8-14-14: Teaching museum reopens with focus on culture and the arts
8-14-14: Teaching museum reopens with focus on culture and the arts
Posted on 08/14/2014
After a year of extensive curriculum planning and restoration work, the Karshner Museum will reopen this fall as the Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts.


The newly restored teaching museum will open to the public September 3 and remain open this fall from 1 to 4 p.m. each day that school is in session.


A grand reopening ceremony is planned from 1 to 2 p.m. on Friday, October 10. The facility is located at 309 Fourth St. N.E. in Puyallup, adjacent to Stewart Elementary School.


The one-hour ceremony will feature guest speakers and musical performances; however, students will continue to perform until 4 p.m.


Diane Nason Karshner, one of several remaining ties to the museum’s namesake Dr. Warner Karshner, said she looks forward to attending the grand reopening. The Gig Harbor resident is the wife of the late Dr. Warner Karshner, who was a great-nephew of the museum’s founder and shared his same name.


“Our family is excited for the students, the teachers, and the community at large,” said Nason Karshner, who retired last year after 38 years as a school counselor. “The facility provides a unique opportunity to showcase culture and the arts combined with the original intention of Dr. and Mrs. Karshner to have a vibrant, hands-on learning environment.”


The building houses one of the few school district-operated teaching museums in the United States.


When the teaching museum reopens on September 3, guests will be invited to take self-guided tours of a traveling “Legacy Washington” history exhibit titled “Moving Forward, Looking Back: Washington’s First Women in Government,” that will be on display through mid-October.


The exhibit is one of three that will be loaned to the facility this year as a result of a new partnership between the Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts and the Secretary of State’s Office.


An expanded purpose


The Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts will be a cultural hub for third-grade school field trips that begin in February, as well as for staff trainings and workshops.


The field trip will align with the third grade social studies curriculum, which includes a unit on Native American culture.


Educators have spent the past year planning the Native American unit, which is also aligned to the Common Core State Standards and English Language Proficiency standards.


Lesson plans focus on Washington’s coastal and plateau Native American tribes, said Brian Fox, executive director of communications, information, and arts education.


The curriculum also meets the requirements of House Bill 1495, which requires schools to teach about Native Americans unique to their area, and integrates proven instructional strategies known as Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD).


Upon their arrival at the teaching museum, students will learn about artifacts related to their classroom lessons, use modern technology to support their research and learning, and do art projects and other hands-on activities, said Jennifer Torgerson, a school district GLAD project trainer.


The learning will continue in the weeks following the trip, she said, as third graders prepare reports, do art projects, tell stories, and incorporate technology related to their museum visit.


Torgerson worked with Indian Education Program Specialist Michelle Marcoe and other committee members to help develop the Native American unit.


The lessons were presented for the first time last spring to Firgrove Elementary students and will be expanded this year to elementary schools around the district.


The Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts will also be home to events and activities related to the arts, including the annual Dan Vesey–Deb Munson Art Exhibit in May. Winning student artwork will also be showcased there.


Staff trainings and workshops will also be held at the center throughout the year. An annual summer leadership meeting for all district administrators, for example, was scheduled there this month.


“The purpose of the center will be to fulfill Dr. Karshner’s vision of providing students an opportunity to learn about the world’s diverse cultures through participatory education,” Fox said. “Through the integration of visual arts, drama, movement, storytelling, music, and critical thinking strategies, students and teachers will experience history and culture through field trips, teacher workshops, and special events.”


Restoration work


Significant restoration work has been done inside the facility, including the refinishing of natural wood floors. Walls are a light fir wood and there is increased natural lighting to resemble a Native American longhouse, Fox said.


Longhouses were a style of residential dwelling built by native peoples in various parts of North America. Separate longhouses were also often built for community meetings.


A hand-carved Native American canoe and welcome figure displayed for years in the museum will continue to be prominently displayed in the large main room, also referred to as the great hall.


The great hall can be used for large meetings or gatherings of up to 200 visitors, with a drop-down projection screen for presentations.


The room is wired with modern technology that supports six 50” wall-mounted computer monitors, which are spaced around the room. The monitors facilitate small-group work, Fox said.


