Aberdeen Museum — get there sooner than later

I don’t have a day job in the history business. I volunteer with three Grays Harbor history organizations.

I’m certainly old enough to understand the passage of time. Aberdeen lost its museum in the armory fire just over three years ago. It seems to me that we should have at least a plan for a museum by now.

By now we should have a view of what has been recovered and what we need to fulfill a museum dream we have shared with the community.

I read John Shaw’s thoughts last week. Many things we agree on, but accreditation is not one. His dream is an accredited museum, first class. I agree we need to follow the best practices we can. We can be first class. But the city is faltering at the cost of a building, do any of us really believe that they have the will or the funds to establish a museum department? The list of accredited museums does not have any from Grays Harbor, they all appear to be large, well funded institutions.

Instead of a team of committed people working together to plan a museum for Aberdeen, I see a Daily World article headlined “Aberdeen museum board, mayor clash over museum plans.” The mayor is also quoted as stating he has a vision of a museum run by volunteers. He is currently working with the Friends of the Aberdeen Museum to allow their volunteers to begin the huge task of artifact inventory and record building.

The Friends fully recognize that they will not have the training that is needed for articles requiring restoration. If given this contract, they have spoken to and fully intend to utilize the Washington State Historical Society and other organizations that have volunteered their expertise to assist in this work.

They have started a detailed inventory practice that will have review before use and will be professionally implemented by volunteers who have received training. Immediately after the fire, the city board wanted a new, professional collections policy. After reviewing many policies followed be other historical organizations, the Friends provided the city board with a written policy which they adopted and now follow. The Friends have experience in this area and will continue to provide support to the city board.

I realize there are many issues facing the mayor and council so that a museum is not their priority — but it is mine, many other citizens, the city museum board and the Friends of the Aberdeen Museum. The city should provide museum funding from the armory fire insurance. The city has an obligation to care for and display the artifacts with which they were entrusted. Charge those who share the new museum goal with making a plan for city review — sooner than later.

We can get there. With a big but — if the interested parties work together instead of in strife — if a plan is laid out (like if we are rehabilitating the fire equipment, where will it be displayed if the museum is in Windemere, Moore’s, Furniture World, Gateway or several other sites that were considered) — if the funds to acquire a facility are set aside in a designated fund — if any personnel additions considered are clearly funded currently, with a plan in place for future salary needs before they are hired.

This is basic good business planning. Let’s get started.

Future museum planning was never about “how we used to run the museum.” There were mistakes made in how it was run, but not because it was volunteers. There are issues that should be discussed and improved when operation plans are developed. Those involved need to be sure the new museum is a step forward. Let’s make museum planning about creating a first-class experience that helps draw people into our community to celebrate our culture and our history.

Nancy Cuyle is a former Aberdeen resident, who resides in Olympia.