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What is in the Karshner Museum?
Do You Know What is in the Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts?
Posted on 06/19/2019

When you visit Karshner Center you may find classes of students participating in field trips, students and their families participating in events, our community participating in culture and arts festivals, or our collectionteachers participating in professional development, but do you know about our artifacts?

What is the strangest artifact at Karshner Center? It’s hard to decide. In the 1920-30s, Dr. Warner Karshner collected artifacts and then in 1933 he endowed over 1,500 pieces to the Puyallup School District to create a hands-on museum for children and their families. He traveled the world, found other collectors, and encouraged community members to donate from their travels, and he also purchased specimens – rocks and gems, fossils, sea life and shells. The Karshner Center also has collections of cultural items from the South Pacific, Asia, Alaska, Africa, South America, and from Native American tribes: we have antiques and items from the pioneer days and more. 

So, what IS the strangest artifact? Well, it could be one of Dr. Karshner’s medical instruments from the early 1900’s or it could be the fruit bat he brought back from the South Pacific. It could be the pygmy bow and arrows from Africa or a carved and etched “conk” fungi. It could even be the human brain or the mammoth tooth. The Karshner Center is full of strange and wonderful artifacts. 

What is the largest artifact in the museum collection? Let’s see, there is a large wagon wheel, a large spinning wheel, a pump organ made in 1905 donated by the Methodist Church in Puyallup, a salmon harpoon with removable bone spear heads from early Coast Salish Indians, a machine gun from World War I, an early plow from China, or the mountain lion or the moose head. No, the largest is the grand piano that comes from an East coast concert hall circa 1917. 

What is the smallest item in the collection? Well, it could be one of the tiny shells in the shell collection, or the small gold nugget in a ring made for Zura Karshner from Dr. Warner Karshner’s father's gold mine, or the marble that is said to be the first artifact Dr. Karshner collected as a child. It could also be a grain of sand from each of 50 places around the world the Karshner’s visited, or the three painted grains of rice from Japan or maybe even one of the trade beads from the Hudson’s Bay Trading Company of the late 1700’s; but then again, there are fossils embedded in rock that are small sea animals and tiny arrowheads too. 

Come see strange, wonderful, large and small artifacts at the Karshner Museum and Center for Culture & Arts. Want to see some of these artifacts now?  Check out Artifacts of the Week or our Digital Collection on this website.