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Mysteries at the museum

ALASKA — A secret agent. A mission. A map containing cryptic codes that unlock clues about Alaska’s history. These are all part of the new electronic scavenger hunt available at the Alaska State Museum starting April 6, thanks to a new partnership with the USDA Forest Service. The game, Mission 49: Journey to Alaska’s Past, is an app from Agents of Discovery. Solving puzzles on a mobile device engages kids in learning about history, preservation and important concepts like culture and sustainability. The app connects kids to historic public treasures influential in our state’s history and makes learning fun! Linking technology with place-based education is key to building awareness of public lands, culture and heritage, and helps the Forest Service and its partners stay relevant with younger generations. STEM-based (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) educational topics guide youth through the scavenger hunt. Agents of Discovery is free to download from Apple’s App Store and Google Play, and there are no in-app purchases or advertisements.

Each location is known as a mission site and has challenge questions that are unlocked and revealed through geospatial connectivity, where kids actively move to learn. Each mission site has a special kid-friendly “secret agent” animal to help guide users through the challenges.

The app launched last Friday during Juneau’s monthly “First Friday” art walk. The launch doubled the museum’s typical turnout for these events.

The museum's mission site is based on the 49 Sites in the 49th State, a Forest Service project that celebrates the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act by highlighting 49 historic properties in Alaska that have been preserved for future generations. Select artifacts and exhibits throughout the galleries bring attention to the diversity of history and culture across the state, as well as the importance of preserving the past and learning from history.

The mission is unique, as it is the first indoor mission site in the nation. Gamers hunt for QR codes installed throughout the galleries and scan them to open challenges. The “secret agent” for this mission site is Agent NFS, a northern flying squirrel that wears Xtra Tuff boots. Prior to the mission launch, Agent NFS was photographed at Forest Service locations around town and with partners to raise awareness and excitement. Kids hunt for the first QR code at the museum’s entrance and navigate through the exhibits, completing challenges featuring Alaska Native culture and Alaskan history.

There are active mission sites in the Alaska Region at the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center near Portage Glacier on the Chugach National Forest and at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center on the Tongass National Forest in Juneau, with more mission sites coming soon.

Making learning fun is part of OUR mission.

Photo: Kids and their father peer at a smartphone as they investigate the museum.
Kevin Hood helped his kids hunt for clues on launch night at the Alaska State Museum. Forest Service photo.
Photo: Jessi Warmbrodt poses with cardboard cut-out of northern flying squirrel.
Agent Northern Flying Squirrel and Resource Assistant Program Intern Jessi Warmbrodt posed outside the Alaska State Museum to promote the launch of the new Agents of Discovery mission. Forest Service photo.