AT 6 P.M., THE Forks Timber Museum, 1421 Forks Ave., began pouring wine for the ladies of the Foxy Fedoras of Forks, one of two Red Hat groups on the West End.
Linda Offutt, timber museum manager and a lady in a red hat, said the group “had a wonderful time hearing first-hand experiences and local lore from Tom Rosemond and Richard Halverson at our first museum after-hours event.”
Beginning this season, groups can pay for after-hours gatherings at the museum.
After-hours time is nothing out of the ordinary for Offutt and her band of volunteers at the museum, which certainly includes her “volun-told” husband, Joe.
While at a family-friendly campout over Memorial Day weekend in Port Angeles, I was talking with a friend, Poppy Cheng.
A major component of this annual campout is a scavenger hunt for the younger ones and there is always a theme.
Lo and behold, this year’s theme was logging and I saw recognizable photos of scenes from within the Forks Timber Museum on poster board.
Cheng told me of arriving in Forks for gathering photos and tidbits of information late in the afternoon.
She said a man was vacuuming the museum when she stepped in.
When she asked if they were closed, the gentleman said it wasn’t and proceeded to walk Cheng around and explain some of the exhibits.
Interestingly, Cheng said it wasn’t until much later that she found out that indeed the museum was closed and the gent was Joe, talking about his passion.
The last time I was in the Timber Museum was nearly four years ago and the Offutts were just embarking on their tenure at the museum.
Linda was then a volunteer.
She took the reins completely in October 2014 and quickly set down two goals: Stay open all year and put “as much of the collection on the floor as possible.”
Offutt said, “We are fortunate to have the quality of volunteers who provide the input and skills to realize both goals.”
She specifically mentioned Marty and Mary Konopacki, who have been helping for the past three years.
Marty has been digitally restoring the old, grainy photos dating from 1889 through the mid-20th century.
His restoration sharpens the photos, many of which are on display.
When set side-by-side with unrestored photos, the viewer is naturally drawn to and lingers over the details in the clear images.
Mary, for her part, has been taking all of the museum’s file card data and putting it on specialized software.
Offutt explained that for each piece of the museum’s collection, including photos, the old way was to catalog the information associated with the item on a card and file it away.
With the new software, anyone will be able to access the information digitally.
Offutt envisions a computer on the front desk for visitors, scavenger hunters and history sleuths to get details about specific items and logging-related terms.
“Everything we have now is more cohesive for the visitor to get a more complete picture of life on the West End,” Offutt explained, adding “But we are still very steeped in logging history.”
Reading names associated with items and displays at this museum is like reading a roster of West End homesteading and pioneer families.
Firefighting equipment has come from Jack Zaccardo.
Beach combing finds come from John Anderson, collector and proprietor of the Beachcombing Museum in Forks.
Barney Klahn made the dioramas of three different layouts for logging sides.
Dahlgren Logging donated a diorama of a logging scene using its Berger Mark VI tower.
Various items came from the Ted Spolestra collection, including a Tangley Calliope which will continue to be in the Forks Old Fashioned Fourth of July Parade.
“Pioneer families hold on to stuff but once they find out that you’re a good steward of history, they want to display their family heirlooms,” Offutt said.
She says of her predecessors who created the museum in 1990, “They did a really great job of opening it, we have just capitalized on it.”
Inside the museum is an entire wall dedicated to Allen Log, the last standard lumber mill on the West End to close after operating for 59 years. The final 2X4 to be milled there is signed by the crew and hangs just overhead.
Through Offutt’s vision, one can see history carried along into the future.
She said, “We don’t tell the story of Native American tribes very well and I would really like to change that.”
She envisions highlighting items on loan from the Makah Museum in Neah Bay.
She would also like to bring Quileute and Hoh tribal items in to begin teaching their histories to visitors.
However, as it is, the buildings of the Timber Museum hardly hold the diverse collection and Offutt sees only one solution, “We would love to expand.”
By accessing funds from the John and Inez Cowan endowment, also a West End pioneering family, she hopes to have the means to display larger items such as a log truck and 16-foot, two-man chain saw.
The reconstructed Sekiu lookout, the logging camp bunkhouse, a wood cook stove to feed a logging army and tavern displays are detailed with life-sized glimpses into the lives of hard-working families of the area.
Impossible to leave out of a timber museum, there is an upstairs display of 19 different chain saws.
For more information, contact the Forks Timber Museum at 360-374-9663 or go to forks timbermuseum.org.
Hours are Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.
Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorinabarker [email protected], or call her at 360-461-7928. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.
Her next column will be June 12.