Bus 142, made famous by the book and movie “Into The Wild,” is now easy to view in person at the University of Alaska Fairbanks as preservation efforts get underway.
The dilapidated bus has been moved to the high bay lab in the Engineering Learning and Innovation Facility at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. There, museum staff, engineers and conservators can continue preparing the bus for display at the Museum of the North. Visitors can watch the whole process from the building’s atrium. It is the first time the public has been provided a glimpse of the bus since it was removed from Stampede Trail last year.
If you can’t get there in person, you will soon be able to watch the project’s progress online. A webcam will be installed so the public can watch the conservation work firsthand.
“The process of preparing Bus 142 for permanent display is a lengthy one, but its presence in the engineering building will allow the public to follow along with that process, both here in Fairbanks and online,” said museum ethnology and history senior collections manager Angela Linn.
The bus gained fame from the story of Chris McCandless, a 24-year-old man who died at the bus in 1992. The remote site north of Denali National Park became a pilgrimage for many visitors, inspired by McCandless’ story. Some of those visitors were injured or died on the journey. That prompted the Alaska Department of Natural Resources to remove the bus from Stampede Trail in June 2020. Three months later, the bus was delivered to a storage facility in Fairbanks, where museum staff began conservation work. That work continues, now in the public eye.
Throughout the winter, museum staff will take detailed photographs and 3-D scans of the bus, and will build a structure to support the bus frame. During spring semester, they will work with UAF engineering students on the design and fabrication of a cover for the exhibit. The future exhibit site is outdoors, just north of the museum on the UAF campus.
Specialists in historical vehicle conservation are also working on the bus. They are repairing, cleaning and preserving it.
“Our goal is for visitors to experience the complete story of the bus,” Linn said. That includes how it came to Alaska, its role in the Chris McCandless saga, and the decades of public interest that followed.
Cost of the preservation work is primarily through crowdfunding efforts. A donor page on the Museum of the North website invites donations and to date has raised $15,010 through 258 donations. Supporters can also purchase a $2 sticker at the museum’s gift shop. Twenty percent of that goes to preserving the bus. A nonprofit group dedicated to Bus 142 also raises money for preservation efforts through the sale of T-shirts, hats and stickers. Go to www.friendsofbus142.com for more on those efforts.
The bus can be viewed from the engineering building atrium weekdays 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and soon, online via webcam, which will be linked to the museum website.