Whether it’s with their money, family heirlooms or historical photographs, people have long entrusted Julie Varee with what is precious. Now, as the current community and outreach archivist at the Anchorage Museum, Alaska’s diverse communities are trusting her to tell their stories.
Julie’s Alaska adventure begins in 1988, when she and her first husband moved to Alaska from California via a military assignment. The first thing she noticed when she got off the ferry in Haines were the birds.
“There were eagles in the trees,” Julie said. “And I remember seeing an owl, I don’t think I had seen an owl in person before, and it was bigger than I thought. So I thought, ‘this is a wild place.’”
What she anticipated being a three-year stint turned into a lifelong adventure where she learned that Alaska wasn’t just a wild a place, but also a “place of possibilities.”
“If people had an idea, they just pursued it,” Julie said. “And if it didn’t work then they would try something else. I think people come together around ideas here and it’s really inspiring to see.”
Julie witnessed that collaborative spirit repeatedly, working with nonprofits and other businesses, serving on boards, and becoming a leader in Alaska’s philanthropic community. For over 30 years, Julie worked in development, building relationships with donors, helping them figure out how turn their money into long-lasting impact for their community. At the age of 60, Julie used that experience and those inspiring moments she’d witnessed for so long to transition into a new career herself.
As an archivist, she helps families and communities bring their stories into the Anchorage Museum’s collection so they too can have a long-lasting impact on their community. Her work has led to moving projects like the “Black Lives in Alaska” exhibition that displays a fuller story of Black peoples’ history and experience in Alaska. And, she said, there’s more work to be done.
“I’m excited about bringing more stories into an institution that is filled with stories but has room for more. There’s always room for more.”
Not only is Julie trusted, she also has a unique ability to transform them into something greater. Through her love of people, and her lived and professional experience, Julie is helping to ensure Alaska’s story is richer and more colorful than it has ever been before.