FAIRBANKS – Some of the first settlers to make their way to Fairbanks came for the promise that there was gold in the hills of the Tanana Valley. More than 100 years later, the industry is a vital economic resource and plenty of tourists still come to Alaska to discover its gold rush history.
That’s why the University of Alaska Museum of the North is exploring gold this month. Museum Educator Emily Koehler-Platten said visitors should know that gold is more than just a shiny metal. Not only has its beauty and rarity made it important to people, but it has also affected our history and culture.
“I hope museum visitors gain a deeper understanding of gold,” she said. “It is a cultural force that has deeply affected life in Alaska, and continues to impact us today. The modern history of Alaska would have been different if gold fever had not caused thousands of people to come north.”
With all the people flooding into Alaska, new cities popped up and there was increased mixing of cultures as people from all over the world interacted in the traditional lands of the Athabascan peoples. The environment was impacted by people cutting down trees, extracting ore and mining in streams.
Alaska is known for several gold rushes, a rapid movement of people to a newly discovered goldfield. These have occurred in Juneau, Nome, Fairbanks, Eagle, Ruby, the Kenai Peninsula and even Kantishna, which is now located inside Denali National Park and Preserve.