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The 'Vault': Loussac Library's Eclectic Alaska Collection

Published On: Oct 24 2013 05:47:00 PM AKDT

Tucked away inside the Loussac Library in Anchorage is a little-known collection called the Vault, where hundreds of donated historical items are stored.

There is a mix of rare and ordinary moments from Alaska's past.

According to Doug McAllister, who manages the library's Alaska Collection, the Vault came into being after the library set out on a mission to archive Anchorage's history.

But the donations grew to include more than historical books and documents. Residents started dropping off unique items and heirlooms.

Today the cluttered collection includes notorious conman Soapy Smith's pocket watch, the journals of Captain Cook and other explorers and rare maps and prints.

"Pretty quickly, as time went on, we didn't have the resources to maintain that," McAllister said. "It's very expensive to properly care for a lot of these items and to organize them."

Some items were dropped off at the library with detailed provenance or a chronology of ownership. Many of the pieces came with no explanation at all.

There is plenty of the mundane: daily newspapers and volumes of books with a log of minutes from city meetings before Anchorage became a municipality.

The library is in the process of trying to find permanent homes for some of the most intriguing items.

"Hopefully we will keep working away at this and probably in the next five years have the vault organized and cleaned up and going in a direction," McAllister said.

The Vault is not open to library visitors, but if someone has a specific request, the library will make an item available to the public.