The museum offers 7,000 square feet of permanent galleries showcasing the rich, unique heritage of the Gig Harbor Peninsula. Unique artifacts, video kiosks, hands-on exhibits, computer interactives, and a small theater bring Peninsula history to life in our permanent galleries.
Special Exhibition Gallery
Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea
May 27 – September 16, 2018
Created by Gig Harbor BoatShop and Harbor History Museum in partnership with Skansie Netshed Foundation and Harbor WildWatch, “Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea” will not only feature the story of the Avalon as typical of many early purse seiners in the area, it will explore the past and present of Puget Sound’s salmon fisheries and generations of fishing families and fishing towns along Northwest shores. “Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea” will be on view May 27, 2018 – September 16, 2018 at Harbor History Museum.
In 1929, the Skansie Boat Building Co. in Gig Harbor launched the Avalon, a 66-foot wooden purse seiner. It was one in a long line of the family’s boat building tradition, and was fished first by Andrew Skansie then later by his sons Antone and Vince Skansie. The Skansies fished the boat for more than six decades, traveling from Gig Harbor to the salmon fisheries along the Northwest Coast. Moored at the Skansie’s net shed, located in the center of town, the boat was a Gig Harbor icon along with other well-known seiners such as the Genius, Victory, Veteran, and Shenandoah.
In 2015, after sinking in Hood Canal, the Avalon was declared derelict and scheduled for demolition. The BoatShop partnered with the Department of Natural Resources to save Avalon from the wrecking ball and instead thoughtfully deconstructed the historic vessel. This process allowed the BoatShop to recover artifacts that will be featured in the exhibit, including Avalon’s iconic wheelhouse which was salvaged and restored at the BoatShop and will serve as the centerpiece of this compelling exhibit. Dismantling Avalon piece by piece also allowed the BoatShop to develop accurate construction plans detailed enough to build a Skansie purse seiner, significant because there are no known construction drawings for this vessel.
Along with the Avalon wheelhouse, the exhibit will feature a brief history of the Skansie Boat Building Company as well as a Story Skiff, a scaled-down version of a seine skiff that would have been used to set the net. The Story Skiff was built by BoatShop Volunteer Bill Isaacs from historic plans from Whatcom Museum’s H.C. Hanson Collection. Visitors will also be able to view wall-sized plans of the Avalon and artifacts keyed to their original location on the boat.
Salmon fishing is a viable and important industry, feeding millions of people around the world. But what does it take to be a fisherman, and how has that life changed over the past five generations? From boats to nets to fishing communities around Puget Sound, visitors will discover the who behind the fish on their table. The Fishing Life and Sustainable Fisheries portion of the exhibit will feature key innovations that impacted the fishing industry. Stretched from Wheelhouse to Story Skiff is a representation of a seine net that shows the different types of salmon caught in Northwest waters. Also featured in the exhibit is a map of various fisheries and tips for what we can do to help save the salmon.
This exhibit was made possible in part by support from Pierce County Landmarks & Historic Preservation Commission, RPM Foundation, Gig Harbor Commercial Fishermen’s Civic Club, Seattle Marine & Fishing Supply Co., Foss Waterway Seaport, as well as private donors.
Also, courtesy of the RPM Foundation, this project has received the help of three interns, Nathan Patrick, Josiah Pollock, and Caeden Erdmann. Together they have been learning to interpret, conserve, and restore various artifacts while also helping with the fabrication of the upcoming “Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea” exhibit. The RPM Foundation supports restoration and preservation training programs for the next generation of automotive, motorcycle and marine craftsmen. The services, resources and grants provided by RPM safeguard the future of the collector vehicle industry by sustaining hands-on training for young adults.
“Salmon, Seiners, and Life on the Sea” brings together past and present in a unique way. The exhibit draws upon the expertise of commercial fishermen, boat builders and restorers, wildlife scientists, and fishing families. It digs deep into our fishing heritage archives and invites new generations into the salmon story.
“Primal Connections” by Christine Buchanan
May 27, 2018 - September 30, 2018
You may have noticed the addition of some new "friends" to the Museum lobby recently. Christine Buchanan's ceramic octopus and student-created jellyfish were crafted as a part of a lesson for the Peninsula High School Art Club. The octopus and jellyfish have found their home with the twisted pieces of metal that were found in the Narrows after the 1940 collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Together they've brought to life the existing lobby installation, creating "Galloping Gertie Under the Sea."
In addition to her piece in "Galloping Gertie Under the Sea," we are excited to have Buchanan's solo exhibit, "Primal Connections," on view in the Harbor History Museum Lobby Gallery from May 27 - July 23, 2018. Each piece in Buchanan's exhibit is individually crafted and representative of the power of human connection with nature.
Born in Portland, Oregon, Buchanan was an honors graduate of Pacific Lutheran University and was influenced by Lute Faculty Tom Torrens and Mark Gulsrud. Since 1993, Buchanan has been teaching Fine Art at Peninsula High School in Gig Harbor, Washington. In addition to an active gallery schedule, she has donated her art to charities including the Harbor History Museum, Washington Water Trails Association, and the Community Inclusion Program.
All of our K-12 school programs are fully facilitated experiences led by a team of specially trained staff and volunteers. We work hard to make sure that your students are engaged and enthralled with their venture back in time. While our admission for general public visitors is free--and students are always encouraged to make return visits with their families--our school program fees are necessary to cover the cost of staffing, supplies, and maintaining our unique facilities.
Pioneer School Experience
The award-winning Pioneer School Experience, in the restored Midway Schoolhouse and museum galleries, is an opportunity for school groups to step back in time, learn local history, and relive schoolhouse life at the turn of the century. Participants are immersed in four hours of continuous programming with curriculum designed to meet several Washington State Education Standards. In this program, students visit our permanent galleries, special exhibition gallery, and participate in a lesson circa 1901.
Price: $7 per student
Program Available T-F (10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.)
Primary Museum Experience
The Primary Museum Experience is an instructor-led introduction to the museum. Students in grades K-2 learn museum etiquette, visit the restored Midway Schoolhouse, participate in an I Spy activity and enjoy a hands-on tour of the main and maritime galleries.
Price: $5 per student
Program Available: T-F (Available during museum hours; 1.5 hour program)
If you would like more information or to schedule a field trip please fill out our Field Trip Form.
The 65-foot purse seiner, Shenandoah, was donated to the Museum in 2000. The fishing vessel was owned by Tony Janovich, who donated it to the Museum shortly after his retirement. Currently, we are in the process of restoring the vessel. If you would like to volunteer on the restoration please click here. Also to follow the progress of the restoration click here.
The Harbor History Museum houses a vast array of collections relating to the Gig Harbor Peninsula and surrounding communities. The Museum also serves as the official repository for the fallen Tacoma Narrows Bridge nicknamed "Galloping Gertie."
If you are interested in conducting your own research please call 253-858-6722 for information on hours and collection availability or email the research team.