Local museum showcases pioneer life and an Ice Age Diorama

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Local museum showcases pioneer life and an Ice Age Diorama

This is Micki Ryan, I'm the director of the Orcas Island historical Museum which is located in Eastsound Washington in the heart of Orcas Island. Our museum is a community history Museum. And physically it consists of six historic log cabins that were moved to the center of Eastsound in the 1950s from other locations on the island. They represent several different styles of log cabin building techniques. These techniques included Appallatian, Swedish, German, and Finnish. The themes inside the cabins relate to how the early settlers lived at the time.

The Boede log cabin shows the activities of the Boede family at the time in the 1880s. So this is pre-electricity, pre-surfaced roads, pre-television, pre-radio, and pre-automobile and it is very enjoyable... especially for kids that come however the comments we get from adults are quite revealing as well. Everyone enjoys getting a peek inside the cabins and inside the lives of the people who lived there at the time.

You walk through each cabin to the other cabins... there are no barricades in between. The Jackson cabin was built by the Jackson family originally. There is a link between the Jackson cabin and the another cabin that showcases the Postal Service at the time including stories and the post office locations at the time as well as some artifacts.

The Chertoff cabin is probably our most popular cabin here at the museum. It draws the most comments from all of our visitors. This is our Orcas Voices Program that consists of people who have been interviewed in the past with beautiful photographs and excerpts from the interviews telling about aspects of their lives on Orcas Island as children growing up here and also living and working here as adults. We also have a journal where visitors can enter their own stories... we love to hear your stories. We have another journal that is kept at the front desk which is offered to people who are descended from early Orcas Island pioneers and have their own stories to tell.

We also have the Olsen cabin which contains an exhibit of early industries on the island including logging, farming, Limekiln processing, Orcharding, and brick making. The last cabin is the Kimball cabin which has an exhibit of local Native American artifacts and stories. This cabin will be revamped in early 2009 and it will include more oral histories of families descended from the first settlers of Orcas Island and what they are doing now. There are a number of items for sale including books, T-shirts, unusual seasonal items that can only be found on Orcas Island.

We have a brand-new gallery and in this gallery we will be installing a diorama of Ice Age Orcas Island. The Orcas Island historical Museum has been given fossil artifacts from the Ice Age. The Bison Antiquus (ancient bison) was a 9 foot tall predecessor of the modern Buffalo of which there were herds of on Orcas Island. We have some other materials relating to mammoths found in the area as well as a prehistoric sloth also known as the "Megalonyx Jeffersonii" which has a special place in the history of paleontology. Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter about the "giant clawed sloth" before the American philosophical Society of Philadelphia in August 1796. This marked the beginning of vertebrate paleontology in North America. For this reason the creature was appropriately named the "Megalonyx jeffersonii" after Thomas Jefferson. There are also some bone materials that will be loaned to us of the Short Faced Bear which also lived at the time.

If you have any questions please consult the Orcas Island Historical Museum website.

Original interview conducted by Wes Edholm on December 4, 2008.

Orcas Island historical Museum, San Juan Islands.

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