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Historic Interior Alaskan bus available to view at Fairbanks Engineering Facility

Published: Oct. 8, 2021 at 5:02 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A world-famous bus that has stirred much controversy across Alaska is now visible at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) while it is being preserved for display at the Museum of the North.

Angela Linn, Senior Collections Manager of Ethnology and History at the museum said, “A lot of people who have this connection with the bus... it’s a very personal, some might say a spiritual connection.”

The bus, long abandoned on the Stampede Trail near Healy, was moved to the university’s Engineering Facility on Wednesday, October 6th.

The bus gained worldwide notoriety after the summer of 1992, when Chris McCandless used the bus for shelter before dying in the Alaska wilderness. These events were immortalized in the book “Into the Wild” by Jon Krakauer.

“It’s okay that people have this huge range of feeling about the bus,” Linn said. “That means they’re thinking about it. They have opinions about it, and that means they’re engaged with history, which is a really important thing for those of us who are in the business of preserving history.”

She said the bus’s current location is “heated, it’s environmental controls, it’s a secure space, and most importantly it’s got this observation space up above.”

From 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, students and members of the community can come take a look for free.

Preparing the bus for outdoor exhibition at the museum is an extensive process, according to Linn. “One of the very first things we’re going to do is to document, really systematically, all the graffiti that you can see on the inside and the outside of the bus. This is a really important part of the last 30 years of the bus.”

The bus must also be closed up. “Holes were cut in the roof and the floor of the bus in order for it to be helicoptered out of the Stampede Trail.”

Linn also pointed out that the vehicle is riddled with bullet holes, and “some of them are kind of dangerous. The shots that come from inside leave these jagged holes, so we don’t want anybody to be injured when this does eventually go on exhibit.”

While McCandless’ story has inspired a generation of travelers, many find the popularity of his story misguided. Linn said, “That’s one of the things that we want to explain to people and show people, that there is a lot more to the history of the bus and the story of the bus than just those 114 days that McCandless is associated with it.”

The bus will remain in the Engineering Facility at least through the end of the academic year.

The conservation effort, according to Linn, is being crowd funded. More information can be found here.

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