Orcas Island is a great place to get off your boat, stretch your legs, and learn about the history of the San Juan Islands. One of the best places for learning about old Orcas Island is the Orcas Island Historical Museum. The Orcas Island Historical Society’s first museum consisted of artifacts displayed on the front porch of a pioneer family’s home. Eventually, property for a permanent museum was obtained in Eastsound, where the museum is still located today. In the 1950’s and 60’s, island families donated six cabins dating back to the 1870’s to the historical society. Volunteers disassembled the structures then moved them to create the main museum facility. Today, these reassembled cabins house the collections. Each cabin has a different theme exploring specific aspects of island history. The Orcas Island Historical Museum is the only interpretive heritage facility on the island. The permanent collection includes a wealth of artifacts documenting the history of Orcas Island and its people: photographs, Native American tools, utensils, and textiles, an oral history project documenting and preserving the life stories of long-time Orcas Island residents, an archive of documents that Orcas Island residents use for genealogical and family history research, and materials and evidence from local police investigations. New items are constantly being added to the collection, guaranteeing you a new experience each time you visit.
In addition to its permanent collection, the museum also hosts community events throughout the year, allowing visitors to soak in some of the small-town charm the island has to offer. Check the museum’s events calendar before your visit.
Visitors to the museum can also tour the Crow Valley School, a one-room schoolhouse dating back to the late 1880’s. Grades 1-8 were taught in the school, which had a maximum capacity of 52 students. No textbooks were available at Crow Valley because the school lacked funding, though it did boast a library of 72 volumes! The school was closed in 1918, after which the building was used as a community meeting place, a church, and a Sunday school. If you’d like to get a glimpse of what life would have been like 100 years ago in the San Juan Islands, make sure to spend some time enjoying the Orcas Island Historical Museum.