Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore

Mystery - Sign

At the beginning of the quarter Greg and I visited the Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore.  It was quite an adventure and not what I was expecting.  The visit only lasted 45 minutes but it was full of information.  We interviewed Charlette LeFerve, the Museum Director, and Philip Lipson, the Cosmic Librarian.

The organization began in 1998 as a result of the Coast to Coast radio program hosted by Art Bell.  Several of the listeners formed the Art Bell Chat Club, later the Seattle Chat Club.  They met in restaurants, coffee shops and libraries.  Then in 2003, when Phillip was involved with the French Cultural Center, the club was able to acquire their own space.  The Cultural Center moved from their Capitol Hill location and the Chat Club, influenced by the Roswell Museum, moved in and turned it into a Museum.  Phillip was also involved it the Metaphysical Library (the known as the As You Like It Library) and thought it would be a good idea to have a library in addition to the museum.  In 2005 when James Wagner Ray, who was a benefactor of the museum, passed away he donated a large portion of his personal library and his ancestor Henry Wagner’s rare book collection, which is still on display behind the museum counter.

Over the years the Museum moved around and began to shrink.  The Library was at one point a separate room from the Museum and an active lending library.  In its current form it has shrunk to a wall of the current Museum and is now a browsing library.  In the museum’s distillation process many of the books on mysticism and books on things not based in history or science, were removed or sold.  The museum is now focused on paranormal science and history.  Most of the books in the collection are about Bigfoot, UFOs and local folklore and persons of interest.  Among the displays are casts of Bigfoot prints, pieces of wreckage from Maury Island Incident, and displays on the “Famous Four” of Seattle.  The Museum has named Jimi Hendrix, Francis Farmer, Kurt Cobain, and Jackie Chan Seattle’s “Famous Four” and collects and researches information about them.

It is clear from the way Charlotte and Phillip spoke about the museum and all the wonderful things they had achieved and done over the years that this is a passion for them and that translates into the space. It is small but full, just looking around you can see that the material is loved and the staff take great pride in their collection.  An effort has been made to showcase as many of the wonderful books and items as possible.

I have already become proud of the Ann Lennartz Library. I am proud of its collection and its potential. I feel that my work there will be a great benefit to the center and the park visitors. I admire the dedication at the Northwest Museum of Legends and Lore, it is clear their presence is not only a boon to the organization but perhaps the life blood of it as well. Big thanks to Charlotte and Phillip for taking the time to chat with us!

Take aways:

  • To appropriately shrink a collection, a focus must be established for the organization.  Additionally, a smaller focused collection can sometimes be stronger than a large unfocused collection.
  • The community surrounding and/or contributing to a library can really enhance its purpose and product.
  • Displays are a great way to showcase what is available in the library and a great way to show material that is non-circulating but a cultural artifact.
  • There is a difference between a book that has value in its content and a book that has is valuable as a cultural artifact.
  • Libraries using libraries is a pretty great concept.

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