History of the DuPont Museum
When the E.I. DuPont deNemours Company of Wilmington, Delaware, announced in January 1977 that the 3,200 acres occupied by the DuPont Powder Works were being sold to the Weyerhaeuser Company, Mayor John Iafrati appointed City Councilwoman Lorraine Overmyer to form a historical group with the mission to preserve the local community's history and artifacts.
An organizational meeting was held February 1977 in the home of Lorraine Overmyer, and a committee comprised of the following members was formed: Chair, Lorraine Overmyer; Asst. Chair, Ruth Iafrati; Treasurer, Eloise Hill; Secretary, Ruth Bryans, May Munyon, and Wendall Laughbon. Their goal was to establish a museum focusing on the history of Ft. Nisqually, the DuPont Plant, DuPont as a company town, and Weyerhaeuser.
The City approved the use of the old City Hall, formerly Carsten’s meat market, at 207 Barksdale Avenue, to house the artifacts. The building consisted of 2 rooms: a large room in front heated by a gas heater, and a backroom kitchen with a make-shift bathroom at one end. A small back porch was extended from the kitchen.
After refurbishing the building and obtaining artifacts, the Committee officially opened the DuPont Historical Museum with a Silver Tea reception on June 26, 1977.
From June 1977 until 1982, volunteers worked hard to improve the Museum. The gas heater was replaced with electric heat, a new bathroom and storage room were built, a diorama of the old fort was installed, and a Hudson's Bay Company-era piano belonging to Factor Edward Huggins was restored and placed in the Museum. Accessions were cataloged and new displays were added.
By 1982 a non-profit organization was formed to be responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Museum. The City retained ownership of the collection and the Museum building, and continued to be responsible for the building's utilities and maintenance.
In 1982 a new back room addition was added to the Museum. Revenue-sharing funds received by the City provided most of the materials, and volunteers supplied the labor. New displays included: the front portion of the Museum dedicated to Ft. Nisqually; the middle room depicting an early DuPont kitchen; and a new addition that housed the DuPont plant, village, and school displays. Recent additions include a mural of a 1910 DuPont Company-era home, a replica of a 1906 tar paper shack, and wooden porch and pillars depicting a modern home in the new Northwest Landing community.
In 2009, with funds donated by the Richard and Elaine Robinson Endowment and Glacier Northwest, a permanent exhibit, Life in a Company Town: Yesterday and Today was completed. The exhibit spans over a hundred years of DuPont’s history, from the establishment of the DuPont plant and company town in 1906 to today’s Weyerhaeuser development of Northwest Landing. Arrangement of the many archival photos, artifacts, and interpretive signage make the exhibit perfect for self-guided tours.
In 2000 Historical Society President Robby Robinson reorganized the Board and helped the organization grow and expand its mission. In 2005 he oversaw the City’s hiring of its first Museum manager, Johanna Jones.
The Museum owes its existence entirely to the efforts of countless volunteers and the City of DuPont officials, who had the foresight to rescue, preserve, and house the many artifacts, photos, and documents on display.