The museum offers 7,000 square feet of permanent galleries showcasing the rich heritage of the Gig Harbor Peninsula and its connections to the world. Unique artifacts, video kiosks, interactive exhibits, and a small theater bring Peninsula history to life in our permanent galleries. Go to Maritime Gallery or Midway Schoolhouse.
Living on the Land
The Harbor History Museum stands on the ancestral homelands of the sxwəbabš, or "Swift Water People," a band of the Puyallup Tribe. We are honored to share stewardship of this place that has seen much change over time. Native houses once stood here, at the estuary of Donkey Creek, and in more recent generations it was the site of Austin Mill, Peninsula Light Company, and a garden center. In 2010, the Gig Harbor Peninsula Historical Society opened the Harbor History Museum—its permanent home—creating a museum for all.
The Museum's collection features artifacts, ephemera, images, maps, oral histories, and periodicals that document the stories of the "Great Peninsula," from the Narrows Bridge to the Kitsap County line.
Mapping a "New" World
Currently on view in front of the museum is the US Survey Gig Porpoise. Gig Harbor got its present-day name from the survey vessels like this used by the Wilkes American Exploring Expedition when they mapped the shoreline of Puget Sound in 1841. The harbor mouth was just wide enough for the survey crew's rowing gig, so that's how they notated it on their chart: "GigHarbor." Our permanent gallery features that first map showing the name we know today. But the Puyallup and Nisqually people had known this place and its abundance of shellfish and salmon long before.
Immigrant Fishers and Farmers
The mid 1800s brought a flood of European and Scandinavian immigrants to the Pacific Northwest. Among them were sailors and adventurers who decided to make Gig Harbor their home. Samuel Jerisich and his wife Anna (of the Penelakut Tribe) made the harbor their home, leading the way for others who saw abundant resources for the harvesting in the sea, forest, and earth.
The Museum's permanent exhibit features the stories of these adventurers through images, traditional costumes, and everyday objects.
Innovations in Transportation
From ferries to bridges, the greater Gig Harbor area is home to them all. Where once ferries and small craft carried passengers and cars across the waters, 20th Century bridges now span the waterways. Fans of the Narrows Bridge and the story its untimely demise, will be fascinated by the artifacts, images, and film footage found at the museum.