The Kodiak Historical Society was formed on September 21, 1954, and incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization three years later. The vision of the Society at incorporation was to preserve and share the history of the Kodiak and Aleutian Islands region. Within three years, the Society opened a museum – the Kodiak Museum – in a downtown WWII Quonset hut. Over the years, scores of volunteers contributed their time and family treasures to the growing organization.
The 1964 earthquake and tsunami was a pivotal event in the development of the Historical Society. Many families lost their homes and businesses. Entire villages on Kodiak Island were relocated. In the wake of this devastating natural disaster, the value of preserving community history was recognized. In ever-increasing numbers, the people of Kodiak brought significant antiques, artwork and culturally meaningful artifacts to the Society, to be held in public trust.
In the rebuilding that followed the tsunami, many of Kodiak’s older buildings were demolished. When the old Russian American magazin in downtown Kodiak was threatened, the community rallied to protect this representative of their past. Centennial funds from the State of Alaska in 1967 enabled the Kodiak Historical Society to renovate the historic log structure. Support walls were removed and modern wall coverings were stripped away to reveal the original log structure and moss chinking. After much renovation and stabilization work, the collections of the Kodiak Historical Society were moved to their new home, and one of Alaska’s most unique museums opened its doors to the public.