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‘Into the Wild’ bus will likely end up at the UA Museum of the North

Bus 142 was lifted from Stampede Trail in June of 2020.
Bus 142 was lifted from Stampede Trail in June of 2020.(Alaska Department of Natural Resources)
Published: Jul. 30, 2020 at 2:57 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - A bus removed from Stampede Trail by the state of Alaska in June may have a new home at the University of Alaska’s Museum of the North.

The bus is famous for its portrayal in Jon Krakauer’s novel “Into the Wild” as the setting where 24-year-old Chris McCandless died. The bus has captured the interest of many tourists and several died or were injured while trying to reach the bus.

The state had initially placed the bus in storage but released plans to negotiate placing Bus 142 with the UA Museum of the North on Thursday.

“Of the many expressions of interest in the bus, the proposal from the UA Museum of the North best met the conditions we at DNR had established to ensure this historical and cultural object will be preserved in a safe location where the public could experience it fully, yet safely and respectfully, and without the specter of profiteering,” Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said in a prepared statement.

The bus had initially been removed from its site near Healy because the DNR hoped to “reduce the risk of future tragedies.”

As recently as last summer, a woman from Belarus died on her way to the bus after she was swept away in a river. In 2010, another traveler died on their way to see the bus.

The bus was carried by an Alaska Army National Guard helicopter to an undisclosed location, and this is the first time DNR has released information about where the bus may end up.

The department said it has received dozens of proposals for the bus from various institutions and museums throughout Alaska and the United States but has ultimately decided to carry forward with a proposal from the UA Museum of the North.

The Director of the UA Museum of the North, Patrick Druckenmiller, sent a letter to DNR July 17 saying the organization would be the “appropriate repository for the bus.”

“As a unit of the University of Alaska, our museum supports the rights of free speech and academic freedom,” Druckenmiller wrote in the letter to DNR. “This is particularly relevant given the often strong and diverging reactions that the story of Bus 142 and Christopher McCandless represent to Alaskans.”

The decision was made with the expectation that any exhibition of the bus would enhance public safety, respect those who lost family in connection to the bus and reduce the financial burden on the state.

The proposal said the museum is considering placing the bus in a wooded area north of the building and posting interpretive signs for visitors to understand the history of the bus. This proposal means the bus would be publicly accessible and at no cost to visitors.

“I believe that giving Bus 142 a long-term home in Fairbanks at the UA Museum of the North can help preserve and tell the stories of all these people,” Feige said. “It can honor all of the lives and dreams, as well as the deaths and sorrows associated with the bus, and do so with respect and dignity.”

While the agreement is not finalized, Feige said the UA Museum of the North was an ideal candidate to hold the bus as it has experts that could restore and curate a display around the bus and would allow the department to continue owning the bus. This means DNR could also lend the bus out to be displayed in other locations.

Going forward, the two organizations will develop a memorandum on the expectations for the proposal. DNR expects a final agreement will be signed within the next several months.

The UA Museum of the North is located in Fairbanks as a research and teaching museum with 2.5 million artifacts and specimens in its collection, according to their website.

Copyright 2020 KTUU. All rights reserved.

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