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July 12, 2010; Gig Harbor, WA - The Harbor History Museum, which has been closed since 2008, will open to the public at a new waterfront site in downtown Gig Harbor on September 18, 2010, marking the culmination of 10 years of planning, fundraising and construction for the $11.6 million project. The new, expansive 15,000 square foot museum is centrally located on one and one-half scenic acres at the corner of Harborview Drive, between Donkey Creek Park and the Gig Harbor bay.


“We’re thrilled to have this beautiful facility as a permanent place to preserve and share Gig Harbor’s unique and diverse history,” remarked Jennifer Kilmer, Executive Director, Harbor History Museum. “The expanded space and added funding have made it possible to add the kinds of compelling interactive exhibits that engage the viewer and make history come to life.”


Exhibit space at the new museum includes the 2,000-square foot Annelise and Warder Stokes permanent gallery, which will showcase Gig Harbor’s unique historical artifacts and share the community’s rich heritage with video kiosks, hands-on and computer interactive exhibits, and a small theater.


With 10 times the space of the previous location, the museum was able to relocate to the new site and subsequently restore the 1893 one-room Midway Schoolhouse, which will be used to reenact rural classrooms of yesteryear and provide 4th graders with a pioneer school experience. Adjacent to the schoolhouse, a cradle was constructed to house and display the legendary ‘everyman’s sailboat’ Thunderbird Hull No. 1, constructed by Ed Hoppen in 1958, and the 65-foot commercial fishing vessel, Shenandoah, which will be used in demonstrating and teaching traditional maintenance techniques such as caulking.

Twenty-six foot high ceilings in the 1,300-square foot Grand Lobby house a 1915 restored Norwegian rowboat as well as floor-to-ceiling colorful banners and windows. Also in the lobby is a Narrows Bridge exhibit, featuring twisted pieces of the original bridge, “Galloping Gertie,” which came to its demise in 1940.


The lobby leads to two galleries: the Daylight Gallery, highlighting the region’s Native American roots, and Showcase Gallery, a children’s interactive area, with a curved, magnetic story wall, mast and sail that the children can raise and lower and more. The Daylight Gallery leads to the 1,000-square foot special exhibits gallery, the permanent gallery and a multi-purpose Resource Room that can be used for special events and meetings.


A regularly scheduled Living History Program has been introduced at the new museum; trained docents will introduce visitors to historical characters such as commercial fisherman Peter Skansie, mosquito fleet captain Emmet Hunt and teacher Lucy Goodman, among others. Lectures, hands-on workshops, and a series of special exhibits will also be offered.


The museum was able to move ahead and set a date for its opening after receiving a generous $1.5 million gift from the Sehmel family. Among the nearly one thousand project supporters, other major funders included the following: Gene and Barbara Pearson, Jim and Carolyn Milgard, The City of Gig Harbor, The Schreiner Family, The Morris Foundation, and the Murdock Charitable Trust.


Architect for the project is David Boe, Boe Architects, Tacoma. General Contractor is WPC, Inc., Gig Harbor.


The Harbor History Museum (formerly Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society) was founded in 1963, and opened as a museum in 1973.  The mission of the museum is to create opportunities to experience the heritage of the greater Gig Harbor communities -- accomplished by collecting, preserving, and sharing this area’s history.  The museum provides a variety of public programs, exhibits, and educational outreach programs.  For more information, please access the Harbor History Museum’s Web site at and for information on Gig Harbor,


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CONTACT:  Jennifer Kilmer