Photo of Wil Shellenberger, Museum president

2020 in the rearview mirror! For most of us it is a good thing. 2020 was a tough, challenging year that brought out some of the best in people, including adaptability, generosity and perseverance.

Washington State closed museums from March through June and again from mid-November to early January 2021. A “new normal” was needed to keep the museum functioning. Even with closed doors much had to be done; correspondence kept up, exhibits maintained, research projects sustained, artifacts documented and cared for, fundraising kept up and, of course, bills paid. The way our volunteers adapted was remarkable and inspiring. The Collections Team sustained artifact accessioning without skipping a beat. The mail team worked at home or in small socially distanced groups spread throughout the office. Mail was picked up late in the day and distributed after hours to minimize volunteers in the museum. All regular governance and management meetings became virtual. The Mid-year Fundraising Appeal was adapted to become 2020’s primary funding source and brought in just over $80,000. With no paid staff, few Federal or State COVID assistance programs were available to the museum. Nevertheless, just over $16,000 in grants were obtained. A virtual Giving Tuesday Silent Auction demonstrated a new GiveSmart fundraising platform and established a valuable future fundraising tool. All this by volunteers who could have easily chosen to stay home and wait out the pandemic.

Most importantly you, our supporters, generously responded to make our Mid-year Appeal successful. You continued with strong support through the Annual End of Year Appeal. As reported by the American Alliance of Museums, 30% of small museums in the United States are in danger of closing permanently: highlighting how vital your donations are to our future. Most encouraging is that many of you are first time donors this year. We are grateful for your willingness to join our cause at this critical time.

Fueled by your support, the all-volunteer staff persevered on projects vital to the museum’s future. Rebranding to “Pacific Northwest Naval Air Museum” was completed. A Strategic Plan update was done and by year-end numerous plan milestones completed. After missing out on a third new museum site, the Capital Improvement Task Force dusted itself off and immediately started examining two other prospective properties. Necessity introduced us to new virtual and on-line tools with which to better communicate with you and to market the museum. The pandemic recovery will probably take longer than wanted, but there is a hardworking, tenacious group of volunteers who are dedicated to bringing your museum through the recovery stronger and better.

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