With major grant in hand, museum will create new main exhibit

The museum is launching a community fundraising campaign for its new main gallery permanent exhibit.

Vashon Heritage Museum (VHM) is launching a community fundraising campaign for its new main gallery permanent exhibit scheduled to open in 2024.

The new exhibit will offer a richer, more interactive experience than that of its predecessor, delving deeper and taking a more analytical approach to Vashon’s history. The exhibit will engage visitors with stories of the past to make connections with the future, encouraging visitors to take responsibility for what they do, and knowing actions influence history.

VHM estimates the total exhibit cost will be close to $500,000.

More than half of the funding ($287,000) comes from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), which awarded VHM one of five prestigious grants in Washington State in 2022.

Justifying the award, NEH panelists noted several factors, including the involvement of institutional partners, the depth and relevance of scholarship, the combination of multiple display formats, and the breadth of the project’s public appeal and reach.

VHM hopes the remainder of the funding will come from private sources. While major gifts will lay the foundation for fundraising, donations of any amount from island residents and businesses will play a key role in encouraging a feeling of ownership for the permanent exhibit and the museum as a whole.

Already, two generous parties have offered a total of $35,000 for a matching challenge. The museum hopes to more than double that amount with gifts from a broad range of community members.

“We want everyone in this community to help us tell Vashon’s story,” said VHM Executive Director, Elsa Croonquist. “It’s your story. Vashon Heritage Museum relies on community involvement in time and donations. We are developing a cultural center for reflection. Come into the museum and see aspects of your own history, with an opportunity to reflect on who you are, where you come from, and why you are here.”

A rich history

Beginning with the story of the sxwǝbabš (the Swift Water People), the new permanent exhibit highlights the island’s diversity, while also celebrating some common characteristics – pioneering, non-conforming, communal, entrepreneurial and engaged – that islanders have shared through generations.

Visitors will be able to interact with exhibits, hear the recorded voices from the Puyallup tribe speaking Twulshootseed — the first language of this land — and learn from local geologists, scientists and activists.

“Vashon’s natural and human history is layered with complexity,” said VHM Board President and one of the Permanent Exhibit curators, Bruce Haulman. “…Through our work with outstanding partners, like the University of Washington’s Burke Museum, who are experts in geology, natural history, and cultural anthropology and history, we’ve connected Vashon through the ages with important historical milestones that connect humankind.”

About Vashon Heritage Museum

The Vashon Heritage Museum comes under the umbrella of The Vashon-Maury Island Heritage Association (VMIHA), an organization originally established by early pioneers who settled on the island in the late 19th century.

By providing exciting and innovative displays, the museum stirs curiosity and engages visitors with expertly curated exhibits supported by knowledgeable docents. The museum inspires visitors by connecting the past and present, and demonstrating how history influences Vashon’s future.

The museum has received awards in exhibit excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and King County’s John D. Spellman Awards for Excellence for the exhibits: “In and Out: Being LGBTQ on Vashon Island,” “Joy and Heartache: Vashon’s Japanese- American Legacy,” “Vashon Island’s Native People: Navigating Seas of Change,” and “Home of Record: Vashon and the Vietnam War.”

Currently on view until the end of 2023, the exhibit “Natural Wonder: An Island Shaped by Water,” was created in partnership with Vashon Nature Center. Visitors experience life through the wings, hooves, paws, roots, fins, tentacles, and feet of local species, making connections in our natural ecosystems and reflecting on their own place in this great web of life. Also on exhibit until the end of 2023 is “The 4th of July Hydroplanes: Circling Vashon Since 1955.”

VHM’s permanent exhibit is on track to open in July 2024. Find out more and donate at vashonheritagemuseum.org, or by emailing ElsaCroonquist@Vashonheritage.org.