Semiahmoo museum to open

Published on Thu, Mar 29, 2001 by Soren Velice

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Semiahmoo museum to open

By Soren Velice

About two miles southwest of the city of Blaine, remnants of a significant era of the town’s heritage are gathering dust, hidden from public view.

By Memorial Day, Drayton Harbor Maritime (DHM) and Whatcom County Parks and Recreation want to lift the veil of years since the Semiahmoo Museum closed.

“What we’re trying to do is tell a story out there,” DHM director Richard Sturgill said. “We want to tell people about our heritage.” The museum, housed in what used to be the Alaska Packers Association bunkhouses, closed in 1995 following parks department budget cuts. County parks has committed to maintain the building, but DHM will operate the museum. “We wouldn’t be able to do this without DHM,” said parks operations manager Lynn Givler.

“What we hope to do is twofold,” Sturgill said. “Our mission is to preserve our maritime heritage, and we can also provide economic stimulus by drawing tourists; people can learn about our heritage and spend money here.” According to a 1997 report of the Travel Industry Association of America, people traveling to see historical and cultural exhibits spend an average of $615 per trip, $190 more than the average for all types of travelers. “We want to convey to the public that there’s an economic asset there,” Sturgill said. “People might come to Blaine and buy a sandwich and maybe spend the night.”

Marge Reichhardt, the museum’s curator in its former incarnation, said it would be an asset to the community. “I think a lot of people will appreciate that the museum is there,” she said. “I think it’s invaluable to have access to local history, and there’s a lot of history there as far as the cannery era.”

In preparation for the reopening, county parks has re-roofed the two buildings and installed a new heating system. “We put the building in as good shape as we could to protect the exhibits,” Givler said.

Among the exhibits under the new roof is a 32-foot Bristol Bay sailboat, the only kind allowed to fish in Bristol Bay, Alaska until 1951; APA made many of the boats on the spit and towed them north en masse for the salmon season. Another old display under the new roof is a model of a fish trap, an example of giant mazes that were sunken into Puget Sound fishing grounds such as Point Roberts until they were outlawed in 1934. A new feature will be a video documentary about APA.

County parks will also be responsible for duties such as upkeep of the building and cleaning bathrooms, while DHM will coordinate volunteer docents to oversee the museum during the weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

To that end, Sturgill has already met with the Semiahmoo women’s club to recruit volunteers. He also invites community members to attend DHM’s

April 3 meeting at the Blaine Harbor boating center at 7 p.m. “Hopefully, we’ll be signing up docents,” he said. “What we hope to provide is the focus and energy to revitalize this whole complex.”

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