The spacious area is also suitable for students and other groups to dance or do other physical activities.


A turn-of-the-century pioneer classroom remains unchanged, as does a room where Dr. Karshner’s collection of 10,000-plus artifacts from around the world are stored.


Rooms along the north side of the building are galleries with 10 newly crafted rolling display cases that will showcase artifacts that can be turned different directions and moved about the facility.


The display cases have been designed with wood removed from the interior walls, as well as with slate from chalkboards that used to hang in the building.


Rosemary Eckerson, a former curator and director of the Karshner Museum for 27 years, is helping to arrange artifacts in the display cases this month in preparation for opening day.


Eckerson served over the past year on a transition committee, made up of educators and community members, that helped plan the repurposing of the museum.


“I have such a love for the museum collection,” she said. “What foresight Dr. Karshner had, as the artifacts are as relevant today as they were in 1930. The items will tie in keenly with what students are studying.”


An enclave in one of three gallery rooms will feature an exhibit honoring Dr. Karshner, including a roll top desk, some of his books, and other artifacts and memorabilia that reflect his life, Fox said.


Native American baskets, a longhouse plank, and Dale Chihuly glass art will also continue to be featured throughout the center, Fox said.


A room on the south side of the building will be used as a modern classroom, complete with an interactive white board and mounted projector. Staff can meet in this room for workshops or trainings, Fox said, and students can do art projects or other lessons during classroom field trips.


Bathrooms have been remodeled to meet building code, directional lighting has been added to gallery room ceilings to spotlight display cases, soundproofing panels have been installed in galleries and the main room, an office has been created in the entry, and new coats of paint have been added throughout the building.


A wall was also removed between two rooms in the back (east side) of the building and doorways reopened in other areas to improve air flow and create more space for people to move about the facility, Fox said.


Additionally, a covered porch facing the parking lot on the south side of the building has been restored and will be an ideal place for outdoor gatherings, music, or student projects, Fox said.


Entry to feature Puyallup Tribe of Indians exhibit


Inside the front entry, a glass-enclosed display case has been added to prominently feature an exhibit about the Puyallup Tribe of Indians.


The display, which is expected to be completed in time for the reopening ceremony in October, will feature artifacts in chronological order dating from the early years of the Puyallup Tribe to the present.


Brandon Reynon, an archeologist with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, visited the Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts last month to begin planning the exhibit. He said it will be the only one in the City of Puyallup that features Puyallup tribal history.


“It will be our story,” Reynon said. “The tribe will have the opportunity to have our culture here and share our history.”


Honoring the past


Karshner Museum was founded in 1930 by Dr. Warner Karshner and his wife Ella as a lasting memorial for their son Paul, who died from polio in 1924 during his senior year of high school.


The museum opened in 1930 at Puyallup High School and was moved in 1965 to its present location in the old Stewart School building.


The original wooden “Paul H. Karshner Memorial Museum” sign will remain above the front door entry to honor the “rich history of the museum,” Fox said.


 Other pieces of the museum history have been repurposed, he said.


A stuffed bison that stood on a platform in the main room, for example, was on loan and has been returned to the Washington State Historical Society.


An elephant’s foot — a popular item among students and adults alike for its signature smell — is safely stored with other archives and will be displayed during certain times of the year, Fox said.


The goal, he said, will be to display more of Dr. Karshner’s collection for students and community members here and around the region to learn about and enjoy.


A new Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts logo, featuring an image of the building’s cupola, will be featured on the front doors and in publications and other marketing materials.


The museum restoration project is being paid for with a combination of general and capital (construction) funds.


“Legacy Washington” partnership


The teaching museum will host three traveling history “Legacy Washington” exhibits in 2014-15, beginning with the women in government display. That exhibit will be replaced in mid-October with “Grand Coulee to Grunge: Eight stories that changed the world.”


In February 2015, the same time that third graders begin field trips to the museum, the exhibit will switch and feature one that relates to students’ study of coastal and plateau tribes. The exhibit is titled “We’re Still Here: The Survival of Washington Indians.”