Founded 50 years ago in Edmonds, Historical Society looks to future

(L-R) Former Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society Board Presidents Jerry Freeland and Bill Lambert pause for a photo with current President Barb Fahey.

Volunteers, members, officers and friends of the Edmonds-South Snohomish County Historical Society gathered early Friday evening in the historic Edmonds Masonic Hall on Dayton Street to both celebrate the accomplishments of the past 50 years and kick off plans for the next half century and beyond.

After welcoming attendees, board president Barb Fahey introduced the society’s new executive director, Maggie Case. She came on board last September to focus on and oversee the group’s ever-expanding workload — much of which falls outside the day-to-day management of the Edmonds Historical Museum and the artifacts collection.

Society Executive Director Maggie Case addresses the group. The newest addition to the society’s permanent staff, Case will oversee development and administrative duties.

“It was becoming clear that one person (Edmonds Historical Museum Director Katie Kelly) couldn’t do it all,” explained Fahey. “Bringing Maggie on frees the museum director to focus on managing the museum itself and make it the best it can be, while Maggie spearheads leading the larger organization into the future.”

“I’ve only been here a short time,” Case began as she took the podium, “but it didn’t take long to recognize that Edmonds is a very special place where the spirit of volunteerism runs strong. Organizations like the society that are staffed primarily by volunteers are true labors of love.”

Next to speak was Museum Director Katie Kelly, who provided a quick overview of how the society was created in 1973, mentioning in particular the roles of Doug and Dorothy Egan, who provided both the idea and the energy to organize the effort. Largely through the Egans’ efforts, the City of Edmonds decided to allow the society to use the old Carnegie Library — which housed city offices at the time — as its new home, presenting the keys to the society in April 1973.

Museum Director Katie Kelly spoke about the accomplishments of the past 50 years.

“We’ve come a long way from those early days,” Kelly said, citing as an example how the museum’s artifact collection has grown to 26,000 items from an initial handful originally donated by individuals and businesses.

“Along the way we added an elevator connecting the first and second floors of the museum in 1985,” she continued, “began the very successful Museum Summer Market in 1994, completed restoration of the museum upstairs to reflect its history as a library, completed the south plaza with the new bell tower to house Edmonds’ original school bell, and just last year began work on the north plaza, adding the cedar woodcarving by Coast Salish artist Ty Juvenil. It’s been a busy time, but there’s more ahead.”

Recent renovations to the museum building’s outside include the south plaza featuring the bell tower housing the original Edmonds school bell, and the newly-installed cedar woodcarving by Coast Salish artist Ty Juvenil honoring the original inhabitants of this area.

Case then explained some of the hurdles ahead, including the ongoing challenge of offsite storage for the ever-growing artifact collection, finding additional opportunities for fundraising, and expanding the pool of community volunteers to fuel the effort.

“The fact that local history matters and needs to be preserved is at the very center of our work,” she said.  “It wouldn’t happen without all the volunteers, board members, donors and community advocates who have been part of our journey. For the next 50 years we will keep the community at the core of what we do and at the center of our focus – we will remain true to our founders and the mission of our organization. I’m so proud to be taking this journey with you.”

Returning to the podium, Barb Fahey offered closing remarks.

“What we are really trying to do tonight is say thank you to all our members and volunteers,” she said. “Without you we wouldn’t be here today. And if you have the time and inclination, we need you to volunteer and join us as we bring another 50 years of history to the community. Thanks for all you’ve done to keep us alive and well to this point.  It is very greatly appreciated.”

— Story and photos by Larry Vogel

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