Planned as an opportunity for the public to meet IHM staff and Board and learn about what is happening and how to get involved, it turned out to be much more than that.
It turns out that the event was so popular that some attendees were already at the door at the time of our stand up meeting for staff and Board members 30 minutes before the event, and more people arrived as we continued to ready the space prior to the scheduled opening at 7PM. This early activity quickly put to rest the concern we had for an overlapping community meeting being hosted by the City at the Community Center. Though it was optional, 59 people still RSVP'd to the Open House and 49 of them showed up. We estimate that another 30+ also attended.
All in all, people seemed genuinely happy to be gathering, and for many, seeing others for the first time since the pandemic.
Information stations were setup throughout the Depot. These are where people could learn about IHM and speak with a staff person, member of the Board, or in the case of the trolley, a volunteer to get even more information.
Each station included one or more information posters or "infographics". Below we've included the posters for The Collection, The David J. Horrocks Memorial Research Center, the Auto Freight Building, Gibson Town Hall, plus the Trolley. These last three items are each complex enough to warrant their own dedicated blog posts so that we can focus on the critical issues unique to each item. Keep an eye out for these posts over the next couple of months.
A core tenet of our mission is the preservation of historical artifacts, or what we call the collection. At the Open House we presented our goals and needs for the collection, as well as information about ways that volunteers can help us meet these objectives.
The physical objects in our collection are actually stored in a number of places. Some are on display in the Depot Museum. The majority of items that require careful preservation and a controlled environment are kept at GTH. Because GTH is essentially full, our complete collection of the Issaquah Press is kept in a locked unit at Newport Way Storage, whose willingness to accommodate our special needs is very much appreciated. Below is a fun map with stars that mark all the locations where our collection is kept, either in storage, in our museums, or at a number of special exhibits around town.
The final pieces of our Collection station were how-to guides for accessing our online collections database. Keep an eye out for a future post where we will go into detail, including video recorded sessions for how to best interact with our collection online.
The David J. Horrocks Memorial Research Center
Perhaps the most under-utilized resource we manage is the David J. Horrocks Memorial Research Center located at GTH. As the infographic below depicts, the Research Center is essentially a library of printed and digital material that cover local history. These are items that can be pursued at one's leisure, though arrangements should be made ahead of time to ensure that someone is working at GTH when you want to come in. Visit this page on our website for more information about the Research Center.
Gibson Ek High School
We invited our partners from Gibson Ek high school to set up a station and join us at the Open House. Named after two Issaquah pioneer families, Gibson Ek offers a student-driven, project-based educational model that offers an alternative learning experience. We at IHM are engaged with Gibson Ek students through a Design Lab, capstone projects, and internships. This partnership is a real win-win for all involved and we are happy to give the educators from this special place the opportunity to interact with and tell their story to attendees of our Open House.
The Auto Freight Building
The Auto Freight Building houses many durable items, some that are in our collection and many others that are not. Acquired by IHM in 1989 and landmarked in 2019, the building was targeted for a major renovation that was a primary subject of a capital campaign launched in 2018. The goal was to rebuild the interior to become IHM's long-term preservation and storage facility for the next 25 years. Unfortunately, this effort was halted before any improvements could be implemented. Today we still have the need that was envisioned for this building, but now with a good understanding of the cost and complexity, it is unclear whether this building is the right solution. As the infographic below outlines, we see three possible futures for the building. Those options and more will be the subject of a future blog post and additional discussion.
Gilman Town Hall
Owned by the City of Issaquah and used by IHM as a museum space, collections storage, research facility, and office space, Gilman Town Hall housed what essentially was a permanent exhibit for roughly 20 years. During the COVID shutdown this exhibit was taken down and the items returned to storage. We are in the early stages of planning the next exhibit with the intention of rotating new exhibits through here on a fairly regular basis. Watch for another blog post where we hope to unveil our plans.
A serious effort to study the feasibility of relaunching the trolley began this past summer and now we have a good idea of the path forward. There is still much to do, with the significant challenges of funding the start up costs and recruiting and training the volunteer crew. We will be outlining a start up plan for the IHM Board early in 2024 and will look for a go/no-go decision as early as the end of Q1 next year. But there are many factors outside our control (the timing of fixing the Front St. crossing is a good example) and any prediction of the feasibility or open date would be premature at this time. This is another matter that will be the subject of future blog posts and social media communications.
Given its unique nature as a program requiring a variety of special skills and training, we put together a volunteer infographic just for the trolley. One thing the feasibility study has already made clear: our ability to build and maintain a trolley volunteer crew with sufficient depth so that no one is expected to make a commitment beyond what they are willing to do is absolutely essential for success. For us working on it now, this program and its potential to once again roll as the iconic representation of our railway past and a fun and exciting gateway to Issaquah's history for our youth is an exciting and challenging endeavor. With the support of enough volunteers, we hope to make it a reality.
We'll wrap up this recap by sharing the overview of all our volunteer opportunities. At the present we are most interested in connecting with those wishing to volunteer in the areas of Collections, Communications, Facilities, Museum Docent, and Tour Guides. For those of you who indicated your interest in volunteering during the Open House, we will be following up with you soon. Anyone can register their interest by visiting the volunteer page on our website.