County history museum closes

EVERETT – After years of bleeding red ink, the Museum of Snohomish County History is closing its doors.

A week after its part-time executive director announced his resignation, the struggling nonprofit organization’s board of trustees voted to close the museum at 1913 Hewitt Ave. in downtown Everett.

“Our expenses exceeded our income is about what it came down to,” said Peter Harvey, president of the museum’s board of trustees.

Its only paid staff member, the executive director, received a $25,000 annual salary. The bulk of expenses pays for storing the museum’s vast collection.

Harvey, an Everett investment representative for Edward Jones, said preserving the current collection is the museum’s top priority.

Artifacts at the small downtown location, including photographs and old lumber equipment, will be transferred to a rented warehouse with the rest of the belongings, he said.

In the meantime, the museum will regroup and pursue a possible partnership with Snohomish County, he said.

He couldn’t say exactly how that partnership might take form.

And if that doesn’t work out?

“We don’t have that answer yet,” Harvey said.

It was not immediately clear what would become of “New Harmonies: Celebrating American Roots Music,” a traveling Smithsonian Institution exhibit planned for October.

The museum hosted the Smithsonian’s “Yesterday’s Tomorrows,” in 2005.

Brent Lambert, with the county’s economic development office, did not return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment Monday.

Lambert has attended trustee meetings in recent months and has been available for advice, Harvey said.

Eric Taylor, the museum’s outgoing executive director, said Snohomish County was evaluating the organization to see if it was worthy of public support.

He said the county set forward a number of benchmarks and “deliverables” that he doesn’t think were being met.

“I didn’t see a real focus on the part of the trustees to go after this proposal from the county,” he said.

Taylor also said he was frustrated with limited resources, and felt that his own salary, was adding too much to the museum’s deficit.

“I got the idea that they were looking for a new direction or new personality to direct the museum, so I thought it was best that I stepped aside,” said Taylor, who was first hired by the museum as an exhibit designer 15 years ago.

Ed Morrow, a former Everett city councilman and elementary school principal, blamed a lack of political leadership for the museum’s closure.

History is a passion for Morrow. His mother was involved with the museum when it opened in 1954 and his son, Todd Morrow, is a current museum trustee.

A few years ago, Morrow and his wife, Betty, donated The Van Valey house at 2130 Colby Ave., to the city for historic preservation.

“The county has more people than Wyoming, it seems like we should be able to have a first-class museum,” he said.

Local history buff and Herald history columnist Jack O’Donnell agreed.

“It’s really hard for a (museum) to exist without funding from a community,” O’Donnell said. “I congratulate all of the people who have operated on a shoestring for years.”

Reporter David Chircop: 425-339-3429 or dchircop@heraldnet.com.

Museum collection

A few artifacts collected by the Museum of Snohomish County History since it opened in 1954:

  • The desk of Roland Hill Hartley, once mayor of Everett and later Washington’s governor.

  • The pilot wheel from the Black Prince, a Port Gardner stern-wheeler.

  • The flight jacket, helmet and propeller from a plane once belonging to Mildred Pearson, a female commercial pilot who was licensed to fly after WWII.

  • Records from the local post of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veteran’s organization.

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