It wasn’t just one thing that led to the Forest Service exhibit now featured at the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum in Washington State. After all, the vice president is a Forest Service retiree and the curator is his wife.
“We change the exhibit every year, and this one has always been on our list,” said Dick Kirby. The tiny museum tucked off the main street at the entrance of North Bend, Wash., preserves the history of Snoqualmie Valley, and the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National forest has been integral to that past.
Dick and Kris started last year, traveling to the national Forest Service museum in Missoula, Mont., and then to the logging museum in Forks, Wash., to do research and get ideas. “It was fun, a lot of details and layers,” said Kris, who has been on the board of directors at the all-volunteer run museum for 15 years before becoming the curator.
The exhibit fills approximately 19 by 25 feet of the front gallery, with floor-to-ceiling display cases showcasing artifacts and photographs, mostly from the 30s. A vintage hat and a Smokey Bear wrist watch are among uniform pieces on display. Antique radio equipment shows technology dating from the 1900s through the 60s. An operational Osborne Fire Finder borrowed from the Darrington Ranger District occupies the middle of the room. The first Snoqualmie district forest ranger, “Cougar Pete” dominates one display case along with the 1908 ranger exam.
Dick said obtaining the items was easy: some of it was his, some donated and some borrowed. After working as a fire prevention technician for 32 summers he has collected thousands of photos. He also has stories to tell. At a presentation to the Snoqualmie Ranger District staff last month, Dick shared his first job experience with the Forest Service, bringing laughter from the crowd, “At fire camp I was the first to skinny dip; was a pretty good softball player and beer drinker. You could tell I was leadership material. I went home the end of the week and came back the next Monday as a crewboss,” he said.
The Kirbys hosted May’s monthly employee meeting at the museum to coincide with the official opening of the exhibit. Many of the staff members had helped gather and sift through artifacts for the museum. Employees lingered over the displays, smiling and reminiscing before their meeting started. District Ranger Jim Franzel said he feels it is important to look back at how the community and Forest Service were interdependent. “Back in the 30s and 40s most of the folk who lived here in North Bend were loggers or miners extracting resources. Today most of the people who live here work in Seattle and come to the forest to recreate,” said Franzel.
Dick and Kris said the exhibit will be up for a year, maybe two. It continues to grow, as they acquire more contributions and they record on video the stories from former employees.
Learn more about the museum at http://www.snoqualmievalleymuseum.org/directions.html.