Harbor Heritage

Collaborative Exhibit showcases rich regional history

By Colin Anderson
Photo Courtesy of Harbor History Museum Collection #1988.030.010
Article provided by Gig Harbor Living Local

If you haven’t had a chance to see the most recent exhibit at the Harbor History Museum, there is still time to see an amazing piece of Gig Harbor history up close. The “Salmon, Seiners and Life on the Sea” exhibit continues through September 16. The collaboration between the Gig Harbor BoatShop, Harbor History Museum, Skansie Netshed Foundation and Harbor WildWatch explores that past and present of the Puget Sound salmon fisheries and the generations that still fish the waters today

The focal point of the exhibit is the Avalon. Launched in 1929 from the Skansie Ship Building Co., the Avalon was used by the Skansie family for more than six decades. Locals could find it moored near the center of town near other well-known seiners like Genius, Victory, Veteran and Shenandoah.

In 2015, after sinking in Hood Canal, the Avalon was declared derelict and scheduled for demolition. The BoatShop partnered with the Department of Natural Resources to save it from the wrecking ball and instead thoughtfully deconstructed the historic vessel. This process allowed The BoatShop to recover artifacts which are featured in the museum. These include Avalon’s iconic wheelhouse.

Dismantling Avalon piece by piece also allowed The BoatShop to develop accurate construction plans detailed enough to build a Skansie purse seiner, significant because there are no known construction drawings for this vessel.

Along with the Avalon wheelhouse, the exhibit features a brief history of the Skansie Ship Building Co. as well as a story skiff, a scaled-down version of a seine skiff that would have been used to set the net.

The Fishing Life and Sustainable Fisheries portion of the exhibit features key innovations that impacted the fishing industry. Also featured in the exhibit is a map of various fisheries and tips for what we can do to help save the salmon.

This exhibit was made possible in part by support from Pierce County Landmarks & Historic Preservation Commission, RPM Foundation, Gig Harbor Commercial Fishermen’s Civic Club, Gig Harbor Marina & Boatyard, Seattle Marine & Fishing Supply Co. and Foss Waterway Seaport, as well as private donors.

“Salmon, Seiners and Life on the Sea” brings together past and present in a unique way. The exhibit draws upon the expertise of commercial fishermen, boat builders and restorers, wildlife scientists and fishing families. It digs deep into fishing heritage archives and invites new generations into the salmon story. The Harbor History Museum is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 10am to 5pm and Sundays 1 to 5pm. Admission is free thanks to the City of Gig Harbor. More details are available at HarborHistoryMuseum.org.

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