The fine art collection consists of approximately 1,800 paintings, drawings, prints, photographs, and sculptures. Much of the collection keeps pace with the development of contemporary art in the state since the 1970's. The museum also houses extensive historical and ethnographic materials purveying the state's history of Native American, Russian, and American culture.
The museum's historical collection of 1,700 objects includes both the Russian colonial era and the American period (1867 to present). Alaska Native material dominates the collection and includes objects from Alaskan Eskimo, Athabascan, Aleut, and Northwest Coast groups.
The fine art collection includes a watercolor by William Ellis made during Captain Cook’s exploration of Alaska in 1778 which represents the earliest original image of Alaska in any collection in the state. Early engravings illustrate the exploration of Alaska. Rare watercolors from the Russian period depict Sitka, the former capital of Russian Alaska. The collection also includes works by Sydney Laurence and Eustace Ziegler, the most famous of Alaska’s landscapists. Rockwell Kent and Ilya Bolotowsky are among the nationally known artists in the collection who visited Alaska.
The museum often purchases work from in-house exhibits by Alaska artists.