By 1986, Alaska's moving image heritage was in real danger of being lost. Budget cuts had closed many production facilities, and those that continued to produce made major reductions in staff and budgets. Libraries, museums and archives encountered the same difficulties. Institutions were no longer able to produce and protect Alaskan film, television and recorded sound materials.

Collections ended up in cardboard boxes, closets and improper storage areas, sometimes left for years with no attention given to temperature or humidity control, security, safety, or maintenance.

Because of the lack of documentation and finding aids, the public had little access to these materials. Few archivists and librarians were left in the major institutions to maintain and make these materials available to the public.

Into this climate AMIPA was born, organized as a private non-profit corporation in June 1991. Soon afterwards, AMIPA moved into the Grandview Gardens Cultural Center in Anchorage. Through public and private donations the collection quickly grew, and in 1997 AMIPA transitioned from an all-volunteer organization to one having a paid curatorial, technical and administrative staff. In September 2004, AMIPA entered into a preservation partnership with the UAA/APU Consortium Library; in October 2004 AMIPA moved into offices on the 3rd floor of the library; and during the spring of 2005 installed its 17,000-item collection into modern film and magnetic media vaults adjacent to the office space. The vaults feature temperature and humidity-control, air filtration, and a high level of security featuring motion-detection alarms and keypad-controlled entries.