Combining extensive museum experience with a personal knowledge of Gig Harbor, native Stephanie Lile began as curator of collections and exhibits Jan. 3 at the Harbor History Museum.
With many qualified applicants vying for the role, Lile’s application stood out because of her local ties and previous work with the museum, said executive director Katharine Hensler.
“We decided we could not go on any further without a curator on staff,” Hensler explained. “Stephanie has worked with our museum on a number of different projects ... (we) were immediately drawn to her application. We really didn’t have to go much further.”
Lile teaches Museum Studies at the University of Washington Tacoma and is the exhibit curator for “Bomber Boys: Portraits from the Front,” a traveling collection of World War II memorabilia and photographs based on pictures and journals kept by her father during his overseas tour.
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We decided we could not go on any further without a curator on staff. Stephanie has worked with our museum on a number of different projects ... (we) were immediately drawn to her application. We really didn’t have to go much further.
Katharine Hensler, executive director of the Harbor History Museum
Her experience also includes 17 years as the director of education at the Washington State Historical Society.
“I’m excited to be here,” Lile said. “The role of the museum in our community is key. Museums are memory keepers.”
Lile identified her first task in the curator position as organizing, cataloging and identifying the museum’s collection, with a rough estimation of 7,500 objects waiting for her attention.
“Each one has a unique story,” she said. “Some people say we’re the ‘attic of Gig Harbor,’ but I like to say that we’re a 3-dimensional library.”
With the Harbor History Museum’s exhibits already scheduled through 2017, Lile has some time to organize and familiarize herself with the collection before planning any new exhibits.
I’m excited to be here. The role of the museum in our community is key. Museums are memory keepers.
Stephanie Lile, new curator of collections and exhibits for the Harbor History Museum
While working to preserve the objects and images from Gig Harbor’s history, Lile is also forming a guide for handling artifact donations to the museum to keep the collection manageable and specific to Gig Harbor history.
“If someone wants to donate something it goes through me,” she explained. “We’re looking for items and objects that tell our local story within the terms of national history.”
She is working on this guide with Hensler, who highlighted the importance a curator plays within a museum in maintaining and developing the collection of artifacts.
“You can’t have a museum if you don’t have someone in here safeguarding the collection,” she said.
It’s lovely to be here (and) to be that person that can help maintain that history of the area. I think that it’s time for people to understand the role of their local museum. I think that’s something I can do ... Being memory keepers as a museum is very important.
Lile takes her curator role seriously, not only to preserve the collection for future generations but also to put as much of the collection online as possible for access by a broader audience.
“I think in this day and age the more you can share online the more you’re sharing the history of the place without damaging the objects,” she said. “We’re charged with preserving and protecting the history of Gig Harbor, and we take that very seriously.”
Working to preserve the history in her hometown also has a special meaning for Lile.
“It’s lovely to be here (and) to be that person that can help maintain that history of the area,” she said. “I think that it’s time for people to understand the role of their local museum. I think that’s something I can do ... Being memory keepers as a museum is very important.”
Lile can be reached by email at email@example.com or phone by calling the museum’s guest services at 253-858-6722.