For TNL: Checking out furs, skulls and bones in the UAA library

Alaska, Print, Uncategorized

Originally published in The Northern Light

Tucked away in UAA’s own Consortium Library lives the Alaska Resources Library and Information Services, also known as ARLIS. A most peculiar collection, ARLIS allows the public to check out a large variety of Alaskan furs, skulls, bird mounts, fish mounts and hands-on educational kits. ARLIS is known as one of the only libraries who will check these items out to the general public.

“The entire collection is “unusual” in there are few if any libraries that check-out these types of taxidermy items,” Celia Rozen, an Alaska Department of Fish and Game Librarian and ARLIS manager, said.

Formed in 1997, ARLIS is a multi-agency library that is located on the UAA campus in the Consortium Library Building. Funded by state and federal agencies, ARLIS serves the public. The collection comes mainly from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, with some furs coming from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A resource on campus many students don’t know about, ARLIS is not only available to students, but also to the public.

“I’ve never heard of it, which is kind of unfortunate considering that sounds like an interesting resource. I can see it being very useful to nursing students like myself considering, in my experience at least, hands on studying with bones and whatnot makes a world of difference when studying,” Rachel Rotola, a nursing student, said.

The taxidermy and educational kits are used by educators, students, camp counselors, artists and other agencies. Some pieces are more popular, Rozen explains.

“The snowy owl is probably the most popular, especially for Harry Potter-type events. Cub Scouts who are moving up into “wolf” or “bear” borrow the furs for their initiation ceremonies. Artists use the skulls for their creations, and a UAA art class has a project annually that involves checking out skulls and creating a life-like pencil drawing. The items are constantly in use,” Rozen said. “The collection is very popular and is constantly used during the school year to support Alaska curriculum for all grade levels, preschool to high school.”

UAA art professor Garry Mealor, who learned about ARLIS from a fellow art professor, makes use of the resources offered in ARLIS for his own art and for his classes art.

“My Advanced Drawing class is currently working on a project involving skulls from ARLIS. ARLIS arranged over 20 skulls on their counter for students to pick from and supplied a list of additional skulls that they would retrieve if asked. These are real skulls, not imitation,” Mealor said. “The ARLIS collection is a resource that anyone interested in Alaskan wildlife would appreciate. For artists, the collection of bird mounts, skulls… are much preferred over working from a photo or other 2-D references. My painting in the faculty show would not have been possible without the ARLIS collection.”

The resources at ARLIS are available for anyone with a library card, and upon checking out, a contract indicating proper care will be taken is required. Items can be checked out for two weeks at a time, with an opportunity to renew for another two weeks. For an entire list of furs, skulls, and mounts visit

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