History isn’t always about the past.
In fact, museums of all shapes, sizes and stripes have a long history of their own of turning to the latest innovations in order to refresh the stories, events and artifacts of days gone by, and to capture an ever-wandering imagination of an ever-changing audience.
San Juan Island’s very own historical museum is no exception. And it’s following in the footsteps of that well-worn path of reinvention with its latest endeavor, the creation of a Museum of History and Industry, designed as an interactive educational facility and a showcase for four of the island’s “core” industries of yesteryear: farming, fishing, logging and lime kilns.
“Even though we focus on the past, anymore it’s all about being interactive and getting people involved,” museum Director Kevin Loftus said. “We really want to make it cutting edge and keep up with current technologies.”
Housed all under one roof, within the walls of the renovated barn on the museum grounds, each industry will be individually featured in its own wing, an exhibit all its own, and highlighted by a mixture of integrated murals, photographs, videos, artifacts and interactive, hands-on displays that bring to life the sights, sounds and stories of those former cornerstones of island commerce.
In the entrance of the barn will an expansive atrium, with a large three-dimensional topographical map at its centerpiece, which identifies locations and developments of each of the four industries. Its walls will be lined near the ceiling with photographs of various islanders and the room will also feature audio handsets with recordings of local oral histories narrated by island actors. The atrium will be completed by the end of autumn, Loftus said.
The museum and its parent group, the San Juan Island Historical Society, recently launched a fundraising drive — with a $200,000 goal — to help finance the project. But plans for the Museum of Industry have been in the works for quite awhile, Loftus added.
Backed by grants by the state historical society, the museum has already invested $168,000 in renovating, enlarging and improving the barn over the past six years. It now also has its own electrical supply.
Plans call for the four exhibits to be completed in phases: fishing by late spring, farming in the fall, logging by spring of 2015, with the Lime exhibit following later that autumn. Although it may sound ambitious, Loftus said the project is well planned and the stage is set for all the pieces to fall into place.
“We’ve never really done anything of this scope,” he said. “But it’s not just a new idea. It’s going to work.”
For more information, or to make a donation, contact San Juan Historical Museum, 378-3949, or www.sjmuseum.org.