Saving Stories

A short film about the Jefferson County Historical Society

Information about the Lincoln School

Lincoln School Post Card

Jefferson Art & History Museum
Open weekends only
January and February

11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Research Center
Open Tuesday - Saturday
11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Rothschild House Museum
Open May-September

Commanding Officer's Quarters Museum
Open May-September
Olympic Peninsula Gateway Visitors Center
Open daily
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

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James Swan's Collections

First Friday Lecture:
Swan and the Haida

Swan’s relationship with the Haida Indians of Queen Charlotte Islands, Canada, and their art will be the topic of February’s First Friday Lecture. Dr. Robin Wright, Emerita Professor of Art History and Curator of the Burke Museum, University of Washington, will be speaking on “Swan and the Haida: 19th Century Journeys.”

Dr. Wright will explore Swan’s relationship with the Haida Indians, their art, and his travels in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Wright is Emerita Professor of Art History at the University of Washington and Curator of Native American Art at the Burke Museum. She is the author of Northern Haida Master Carvers, In the Spirit of the Ancestors, Charles Edenshaw, and A Time of Gathering.

James Swan had a variety of careers: oysterman, customs inspector, land speculator, secretary to a congressional delegate, judge, natural historian, and ethnographer. As a teacher in Neah Bay, he learned about Makah culture. He wrote The Indians of Cape Flattery in 1869. In 1874, he published a Smithsonian monograph of Haida designs and their meanings. In 1883, on a trip to the Queen Charlotte Islands, he met master carver Charles Edenshaw and acquired the cane that is in the Jefferson County Historical Society collection.

The lecture will be at 7:00 on Friday, February 2 in Port Townsend’s historic City Council Chamber at 540 Water Street. There is a $5 suggested donation.

Jefferson Museum Celebrates
James Swan’s 200th Birthday

In celebration of James Swan’s 200th birthday, a new exhibit about this intriguing pioneer opened in the Jefferson Museum of Art & History January 13.

The publication of Recipes and Recollections of James G. Swan coincides with the exhibit opening. The book is based upon a notebook found in the JCHS archives, in Swan's own hand, of recipes he collected from Port Townsend hostesses.

Swan collected more than recipes. One of his many interests was collecting artifacts from Northwest natives for the Smithsonian Institution. In the process, he acquired his own collection of native art. Some of this collection, as well of other possessions of Swan’s, are now housed with the Jefferson County Historical Society and are part of the new Swan exhibit.

Swan held a variety of positions throughout his life. He an oysterman, a customs inspector, secretary to a congressional delegate, judge, natural historian, ethnographer, and artist, to name a few. An extremely prolific writer, he left valuable historical records in the form of books, newspaper articles, two monographs for the Smithsonian, and over 60 volumes of diaries.

Swan arrived in Port Townsend in 1859, not long after its founding in 1851. Port Townsend was the base from which he traveled west to Neah Bay, where he was a school teacher, and north to learn about the Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands in British Columbia.

Swan was particularly appreciative of the Haida art. One of the most outstanding pieces in Swan’s collection is a walking stick created by master carver Charles Edenshaw; it is part of the JCHS collection and will be in the exhibit. It was donated to the JCHS in 1978, along with several other pieces, by Swan’s grandson, Charles P. Swan.

In Winter Brothers, Ivan Doig’s book published in 1980, he writes about seeing the Edenshaw cane at the Jefferson Museum. Other personal belongings will also be on display, along with native pieces such as Makah baskets and a Haida argillite carving. Port Townsend artist Harriet Foster Beecher’s portrait of Swan (circa 1890s) will be on view along with reproductions of Swan’s own watercolors.

To complement the exhibit, Burke Museum curator Robin Wright, an expert on James Swan and Haida art, will present the JCHS First Friday Lecture on February 2nd at 7:00 pm in Port Tonsend’s historic city council chamber.

The exhibit opens to the public on Saturday, January 13 during regular museum hours of 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

The Museum is only open weekends during January and February. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $1 for children. Admission is always free for JCHS members, free for Jefferson County residents on the first Saturday of each month underwritten by a grant from the Port Townsend Arts Commission and free on First Saturday Art Walk. The Museum is located at 540 Water Street, Port Townsend.

Wearable Art
Brings Color to Jefferson Museum

Wearable Art Exhibit

The increasingly dark days of autumn will be brightened by the Wearable Art Exhibit at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History. The exhibit opened October 6, featuring pieces from Wearable Art Shows from 2011 to the present.

The Wearable Art Show was started by Debbi Steele, founder and past chairperson of the Jefferson County Community Foundation’s Fund for Women and Girls, as a fundraiser for that organization. Steele lived in Ketchikan, Alaska before moving to Port Townsend, where there is a very successful Wearable Art Show.

Sculptor Margie McDonald has been part of the Wearable Art Show since the very first show as an artist and as artistic director for the last two.

Drawings for Wearable Art PieceWhen the wearable art pieces move from the runway to the museum they’ll transition from costumes on living models to works that will no longer have motion - but there are compensations. “You get to look up close and see the quality and the things that are used. Things are well made in this show,” said McDonald. Visitors will also see sketches and swatches that are submitted for entry into this juried show.

“There’s a lot of thought put into these pieces. I think showing some of the process and skills involved in creating a piece is really important,” said exhibit designer Becky Schurmann for the Jefferson County Historical Society. Wearable Art Dress





One of the challenges in staging the exhibit was making forms that would show all the features of each piece. There were wings to be extended, very heavy costumes to be supported, and elaborate head pieces to be displayed. Schurmann created 20 manikins to support this sampling of work from the past seven wearable art shows.

Northwind Arts Center
& Jefferson County Historical Society

Art in the Library
Jim Alden Retrospective

Clam Cannery in the Snow

October 27, 2017 - February 20, 2018
Port Townsend Library, 1220 Lawrence Street