Category Archives: Museums

Local History Museum Management

Hibulb Cultural Center, Tulalip

From Margaret RiddleLonghouse at Hibulb Cultural Center

Longhouse at Hibulb Cultural Center

Special Introduction from Margaret Riddle —

Decades in the planning, Tulalip’s Hibulb Cultural Center opened on Friday August 19, 2011 to Tribal members and invited guests and to the general public on the 20th and 21st.  My husband and I attended on Saturday with Snohomish County Museum Director Barbara George and, simply said, the museum is really impressive—very modern in display concept and the spaciousness of the interior made me feel as though I was in a natural setting.  Even the entrance walkway appears to be a stream.

Entering the main museum space, we were greeted with bays that told the stories of two friends: cedar and salmon.  Both displays were very moving.  Continuing on, we read about glacial retreat, the land bridge, archaeology and Indian whaling.  Then we were reminded of the sad story of the Point Elliott Treaty, the loss of a way of life and the tragedy of the Indian Boarding School, where, in Harriette Shelton Dover Williams’ words, the day consisted mostly of “Marching, Marching, Marching.”  All of the displays include Lushootseed text.

Walking through the museum I had a strong sense of the spirit and history of the Tulalip Tribes, clearly told in their own words.  Literally so since oral history audio and video accompany many of the displays.  Best perhaps with “Warriors: We Remember,” an exhibit that honors men and women who participated in our country’s various wars.  I linger here for some time, watching video oral histories—personal stories of tribal warriors who served, interspersed with actual war footage.  On the walls nearby were the oval portraits of many who served as well as portraits of Gold Star women, mothers of World War I dead.

At the end of the main hallway is a cedar longhouse which is built into the museum.  You can watch a video about the history of the longhouse and the role it has played in the lives of the Coast Salish.  I was continually drawn to the fine craftsmanship of the structure, the smell of the cedar and the art of the story poles.  Throughout the museum there are works of contemporary artists in the building itself, story poles, carvings and art-stenciled window etchings.

The Tulalips have dreamed of this place for many years and Director Hank Gobin and his staff (Melissa Parr, Inez Bill, Joy Lacey, Jaedean Jess, Lita Sheldon Mowrer, Tessa Campbell, Richard Young and Gene Enick) has worked to make it happen but it only became a reality when the Tribes gave $19 million to build the 23,000 square foot cultural center, a 10,000 square foot collections wing, and a 42 acre natural history preserve.  This is an important place.  The Tulalips have not only built a great museum but a gathering place with classrooms and meeting space where they can share their knowledge and stories with one another, a place where they can rediscover their traditions and share them with their children and all of us. For info about visiting see



Preservation and Conservation for Small Museums – Videos

Preservation Week 2011 has brought us many examples of how to save our treasures – both those help by families and by our community museums.   I’ve added a link to a Nebraska’s PBS website with several excellent, short, easily viewed videos on problems facing our small museums.  Note also the excellent articles written by experts to enhance those already available from the Library of Congress (see list below).

Our local history museums are our community attics and basements and need support in providing the best care they can for our artifacts, antiques, documents and photographs.  If you are a board member or volunteer of one of our local museums, please take the time to view these videos. They can help you recognize problems and plan for the future!

Contact the League by email ———  info at

Local history museums are like Icebergs

Our Historical Society Museums and Genealogical societies are our communities scrapbooks and antique collections – most of what is there is being preserved and in storage waiting for the appropriate exhibit or program to be featured. And managing all of this is complicated.

Congratulations to the Monroe Historical Society for winning the grant for a Museum assessment program. Running a local history museum is hard work. There are many rewards but the obligations can be overwhelming for volunteers and most of our small museums and genealogical groups are totally operated by unpaid history lovers who want to research and share. But there are difficult questions about what to keep for collections and what to say no to, finding volunteers to help keep our collections open, planning the next fresh new exhibit and the endless inventorying and cataloging, not to mention digitizing, publicity, programming…. Sometimes its just nice to get some outside input to help us focus on the big picture as well as the fun of the history. The Monroe museum has a great wealth of historic materials and newly written history on their website to build on for a new museum. Best of luck to them!

The applications for next year’s round are on Association of American Museums Museum Assessment Program – FY 2010 Deadline: February 16, 2010

For conservation assessment grants see –

Other grants –

National Endowment for the Humanities List of Grant programs

IMLS American Heritage Preservation Program

Karen Prasse
Stanwood Area Historical Society Volunteer
& President, League of Snohomish County Heritage Organizations