WEEKEND: Jefferson Historical Society marks its 135th anniversary Saturday at Port Townsend museum
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Jefferson County Historical Society Executive Director Bill Tennent straightens out a display in the newly configured museum gift shop.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The 135th birthday of the Jefferson County Historical Society is an opportunity to celebrate the past.

“It seems like a milestone to us, so we are having a party, ” said Executive Director Bill Tennent.

“This isn't more significant than other anniversaries, but we are one of the oldest organizations in the state, and we want to celebrate that,” he said.

“And there will be cake.”

The celebration will be from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History in historic City Hall at 540 Water St.

The museum also will be open for the Port Townsend Gallery Walk from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.

In addition to cake and other refreshments, the birthday party will include free admission to the museum, door prizes, the reopening of the refurbished museum shop, the unveiling of the society's new logo and the premiere of the society's new documentary video, “Saving Stories.”

Make it special

“The first Saturday of the month is always a free day, so we wanted to make that a bit more special,” Tennent said.

“We want to recognize those individuals who created the society 135 years ago with the hope of preserving the county's history for future generations and to all of our members and volunteers who continue to carry out that vision today,” he added.

The historical society's new logo is a stylized representation of the Jefferson County Courthouse clock tower.

It will replace the detailed drawing of City Hall as it appeared in the 1890s.

“There is a little bit of a conflict because the logo represents the city, but the society represents the whole county,” Tennent said.

“The symbol that best represents the county is the clock tower, and we made it abstract because we didn't want people to think we were a government agency, and we can adjust the hands depending on what we are trying to illustrate.”

For instance, the logo shows the time as 1:25, but on Saturday's commemorative cake, it will portray 1:35 to recognize the anniversary.

Tennent said the feel of the downtown museum is low-tech “to respect the building where we are located.”

Collection care

But “we are very high-tech when it comes to collections care and data storage and availability,” he said.

“Over half a million documents and artifacts are now kept in our new collections building at the research center” at 13692 Airport Cutoff Road.

The material formerly was stored in attics, basements and even an abandoned bunker at Fort Worden State Park.

Oral histories are on video and audio recordings.

“Our database can be searched online, allowing researchers to find out what is in our collection before visiting the research center to see the real items,” Tennent said.

Tennent said he wants to connect with the public, both to collect historical items they wish to donate and to hear about what kinds of exhibits they would like to see.

Redskins memorabilia

“I would love it if people would donate some of their old Redskins memorabilia,” Tennent said of the material that will be left over after the Port Townsend school changed its mascot this year.

The school had used the Redskins mascot since the 1920s. This year, the decision was made to change it to Redhawks.

Redskins memorabilia “captures a part of PT history that has just ended,” Tennent said.

“The best way to preserve it is to display it in the museum.”

Similarly, the museum collects campaign material from local races and even collected a few signs used by Occupy Port Townsend during its 2012 demonstrations.

Redecorated gift shop

The historical society also has redecorated the gift shop, including taking out a shelf in the middle of the room to increase the sense of space.

“Everything in the gift shop relates to our mission, so people can take a little piece of the museum home with them,” Tennent said.

The Jefferson County Historical Society was founded in 1879.

It operates five facilities: the Jefferson Museum of Art & History, Rothschild House Museum, Commanding Officer's Quarters, Research Center and Olympic Peninsula Gateway Visitor Center.

Countywide programs include oral history, traveling teachers' trunks, West End Weekend, First Night New Year's Eve celebration, summer history camps, publications, historical walking tours and First Friday lectures.

The Jefferson Museum of Art & History is open daily from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Exhibits are in the former municipal courtroom, fire hall and jail spaces.

The Rothschild House Museum at Taylor and Franklin streets is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. May through September.

The Commanding Officer's Quarters at Fort Worden State Park is open from noon to 5 p.m. daily May through September.


Admission to each is $4 for adults, $1 for children 3-12 years old and free to members of the historical society.

Admission to the Museum of Art & History is free the first Saturday of every month for Jefferson County residents.

The research center is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, except for the third Saturday of every month, when the hours are from noon to 4 p.m.

The Olympic Peninsula Gateway Visitor Center at 93 Beaver Valley Road in Port Ludlow is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily from May 1 through Labor Day weekend. After Labor Day and through the end of April, it is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

The society is funded by memberships, donations, grants, special events and gift shop sales.

For more information, phone 360-385-1003 or visit www.jchsmuseum.org.


Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 01. 2014 7:59PM
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