Aberdeen Board of Museum and History seeking public feedback on new location

People are going to get a chance to share their visions for the new space that will house the Aberdenn Museum of History.

The Aberdeen Board of Museum and History will host a virtual strategic planning workshop on Tuesday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the future museum location in downtown Aberdeen. The meeting will take place in lieu of the board’s monthly meeting.

“My hope is that this strategic planning workshop will be a chance to update the public on where we are at with the museum, to remind them of our current situation, and to ask for thoughts and ideas they may have for moving forward,” said Museum Board Chair John Shaw.

The city is in the closing process of purchasing the old Salvation Army building in the 100 block of West Wishkah Street. City staff, Rock Project Management Services (RPMS), and contractors have been performing assessments on the building over the past 45 days. RPMS estimated $1.5 million is needed for core life safety improvements and basic cosmetic improvements.

While the primary goal of the new building is to serve as a city-owned storage space for the collection, improvements are necessary before the collection can be safely moved downtown.

According to Aberdeen Parks & Recreation Director Stacie Barnum, mechanical and electrical issues must be addressed prior to the move. There are also environmental concerns, including the presence of lead paint and asbestos. In order to safely store the collection, a security system must be installed, and the fire monitoring system must be moved from the warehouse to the new location.

Improvements to make the space available for public engagement will occur in stages, and some will likely need to happen without the collection present in order to ensure its safety.

The strategic planning workshop is an opportunity for the Museum Board to develop their plan for utilizing the new building, and will help set improvement priorities so that work can begin to make the space functional.

“The Museum Board has been through a long three years to get us to this point. The purchase of the building is going to newly focus the discussion on what we do moving forward, and there’s certainly a need for some integrated strategy,” said Shaw.

The Museum Board previously hosted two strategic planning workshops, the latter of which helped create the matrix that was used to evaluate potential new museum locations.

Fundraising and volunteer engagement are major priorities for the board following the purchase of the building. The Aberdeen City Council has given the Museum Board the authority to apply for grants to cover the cost of improvements, as well as the $500,000 to hire a consultant to oversee the project.

Shaw believes that the new building will serve as a place for volunteers, including the Friends of the Aberdeen Museum, to engage with the collection by creating displays and organizing items. He also has hopes for a genealogical library in collaboration with the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society for archival work.

The building may quickly become a safe place for volunteers to interact with the collection again, but broad public engagement is a more distant future. In the meantime, the board will continue to identify their primary goals for the space and continue the process of rebuilding what was lost.

“The Armory was considered an albatross in the beginning, but over many years we created a space that we came to love as a community,” said Shaw. “It’s going to take many years again, but it’s worth it: Aberdeen deserves a world-class museum.”