The Nolan Center's new director, Jeannie Arnold, talked about her visions for the convention center and museum on Wed., Dec. 13, 2023. (Photo by Colette Czarnecki/KSTK)

The Nolan Center in Wrangell recently hired Jeannie Arnold as its new director. The center is used for many community purposes – the Wrangell Museum, movie theater, community plays, visitor’s center, classrooms and the gift shop.

The James and Elsie Nolan Center’s blue and dark red colored building sits just beside the ocean in the outskirts of downtown Wrangell. 

Inside, Arnold walks me through the center’s museum and talks about how she sees the center evolving.

“A big focus of the museum is on the native Alaskan history,” Arnold said. ” You know, we’ve got a beautiful showcase of artifacts.”

 Arnold has a vision of what she wants to see as the Center approaches its 20th year. 

“I think one of the things that I’m interested in is bringing the school age students down here more often,” she said. “Right now we kind of have a standing agreement with the third grade class that they get to come down here with their grandparents on Grandparents Day.”

We then move into the visitor’s center area of the building. She says during the summer months, when tourism is high, the U.S. Forest Service sets up here.

It’s similar to many visitors centers, mostly informational and people can sit and watch a video about the area.

The seats here, though, came out of Wrangell’s historical movie theater that was once downtown. 

Then….we walk into the gift shop filled with Alaskan-made goods and books.

“It was told to me by the previous director that we have the largest kids selection of Alaskan literature in all of town, which is definitely something to be proud of,” Arnold said.

Previously Arnold worked in the behavioral health field, and in the tourism industry. 

“I worked for Princess tours for several years in their passenger service department,” she said. “I’m going to definitely be drawing on some of that experience when I’m kind of switching gears to our tourist season and kind of catering to that clientele.”

After the tour, we settle inside Arnold’s office to chat more. She says the center is a great environment to work in.

“It really is just a beautiful facility to showcase different aspects of Wrangell history and current projects,” she said. “We’re able to have traveling exhibits come through which is really amazing. We’re able to kind of change with the seasons and with the interest I think of what our community wants to see, with a mind also to developing tourist attraction. Hopefully that will continue to grow as well and just to really be able to showcase what Wrangell is all about.”

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Can you talk about your job as the Nolan center director?

So my job is to oversee all of the activities that take place in the Nolan Center. On the day to day, I help with planning events, managing personnel, managing the museum and the collection of items that are housed here. I correspond with different stakeholders throughout the city to make sure that we are complying with different regulations. 

And with the day to day the things ,you know, we were taking down the risers in the civic center today and I was stacking chairs. We have a pretty small staff so I kind of need to be able to do a little bit of everything. 

How were you inspired to take on this role?

You know, I think the the focus of community and kind of giving back has been something that has come more into importance in my life in the last few years. And Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) has been a wonderful company to work for. But I really feel like I’ll be able to provide direct contributions to the city in ways that the city has really given to me and has enriched my life. So that kind of was the backbone of what inspired me to get interested in this position.

You mentioned you worked for SEARHC, what did you do there?

I was within SEARHC Behavioral Health and specifically working in their residential Youth Services departments. I had worked previously with the Alaska Crossings Program and after that closed down, I worked with the Sitka Raven’s Way program. Most currently I had been working with a Juneau program to help develop a program for Alaskan youth.

What are some future plans that you see happening? 

I would love to bring in some more events that get people excited about learning about the historics of the Wrangell and Alaskan past, and also just some current, fun cultural type activities that have happened here in the past.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I am really excited to step into this role. I feel like it’s a privilege and an honor that this community has really been encouraging me with kind words since I accepted the position. I’m really going to just try to uphold a high standard for this place and I see a great future with a lot of different opportunities coming our way for the Nolan Center and for the community of Wrangell.