Grant will allow museum to improve archive space

The Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association has received a significant grant that will allow the volunteer group to move forward on its most significant project since the Heritage Museum opened in 2006.

Thanks to a $40,000 grant from 4Culture, King County’s cultural arts agency, the association will soon undertake a major remodel of the building where its historical documents, photographs and artifacts are kept. The grant was announced last week.

“We’re overjoyed,” said Bob Fetterley, president of the organization.

Fetterley said the organization has planned to renovate the Gordon Building, the small structure behind the museum that serves as storage for around 12,000 items, since it purchased the two buildings in 1999. However, the project was put on the back burner as the association renovated the museum building.

Fetterley said that the Gordon Building, which once served as a children’s center, isn’t well insulated. As its heating and air conditioning systems age, the museum’s sensitive artifacts are exposed to even more variations in temperature and humidity that will ultimately cause their deterioration.

“The grant is to modernize that space,” Fetterley said. “We need to modify the space to suit our needs.”

The $109,000 project the association mapped out this year includes a renovation of the Gordon Building’s interior, the installation of a sophisticated temperature and humidity control system and improvements to the building’s exterior and plumbing.

The association requested about $65,000 from 4Culture to help fund the project. Fetterley said they were pleased to receive $40,000 but will likely scale back the project to stay within budget. However, he added, the organization may also look for additional grants or hold a fundraiser to bring in more money.

“We would welcome help from the community to finish this effort,” Fetterley said.

Bruce Haulman, a heritage association board member and Island historian, said that whether or not the association raises more funds, they at least have enough to finally create a quality storage place for the sensitive archives, which include photos and documents dating back to the late 1800s and Native American artifacts that the Burke Museum has said are about 9,000 years old. The museum also keeps archived newspapers, paintings, slides, posters and maps.

“For a small organization like us, this is an important grant,” he said.

Haulman remembers when the association first began to establish itself more than 40 years ago, and members stored collected items in their own homes. Since moving the collection into the Gordon Building, the organization’s collections committee has taken significant strides in professionalizing the museum’s archives, Haulman said. They now store items on acid-free paper and use a digital cataloging program. Members recently took a class sponsored by King County and the University of Washington on proper collections care. Eventually they hope to digitize the entire collection and make it available online.

“Someone in New York City who grew up on Vashon could find a photo of their fifth-grade glass,” Haulman said.

The association hopes to have the Gordon Building’s renovation finished this year, he added. Once complete, he said, it will also be easier for the museum to change out artifacts on display and rotate more items through.

“It’s important for us to bring another level of professionalism to the museum and the care of the collection,” he said.


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