum serves the state, national, and international science programs. The museum develops and uses botanical, geological, zoological, and cultural collections; these collections form the basis for understanding past and present issues unique to the North and meeting the challenges of the future.

The museum's collections and exhibits include:

Alaska Center for Documentary Film
Alaska Frozen Tissue Collection
Arctic Archival Observatory
Archeology Collections
Earth Sciences Collection
Entomology Collection
Ethnology Collection
History Collection
Fine Arts Collection
Fish, Amphibian, and Reptile Collections
Mammal Collection
Marine Invertebrates Collection
Bird Collection
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