Edmonds Historical Museum’s Katie Kelly moving on

Katie Kelly (Photo by Larry Vogel)

Known in the community as the go-to person for authoritative information on the history of Edmonds and the surrounding area, Caitlin “Katie” Kelly – Edmonds Historical Museum director, Edmonds native and quintessential Edmonds kind of gal — has left her position.

“I love the museum and being director for the past nine years has been such an honor,” she said. “But it’s time for me to move on.”

Kelly started at the museum more than 15 years ago as a volunteer and worked her way up to part-time collections manager, full-time collections manager, interim director and — with the departure of then-director Peter Bojakowskitook on the full-time directorship, a post she’s held ever since.

A 1998 graduate of Edmonds Holy Rosary School, Kelly attended Bishop Blanchet High School and spent her college freshman year at Montana State University Bozeman, where along with academics she could indulge the other passion of her life – volleyball.

“I’ve played volleyball since fourth grade, and I just love it,” she explained. “While at Bozeman we traveled to Florida with the team, and while we were there some recruiters from Oglethorpe [University, located in Atlanta, Georgia] saw me play. Oglethorpe has a great volleyball program, and I was actually contacted by the coach asking if I might want to play for them. Pretty heady stuff — so I transferred to Oglethorpe the following year.”

No slouch on the court, Kelly still holds the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference records for digs per game and digs per season. (For the non-volleyballers among us, a dig is when a player returns an attack shot from the opposing team, putting the ball back in play.)

While at Oglethorpe, Kelly majored in history and accounting.  A strange mix of majors, you say? Not for her.

“I really love math,” she said. “But growing up I visited lots of museums with my dad – another history buff – and I’ve been drawn to museums, old artifacts, and history ever since. I especially love American, European and Chinese history.”

But the “history bug” really bit the summer between her junior and senior years when she traveled with her coach and a select group of volleyballers to Spain.

“I’ve never been to Europe before, and, oh my God, I just fell in love with it,” Kelly said. “Walking through buildings and churches built hundreds of years ago where kings and queens were married, and then looking at my feet and realizing I was in the same spot.  It just blew me away.

“As soon as I got back to college, I asked my advisor what I could do with a history degree,” she continued. “He said I could do anything as long as I could write. Well, I had that covered too so that settled it. History became my sole major.”

After returning to Edmonds, she needed to pay the bills, so she fell back on her accounting talents to work in payroll and accounts payable for a Seattle company.

“I quit that job after two-and-a-half years to travel with some friends to Germany, England, Ireland, Scotland and Spain,” she explained.  “It was an incredible experience! When I got back home I did some serious reevaluation of what I really wanted to do with the rest of my life. I always wanted to work in a museum – I grew up going to museums with my dad – so I Googled up museums near me and found the Edmonds Historical Museum.

Longtime Edmonds Historical Museum Director Caitlin Kelly was passionate about sharing her knowledge to help community members and visitors interested in local history. In this 2015 photo she assists Clarence Caspers with his historical research. (Photo by Bob Sears)

“I took a walk over there and had the greatest two-hour conversation with then-director Joanie Seim,” she continued.  “She told me they had a huge backlog of material that needed to be catalogued and sorted, and if I could work without pay she’d love to have me take it on. So I did, and it turned out be a great thing because a few months later the part-time collections manager quit, and I was hired.”

One of the things Kelly learned working under Seim was the importance of the museum’s role in the community, keeping the focus on providing people a way to connect with the history and heritage of the place where they live. She took this on, and it became a core passion that guided her future work at the museum

“I’m most proud of how I’ve been able to make the museum more accessible and bring it more out into the community,” she explained. “By doing things like digitizing our photo collection and making all our materials accessible in our research library, I’ve built on the work of previous directors to enhance the museum-community connection. I’m very happy and excited to have been a part of all this.”

While she has some contracting and consulting work lined up, Kelly’s immediate plans are to stay in Edmonds for now – or until a new irresistible opportunity presents itself.

Did someone say volleyball?

“I feel like I’m in a good place,” she laughed.  “But I also love a good adventure.”

— By Larry Vogel

  1. I first met Katie while working as a volunteer docent there at the museum and also had the privilege of collaborating with her on a couple of exhibits. She will be greatly missed!

  2. Katie held that place together! Such a positive force in our community. I enjoyed volunteering there for Katie – exhibits, the newsletter, special events, SCF, Haunted Museum, scavenger hunts, research, etc.
    Thank you Katie for your years of service! Hope they gave you a dingdong of a going away party!

  3. Thanks for your many contributions to the Museum and community. All the best in your future, and glad to hear you are sticking around Edmonds, at least for a while.

    1. Thank you, Katie for your endless patience and support for Edmonds history buffs and professionals alike. You were always willing to drop what you were doing and answer questions about the history of our town. I, too, wish you all the very best in your journey.

  4. As a researcher and history writer for My Edmonds News I have relied on Katie on a number of occasions. She was not only delightful to work with, but extremely knowledgeable regarding potential “rabbit holes” aka archives and resources to explore.

    Katie I will miss seeing your smiling face and wish you nothing but the best in your future endeavors.

  5. The Shoreline Community Based Transition Program provides vocational training for students with disabilities. For many years, we were able to partner with the Edmonds Historical Museum in providing on the job training as volunteers. It was all because of Katie and her willingness to support our program that we were able to be there for so long. She was the main reason why the museum was one of our best vocational sites. Thanks for all that you did for us, Katie. We wish you the best!!

  6. Katie! I loved having you work with me in the Museum! Wishing you the BEST of everything in your bright future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.