Poulsbo Historical Society museum nears Feb. 25 debut

For 20 years, the Poulsbo Historical Society has carefully collected artifacts and antiques from the area's founding families. And for 20 years, those well-preserved items sat in storage.

Next week, the society will unveil the city's keepsakes with the opening of Poulsbo's first historical museum. Displays feature farming tools and fishing memorabilia, the trades on which Poulsbo was built. An opening celebration will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 25, at the museum in City Hall.

"It's just magic to hold these things," said curator Erica Varga, who carefully handled a telescope from the days of Poulsbo's codfish industry.

The telescope is part of a collection that includes a sextant and an alcohol-filled compass, both used by schooner captain J.E. Shields, who sailed from Poulsbo to the Bering Sea for the Pacific Coast Codfish Company.

Another exhibit includes a cream separator, egg carton press and churn from Poulsbo's early farmers.

Member Judy Driscoll said the society hopes school classes, civic groups and the general public take an interest in the museum.

"We'll have a lot of tourists, we're sure, that will come in," she said.

A portion of the 1,000-square-foot museum was turned into a research library, free for use by the public. It contains books, photos, family biographies and a collection of North Kitsap High School annuals.

The museum will be open Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It features a Rexall Drug Store public scale from the 1930s and books, cards and other items for sale. During the opening celebration, visitors can sit in seats from the old Almo Theater and watch "Perspectives on Poulsbo."

A museum for Poulsbo has taken more than a decade to make into a reality. The city purchased land on Jensen Way in 1999, but the society couldn’t come up with enough money to construct and maintain a building. The society struck a complex deal for its new space with the city last fall. It paid $20,000 upfront and will make monthly installments to a total of $180,000 to purchase a portion of its space and lease the rest. The city plans to sell its land on Jensen Avenue for about $200,000.

The Poulsbo-North Kitsap Rotary gave more than $29,000 to the society, which also used membership fees and donations to fund the project.

The society has roughly 275 members, though that number is expected to rise with the museum unveiling.

"Having a physical presence is a big deal," Varga said. "You can do a lot more when you have a face in the community."

The exposure of an actual museum should generate more volunteers for the society, which at 20 years is relatively new. It will also allow members to train docents and learn to market themselves, she said.

"This'll be good practice and the right stepping stone in the life of a young historical society," Varga said. "We already need more space."

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