Bainbridge Island Historical Museum

This past March I found myself heading back to the west coast, to Washington state, to enjoy a short vacation before I started a new job. I have a friend in Seattle, so there I was, heading to museums and other places in the area. First stop on this trip was…

Bainbridge Island Historical Museum, located in Bainbridge Island, Washington

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Bainbridge Island Historical Museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm. Admission for the museum is $4. The museum is located on Bainbridge Island, a 35 minute ferry ride from Washington State Ferries in downtown Seattle. Round trip for the ferry is $8, which is a bit hefty, but the view of the Seattle skyline from the ferry makes it easier to part with the money. Downtown Bainbridge Island is right up the hill from the ferry terminal, and offers visitors plenty to see and do. Bainbridge Island is a quaint place (it reminds me of those small towns you see in movies and read in books), you’ll immediately feel how different it is from the hustle and bustle of Seattle once you step off the ferry. Downtown Bainbridge Island’s main street, known as Winslow Way, is where a majority of the shops and restaurants are located, thus making the little town super walk-able. You can bring a car via the ferry to cover the remote areas of the island (check the Washington State Ferries website for prices), or you can bring a bike or rent one to explore the rest of the island.

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Bainbridge Island Historical Museum is a small museum that consists of two rooms and a research library. I thought the museum consisted of two exhibits cause of the two room layout, but it turns out there are four exhibits. ” An Island Story”, “The Overland Westerners” and “Ansel Adams-Portrait of Manzanar” are the three exhibits that are located in the larger of the two rooms, but because the room was organized in a chronological fashion, I thought everything in the room was part of the “An Island Story” exhibit.  I did note there was a featured section for Ansel Adams’ portraits, but I don’t know which items are part of the “The Overland Westerners” exhibit. (The museum doesn’t offer a floor guide, so I had to check the website, and only then did I realize there was more than two exhibits.) “An Island Story” details the history of Bainbridge Island, from the Native American communities and the European settlement of the island to the relocation of the Japanese due to World War II. In addition to the history of the island, the exhibit also covers the history of whales in the area, and the island’s school system. “Ansel Adams-Portrait of Manzanar” displays portraits capturing the daily lives of the Japanese who were relocated to internment camps in Manzanar, California due to the events leading to World War II.  I missed the exhibit “The Overland Westerners” (technically I didn’t, it was there somewhere in the room, I just don’t recognize which of the items are part of the exhibit), which according to the website consists of 48 photographs of a 4 men cross country road trip, with images taken at each of the state capitals of the contiguous US. (Their road trip is something I want to do someday).

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The last exhibit is “Port Blakely: Portrait of a Mill Town”, located in the smaller room. Current Port Blakely is a quiet harbor area, but the exhibit shows how over a century ago, Port Blakely was a bustling town due to maritime industry and the sawmill, thus leading to the development of a multi-cultural community. The room is adorned with photographs captured by various local photographers, and features a scaled model of the sawmill site. Last, but not least is the research library, which I didn’t venture into.

My buddy and I spent about 1 hour at the museum, and that is a decent amount of time to see everything leisurely. Even though the museum is small, plenty of information is packed into those two rooms, so more time can be allotted if one wishes to read and absorb everything in detail. The amount of information versus the admission price makes the museum worthwhile, however, I think a floor guide, or better exhibit demarcations or maybe even a little more space between the items on display would improve the experience for visitors. Every inch of space in the two rooms is filled with information, so it can be a bit overwhelming, but the museum did its best with the limited space. Bainbridge Island Historical Museum is a great place to learn about the history of the island, and the island itself is a wonderful place to visit and experience, so hop on that ferry and be amazed by the island just across the water from Seattle.

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