In 1949 a group of concerned citizens in Coupeville, WA banded together to save their historic Lovejoy Victorian Courthouse from destruction. Though their efforts were in vain (the courthouse was eventually destroyed) the Island County Historical Society was born with the mission to preserve and share Island County History. The group eventually opened their first museum on Whidbey Island in 1963 in a donated space with five volunteer workers. Since then, the museum has served as a source of rich history and culture, preserving and showcasing the artifacts and stories of the early settlers and native peoples of the Island County area.
The museum is a valuable resource for groups who come to Camp Casey in search of educational opportunities. Every year over 600 fifth graders visit the museum during their stay at Camp Casey. The museum presents 90 minutes of curriculum for revolving groups of students all week long.
“They come here and we give them a whirlwind tour of the town, natural history and local history,” Richard Castellano, Executive Director of the Island County Museum said. He explained how the museum strives to provide a hands-on experience for students with programming that offers students the opportunity to learn about how settlers would have come to the islands on ships, or over the Oregon Trail. The students have sampled hard tack and rationed water supplies, to help them understand what pioneer life might have been like.
Native American demonstrations can include spear-throwing demonstrations and native storytellers. Representatives from the Swinomish and Samish tribes will often speak to the students about their experiences growing up in their Native culture.
The museum has a “permanent” exhibit space that varies slightly over every two to three years before rotating out. The museum grounds feature the 1855 Alexander Blockhouse fortress and 8 rare cedar Indian dugout canoes, including the newly-restored 28-foot Old Chief Snakelum Family Canoe, originally from the area (circa 1850). They also have regular temporary exhibits, one of which will feature the history of native foods, some of which will be available for tasting at various times, from February 1 – April 13, 2014. The museum also keeps film, news and written archives, available for researchers by appointment .
The museum sits on a picturesque spot in a historic location on Coupeville’s Penn Cove, just a short drive from Camp Casey Conference Center. General admission is $3; Senior (65+), Student, Active Military $2.50; Family of 3 $6.00 – additional family members $1 ea; members and under 3 yrs. are always FREE –call ahead for group tours and rates. For more information visit: http://wp.islandhistory.org