Celebrating the 40 Year History of The Whale Museum

Posted January 2, 2019 at 5:51 am by

L-8 “Moclips” exhibit in 1981 and today. An orca whale last seen alive on July 23, 1977. Photos courtesy of The Whale Museum.

It’s time for this month’s his­to­ry col­umn from The San Juan His­tor­i­cal Soci­ety and Muse­um

The big pic­ture for a place’s his­to­ry is more than its peo­ple, events, and insti­tu­tions. The big pic­ture includes the his­to­ry of such things as its geol­o­gy, weath­er, and wildlife — its nat­ur­al his­to­ry. The Whale Muse­um has been in the fore­front of con­ser­va­tion, research, and edu­ca­tion about the Sal­ish Sea long before we all called it the Sal­ish Sea. This year, The Whale Muse­um will cel­e­brate its 40th year as a muse­um in that role.

This local icon­ic non­prof­it was orig­i­nal­ly found­ed in 1976 as the Moclips Ceta­log­i­cal Soci­ety by Ken Bal­comb, Camille Goebel, and Rick Chan­dler. Lat­er oper­at­ing as The Whale Muse­um in the old Odd Fel­lows Hall, it first opened its doors to the pub­lic on July 8, 1979, with Mark Ander­son as its first exec­u­tive direc­tor. It was the first muse­um in the coun­try devot­ed to a species liv­ing in the wild.

Vir­tu­al­ly all car­pen­try work was done by vol­un­teers, recruit­ed by Ken Bal­comb and oth­ers. Over 100 vol­un­teers (some of whom reside on the island today) worked for sev­en months in 1978 on the cre­ation of exhibits and to refur­bish the sec­ond floor of the 1892 build­ing. Own­er Lee Bave charged $75 a month for rent. The first floor was retained for Mrs. Bave’s Island Gallery and her the­atri­cal pro­duc­tion, “San Juan Saga.” Quite a few islanders will remem­ber being involved in those two, or at least attend­ing shows and exhibits.

In 1989 The Whale Muse­um pur­chased the build­ing from Mrs. Bave and in 1992 the name of the orga­ni­za­tion was legal­ly changed to The Whale Muse­um. The 1980s and 1990s were espe­cial­ly active decades with the estab­lish­ment of pro­grams still going on today:

  • 1981 Marine Mam­mal Strand­ing Network
  • 1984 Orca Adop­tion Program
  • 1992 Pod Nods
  • 1993 Sound­watch Boater Edu­ca­tion Program
  • 1994 Marine Nat­u­ral­ist Train­ing Course

Today, The Whale Muse­um con­tin­ues to wel­come vis­i­tors, local and inter­na­tion­al, with its mis­sion to pro­mote stew­ard­ship of whales and the Sal­ish Sea ecosys­tem through edu­ca­tion and research. Spe­cial 40th Birth­day events are planned for lat­er this year. Watch for announce­ments in local media and on The Whale Muse­um web­site.

Hap­py 40th, Whale Museum!

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Categories: Animals, Education, History

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