By Julie Muhlstein Herald Columnist
With care and excitement, they’re opening boxes and unwrapping packages. Ordinary Tuesdays have taken on a Christmas-morning atmosphere in the basement of Everett’s Culmback Building.
That’s where Everett Museum of History volunteers get together each week to assess, inventory and properly store part of the museum’s massive collection.
“We never know what we’ll find,” said Gene Fosheim, president of the museum. The organization was known until several years ago as the Snohomish County Museum of History.
With volunteers Dave Ramstad, Kim David, Neil Anderson, Bob Mayer, Bob Bonner and his daughter Diane Jasper, Fosheim showed off museum treasures Tuesday in the basement of the downtown building. Local historian Jack O’Donnell also has been part of the effort.
Cast-iron toy trains from the early 1900s, a school bell from the bygone mining town of Monte Cristo, a wool U.S. Army uniform from World War I, and a photograph from the Everett Pulp and Paper Company’s picnic at Silver Lake dated Aug, 14, 1916, were among items volunteers pulled from shelves and boxes.
“That was just before the massacre,” said Fosheim, noting that the deadly labor strife known as the Everett Massacre occurred Nov. 5, 1916, a few months after the picnic picture was taken.
The volunteers, most of them Everett natives keen on local history, are discovering just what the museum owns. They also hope to solve mysteries. “We have a lot of things that don’t have a record,” Fosheim said.
With a long up-and-down history of its own, the museum has the greater goal of once again putting its collection on public display. It needs a real home.
David, the museum’s volunteer coordinator, said Everett may be the only city of its size in the country without a historical museum.
The organization was established in 1953 as the Snohomish County Museum and Historical Association. Over the years, the museum has had at least three places in Everett that the public could visit. Early on, it exhibited in a city-owned building at American Legion Park. Later, the Snohomish County Museum was on the lower level of Mike Jordan’s dance studio on Rockefeller Avenue, and then in a Hewitt Avenue storefront. The museum on Hewitt closed in 2007.
Since losing its storage space in Snohomish County’s Carnegie Building in 2011, the museum’s collection has been kept in three places. Much of it is in a 5,000-square-foot space on the second floor of the Everett Mall, where the museum pays $1 per year for storage. Very large items, including former Gov. Roland Hartley’s desk and a collection from Washington Stove Works, are in a storage facility on Everett’s Smith Avenue.
In the Culmback Building, which the city lets the museum use rent-free, volunteers have “just scratched the surface” with their research, Fosheim said. The city also has its separate collection stored in the Colby Avenue building.
Fosheim joked Tuesday that he and his helpers are Everett’s “monuments men,” a reference to the movie about saving artwork plundered during World War II. The group clearly has fun discovering what’s in all those boxes. “It’s been like Christmas every day,” Fosheim said.
Their aim is serious. “It’s our history for the next generation. So many other museums in Snohomish County are doing a good job,” Fosheim said.
With the Marysville Historical Society building its own museum and other area cities running or hosting museums, Fosheim said it was appropriate to change the nonprofit group’s name to the Everett Museum of History.
“We have over 40,000 items. The collection is totally intact,” he said.
With Executive Director Barbara George, acting Curator Amalia Kozlov and a board of trustees, the museum is seeking financial support and a permanent home.
He envisions a space showcasing Everett’s milltown artifacts, its labor history and the local story of the Boeing Co. The group has eyed vacant buildings downtown. They have dreamed of a new building “on Hoyt in our fantastic arts and museum district,” Fosheim said.
“It can be done,” he said. “In the meantime, we’re custodians of the collection.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.