Capturing the diverse heritage and history of Gig Harbor into a single exhibit is no easy task, but it’s a challenge that volunteer curator Joann Hale eagerly undertook when putting together the Harbor History Museum’s newest exhibit.
Called “Arts & Artifacts: An Excellent Little Bay” and inspired by the history book of the same title, the exhibit covers the first 90 years of Gig Harbor’s history, from 1860 to 1950.
Differing from the book — which follows a non-chonological narrative — Hale said she made a conscious decision to set the exhibit up as a timeline so visitors can wander through artifacts and information as Gig Harbor grew through the 1800s to the 1900s.
“I try to bring in as many things from collections as possible,” Hale said. “I tried to focus on a lot of families people don’t know about.”
I try to bring in as many things from collections as possible. I tried to focus on a lot of families people don’t know about.
Joann Hale, volunteer curator for “Arts & Artifacts: An Excellent Little Bay”
The exhibit features historic clothing, appliances and tools set alongside local and national timelines, providing a large amount of information for visitors to experience.
Taking pride of place in the exhibit is a Willits Canoe, on loan from Al Walker, and a Whitehall Rowboat, loaned by Nate Slater, the Harbor History Museum’s shipwright for the Shenandoah restoration project.
These boats represent a unique aspect of life for the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula settlers, who used nearby waterways to visit neighbors and nearby towns, since roads were lacking in the densely forested area.
“They fished in the water, they swam in the water, they played in the water,” Hale said. “A lot of these women would think nothing of climbing into a rowboat.”
To add further depth and a modern touch to the exhibit, the museum partnered with the Peninsula Art League to feature artwork from the Gig Harbor area.
This is a volunteer community effort. We’re really proud of how passionate people are for sharing our community story.
Alphild Dick, marketing & events coordinator for the Harbor History Museum
“I like the idea of sharing space to add a punch of color and bring in other organizations if we can,” Hale said. “This is a community museum.”
The partnership with the Peninsula Art League is an exciting aspect of the exhibit for Alphild Dick, marketing & events coordinator for the museum.
“This is a volunteer community effort,” Dick said. “We’re really proud of how passionate people are for sharing our community story.”
Paired with the exhibit will be a curator talk from Hale, called “The Accidental Curator” that will be held from 2 to 3 p.m. Thursday (Dec. 1) at the museum.
The idea for Hale’s talk came from Elizabeth Langford, the museum’s educational coordinator, to give a space for Hale to share her background and path to curation, Dick said.
I put my heart and soul into this. It is literally a labor of love.
Hale works in guest services at the museum and is a volunteer curator, working at home to research and create the exhibits, with the help of her husband, Leonard.
“I put my heart and soul into this,” Hale said. “It is literally a labor of love.”
Hale’s dedication does not escape the attention of the other staff members at the museum.
“Joann is a dedicated researcher,” Dick said. “She puts a lot of thought into discovering interesting backgrounds into our community’s history.”
“Arts & Artifacts: An Excellent Little Bay” opened Nov. 11 and will run through Feb. 19 at the Harbor History Museum, located at 4121 Harborview Drive.