New Exhibit Brings 1964 Tsunami to Life



Visitors to the Baranov Museum admire the new educational display depicting the 1964 earthquake and tsunami. Brianna Gibbs photo

Brianna Gibbs/KMXT

It is a busy time of year for the Baranov Museum. Despite all of the renovations, the museum still found time to open a new exhibit last week. KMXT’s Brianna Gibbs tells us more about the new display.

Visitors can expect a new kind of exhibit at the Baranov Museum this summer. The channel-facing wall on the newly renovated sun porch is now home to a multimedia kiosk that was installed last week. The display is a tribute to the Great Alaska Good Friday tsunami of 1964. Using photographs, scientific data, historic news broadcasts and most importantly, personal stories from local residents, the display aims to educate visitors about the effects the tsunami had on the Kodiak Archipelago.

In the center of picture vignettes is a touchscreen. With the simple press of a button, Kodiak resident and tsunami survivor Gene Anderson comes into focus on the display.

(Tsunami 1: :32 sec "Somber music…Everything shook, falling.")

Anderson is one of many local residents who shared their personal stories from that Friday in 1964. For most, the stories involve conjuring memories from their youth and reliving an experience that few could imagine.

The interviews were conducted two years ago as part of a larger project conceived and designed by members of the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo, Hawaii.

(Tsunami 2: :20 sec "Two years ago… was truly a devastating event.")

That’s Doctor Walter Dudley, who founded the Pacific Tsunami Museum with 1946 Hilo tsunami survivor Jeanne (Jean-ee) Johnston. The pair has been travelling the world for the past two decades gathering stories from tsunami survivors across the globe.

(Tsunami 3: :28 sec "We collected interviews …America Samoa.")

Johnston, a tsunami survivor herself, said the idea for the project, and the museum in Hilo, came when she was visited by someone who had been with her during the 1946 tsunami that hit Hilo when she was six.

(Tsunami 4: :34sec "Sometime after high school…laughs.")

To date, Johnston and Dudley have collected more than 400 interviews with tsunami survivors around the globe, 50 of those interviews come from places in Alaska. Both emphasize the cultural, historical and scientific importance of collecting these personal stories.

The display at the Baranov Museum is one of three kiosks recently installed around the state. The other two are in Valdez and Seward, both also devastated in 1964. Johnston and Dudley worked with Brent Nichols from the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Cindi Preller, a geologist and educational outreach coordinator for the West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center, to put the Baranov Museum display together.

Preller said Kodiak is an excellent example for Alaska when it comes to tsunami preparedness.

(Tsunami 5: :24 sec "One thing about Kodiak…have fun at the schools.")

All hope the kiosk will serve as an educational tool for the community and encourage other ’64 survivors to come out and share their stories. Johnston said she believes the interactive display is one of the best ways to educate the public.

(Tsunami 6: :37 sec "It really works…go home and educate their parents.")

The Great Alaska Good Friday tsunami of 1964 exhibit is now a permanent display at the Baranov Museum.

The exhibit has good timing. Kodiak was put on a tsunami watch last Thursday when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake shook the Aleutian Chain.

I’m Brianna Gibbs


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