Gig Harbor History Museum has big plans for its Maritime Gallery

This rendering shows what the Maritime Gallery at the Gig Harbor History Museum would look like when completed.
This rendering shows what the Maritime Gallery at the Gig Harbor History Museum would look like when completed. Courtesy

The Gig Harbor History Museum has launched a capital campaign to complete its Maritime Gallery.

The Maritime Gallery holds the Shenandoah, a 1925 Skansie cannery tender boat built for two Croatian immigrants.

The $2 million dollar project is named Project 224606, the vessel’s registration number. The 65-foot wooden boat lived in fresh water, rotting its wood and requiring the museum to create a conservation and reservation plan for the watercraft.

“The back deck of boat is rebuilt and replanked, but we are trying to use a combined conservation-reservation technique that will allow us to save as much of the original wood as possible and replace only the truly comprised wood that is super rotten,” Gig Harbor Museum director Stephanie Lile said.

Project 224606 consists of three parts: The completion of the Shenandoah, enclosure of the Maritime Gallery, and the creation of new, engaging exhibits in the Maritime Gallery with the Shenandoah as the focus.

The project has about $875,000 committed through a combination of grants, donations and pledges.

The project is set to be complete by 2025, the 100-year anniversary of the Shenandoah.

“We will explain the big deal about the boat,” Lile said. “It isn’t one that someone famous was on. It isn’t a boat with a necessarily super sexy story, but it is one of the last Skansie-built boats that is in the area. It dates backs to 1925. It’s a wooden vessel, where most fishing boats now are metal, and it really is iconic of our history of the area in terms of the whole idea of tree to sea.”

Lile said once the boat is rebuilt the museum will allow visitors to walk on the historic vessel.

“This was a working boat. It was the livelihood of two different families for decades. It is a different experience when you can step aboard and see what it is like,” Lile said.

She said she hopes the boat will be ready for visitors by the end of summer.

The gallery at the moment is covered but not enclosed. Lile said enclosing the 3,456-square-foot structure is essential to preserve the Shenandoah for decades.

“Enclosing the gallery will protect the boat from rain, wind, water, as well as insects who like to come and eat objects or make bees nests,” Lile said.

Lile said the museum is adapting an interpretive plan to create an under-the-waterline, at-waterline and above-waterline feeling to the gallery.

Museum staff also is working to create an interactive element on the Shenandoah for students.

“The program elements we are working on is life aboard a fishing boat,” Lile said. “It will allow students to come here to experience life as a fishermen.”

The Shenandoah was donated to the museum in 2000 and transferred to the museum in 2003. Lile said she hopes the boat will be preserved in the museum for generations to come.