It would have been a dark day in Snohomish County history if museum artifacts had burned up in a warehouse fire earlier this month.
Thanks to Everett firefighters, the blaze was extinguished in 40 minutes. No one was injured. The building was saved.
But because local museum items were being stored in cardboard boxes, history got wet. Volunteers with the Museum of Snohomish County History estimate that 30 percent of the museum collection was damaged by water.
As Peter Harvey, president of the museum’s board of trustees, noted: “It could be worse. We could have had fire damage. We have to count our blessings where we can.”
It’s been a tough year so far for the museum. It closed its doors at 1913 Hewitt Ave. in downtown Everett in January. The nonprofit organization has struggled financially for years and its part-time executive director resigned a week before the board of trustees voted to close the museum.
The museum is now looking for a new warehouse to store its collection, as volunteers try to salvage the soggy artifacts. It also needs help to pay experts who advised the museum on salvaging the items.
The Snohomish County Council is negotiating a contract with the museum to provide funding to get through this emergency. Former county auditor Bob Terwilliger suggested the money collected from fees to get county documents could be used. The $1 filing fee, which was meant for historic programs and preservation, has raised about $70,000. Sounds like an excellent plan, which perhaps could provide ongoing funding.
Community members who want to help can donate to fund set up at Frontier Bank to help the museum. Such help, from the county and its citizens, is necessary if the museum ever hopes to open its doors again, and not lose money.
Without trying to pile on during this difficult time, the organization obviously needs help.
The documents, dresses, military uniforms and everything else that suffered water damage in the fire were damaged because they were not properly stored in the first place. Historical items, meant to be preserved for the ages, should not be kept in cardboard boxes. Paper, fabric and photos will all break down eventually if not properly stored. When individuals and families donate items to the county museum, it should be done with the confidence that the artifacts will be stored and displayed properly.
The museum’s artifacts represent 150 years of our county’s history. It is important they are preserved and displayed. It will be a proud moment in our history when those items have a permanent home.