75th Anniversary

An exhibit display during the Museum's early days in the 1940s. Photo by Galen Biery, Whatcom Museum #1996.10.2553.

An exhibit display during the Museum’s early days in the 1940s. Photo by Galen Biery, Whatcom Museum #1996.10.2553.

75th Ann. Logo

75 Years of Art, Nature, & Northwest History

Opened in 1941 in Bellingham’s Old City Hall building, which was built in 1892, the Bellingham Public Museum was run by an all-volunteer Museum Society. The museum had no collection yet, but artifacts, relics of pioneer life, and an ornithological collection from the Museum’s first director, volunteer John M. Edson, were displayed in glass cases in the building. More than 5,000 visitors signed the guest book that first year. Now, 75 years and a few name changes later, the Whatcom Museum has grown into the cultural center of downtown Bellingham. Our iconic buildings, first-class art exhibitions, extensive collection, and varied educational programs serve more than 70,000 people each year. The Museum continues to grow and evolve, and we are committed to providing innovative and educational programs and exhibitions that stimulate curiosity about our changing cultural, natural, and historical landscapes.

New History Exhibitions in Old City Hall

If it’s been a while since you visited Old City Hall, you’ll want to come see a few of our new exhibits! Using items from the Museum’s collection, our extensive photographic archives, and audio-visual elements, these exhibits tell the stories of Old City Hall, Bellingham’s early civic and political evolution, and the maritime history of the city’s waterfront. We hope you’ll explore local history with us, and have fun with our new interactive displays.

Orientation Theater

Take a seat in this gallery as you go on an audio-visual journey of Old City Hall and the early days of Bellingham. You’ll learn about the building architect, the building’s many uses, and fun trivia. (Did you know that Old City Hall had cats prowling on mouse patrol?) Historical items and photographs from the collection enhance the experience.

Maritime History

Walk into the second floor Allsop Gallery for a lesson on Bellingham’s maritime heritage. From early steam ships, to fisheries, to notable schooners plying the shores of Bellingham Bay, you’ll get a waterfront history overview through photographs, artifacts, interactives, and model ships while looking through the gallery windows to the Bay.

John M. Edson Hall of Birds

Partnering with the North Cascades Audubon Society, we’ll be moving some of our mounted birds from the Syre Education Center to the third floor of Old City Hall for an exhibit highlighting Pacific Northwest flyway zones, migration patterns, and more.

75th Anniversary Sponsorship Membership Level—Available for a Limited Time!

Help us celebrate our 75th anniversary this year and be a cornerstone supporter of our next 75 years by renewing your annual Whatcom Museum membership for $750 this year (only $10 for each year of art, history, and nature)! 75th Anniversary Sponsor members will receive the same great benefits as our Patron level members, as well as a commemorative certificate and special recognition on signage in Old City Hall. Available to all new and renewing members through May 31, 2017. To become a member, visit our membership page.

Join us in celebrating 75 years of bringing art, nature, and history to the community at our summer party and open house. All three of our buildings will be open for visitors to explore for FREE! From kids’ art projects, to gallery and Old City Hall tours, to food trucks, cake, and live music, we’re going to celebrate in a big way!

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General Activities

Noon – 5pm: Coloring contest (coloring sheets available at the Lightcatcher, FIG, and Old City Hall)
Noon – 6pm: Sidewalk Chalk Art contest on south side of Flora St. (between Grand Ave. & Prospect St.) Rules & Registration

Lightcatcher Building, 250 Flora Street
11am – 2pm: Courtyard Studio activities for kids
Noon – 7pm: Family Interactive Gallery (FIG) Studio art activities for all ages
12:30 – 1pm: Green building tour of the Lightcatcher
1 – 3pm: Clearbrook Dixie Band performing in the courtyard
1:30pm – 2:15pm: Docent tour of Colorfast: Vivid Installations Make Their Mark
2 – 2:45pm: Docent tour of Just Women
3pm: Welcome by Mayor Kelli Linville, followed by free cake and popcorn (first-come, first-served)
5 – 7pm: Swing Connection Big Band performing in the courtyard
5:30 – 6:30pm: Curator tour of Just Women, with Curator of Art, Barbara Matilsky
6:30 – 8pm: “Artful Pairing” adult wine & painting workshop at Artifacts Cafe & Wine Bar ($20, register day-of at the Lightcatcher)
6:30 – 7:15pm: Docent tour of Colorfast: Vivid Installations Make Their Mark
7pm: Chalk art & coloring contest award ceremony in the courtyard

Old City Hall, 121 Prospect Street
Noon – 7pm: Cubano CubanoSimmering Tava, and West Coast Pops food trucks in front of Old City Hall; Tacos El Tule food truck on corner of Prospect & Flora St.
12:30 – 1pm: Mini Sin & Gin downtown walking tour ($5) with The Bureau of Historical Investigation. Details HERE.
12:30 – 1:30pm: Docent tour of Old City Hall building & history
1:30 – 2pm: Student music harp performance by Violet Harris in the Rotunda Room
1:30 – 2pm: Mini Sin & Gin downtown walking tour ($5) with The Bureau of Historical Investigation. Details HERE.
2:30 – 3pm: Student music harp performance by Violet Harris in the Rotunda Room
3:30 – 4:30pm: Docent tour of Old City Hall building & history
4:30 – 5:30pm: Curator tour of Nostalgic Saturation: Mid-Century Bellingham in Historic Color, with Photo Archivist, Jeff Jewell
5 – 5:30pm: Student music performance in the Rotunda Room with singer/songwriter Fia Vierra
5:30 – 6pm: Mini Sin & Gin downtown walking tour ($5) with The Bureau of Historical Investigation. Details HERE.
6:30 – 7pm: Mini Sin & Gin downtown walking tour ($5) with The Bureau of Historical Investigation. Details HERE.

Syre Education Center, 201 Prospect Street
Noon – 7pm: Photo Archives open
1:30 – 2:30pm: Paul Woodcock, North Cascades Audubon Society, discusses history of the bird collection, and founding director John Edson
2 – 3pm: The Bellingham Community Band Ensemble performing in front of the Syre
6 – 8pm: Local North Cascades Audubon Society member and birder Sue Parrott will be available to answer questions and provide resources