Heritage Museum announces new role for Elsa Croonquist

Executive Director Elsa Croonquist will transition to a new role as the director of a special project.

The Vashon Heritage Museum has announced that Elsa Croonquist, its executive director, will transition to a new role as the director of a special project, overseeing a major renovation and update of the museum’s galleries.

Croonquist will be responsible for spearheading the planning, execution and opening of the new museum galleries in 2024 — work that will include coordinating with the museum’s exhibit committee, coordinating the National Endowment for the Humanities grant funding and reporting, ongoing donor relations, and outreach to our community.

During this transition period, the day-to-day responsibilities of the executive director will be temporarily managed by the museum’s current staff and board members, according to a statement released by the museum.

Cameron Cooper will step in as interim director while a search for a new executive director occurs.

“We are confident in Cooper’s ability to ensure the continued success of the Vashon Heritage Museum while Croonquist focuses on our new museum project,” the statement said. “The Vashon Heritage Museum remains committed to its mission of preserving, sharing, and celebrating the rich history of our island community.”

The statement urged islanders to stay updated on the project through the Museum’s website, social media and newsletters.

“We want to express our heartfelt appreciation for Croonquist’s dedication and hard work during her tenure as executive director and have no doubt that she will excel in her new role, guiding our museum to a bright and prosperous future,” said Bruce Haulman, president of the Vashon Maury Island Heritage Association Board of Trustees.

Renovation and reopening plans

The renovation and opening of the new museum galleries are a multi-year project funded in large part by the generous support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Royal Little Family Foundation, The Beardsley Family Foundation, 4Culture, and Vashon islanders.

In 2022, the museum received a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) award of $287,000 which will fund the update and renovation of its permanent exhibit space.

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency created in 1965. It is one of the largest funders of humanities programs in the United States.

The museum was one of only five organizations in the state to receive the prestigious award — and by far the smallest organization of the five to win the grant. Other organizations in the state to win NEH funding were Evergreen State College, the University of Washington, the Museum of Flight Foundation, and the Wing Luke Memorial Foundation.

In total, the NEH pledged $31.5 million in grants for 226 projects around the country. The Heritage Museum’s $287,000 grant was the 25th largest sum in the 2022 round of NEH’s funding.

The new exhibit’s goal, according to the museum, is to provide visitors with an understanding and appreciation for the diverse groups who have called Vashon home, providing an exploration of the distinctive cultural and social aspects of Vashon Island and its people.

In its evaluation, the NEH praised the museum’s plan to create a new exhibit that connects island history with broader national and global themes.

“This is a well-thought-out and designed exhibit that identifies five key ‘turning points’ in the island’s history that are both self-reflective and analytical,” the grant panel wrote. “Although it is essentially the local history of a small, somewhat remote place, the applicant clearly connects its history to broader national and global themes.”

The museum has a strong portfolio of special exhibits throughout recent years, such as “Natural Wonder: An Island Shaped by Water,” “In and Out: Being LGBTQ on Vashon Island,” and others, in which the museum has worked closely with community experts to develop and present relevant and important exhibits.

Find out more about the museum at vashonheritagemuseum.org.