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New curator digs into Poulsbo’s history

POULSBO — Erica Varga is the first to admit that when it comes to museums, she’d rather spend her time in the archives than handling the day-to-day administrative tasks.

That desire led the former director of the Bainbridge Island Historical Society and Museum to accept an offer from the Poulsbo Historical Society to inventory its holdings during the summer.

“I’m going back to collections-based work, which is what I enjoy the most,” Varga explained as she reflected on a journey, which has taken her from the Burke Museum at the University of Washington to Bainbridge and now to Poulsbo.

Poulsbo’s historical society has an extensive amount of holdings in city hall, but no one knows exactly what’s there, she commented.

“The first thing I’m going to be doing is inventorying all of the society’s holdings and actually seeing what’s there and what condition it’s in,” Varga said.

Factors such as ultra-violet light and relative humidity have the potential to be extremely damaging to pieces of the collection, she said.

Those issues need to be addressed sooner rather than later. Once the inventory is completed, the society should have a clear idea of exactly what it has to offer, Varga explained.

“Then we’ll see what we’re lacking and see what we need to tell the story of Poulsbo, which has a rich history,” she remarked.

As part of that process, Varga has distributed a survey of significant historical material in the community to PHS members to gauge the amount of material available to the society. All of that work will help the society move farther down the road toward the construction of its museum, she said.

“People need historical museums and you can do so much for your community with a museum,” Varga emphasized, pointing to Bainbridge Island as an example.

The museum on Bainbridge Island averaged between 150 and 180 visitors a month during February, April and May and that number should grow as tourist season begins, she explained.

“Poulsbo can use Bainbridge Island as an example and businesses downtown could benefit from a museum,” Varga said, noting that museum visitors would be inclined to eat at local restaurants and do other shopping while in the area.

In addition to serving as a tourist attraction, the museum would also give local residents a place to come to learn more about where they live, she noted.

“We’ve got a lot of eyes looking toward Poulsbo and it’s just a matter of getting the community behind the project all the way,” Varga commented.

For Poulsbo Historical Society President Kathy Hogan, Varga’s willingness to help is a sign of greater things to come.

“We were so excited when she accepted our offer and she brings a tremendous amount of expertise and enthusiasm with her,” Hogan remarked.

Even though she won’t begin her inventory until July 5, society members have already been impressed with Varga’s understanding of the city and the society’s efforts to establish a museum, Hogan said.

“Everyone who she’s come in contact with has been totally impressed and it was quite a coup to get her to come help us out,” she added.

While the idea of building a historical museum in Poulsbo has been discussed through the years, it is now closer to becoming a reality than ever before, Hogan said.

“We can’t plan museum spaces until we have an idea as to what we have and Erica will help us know that,” she remarked. “With her, I know that day is coming soon.”

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