206 Prospect St.
Tues-Sun - 5:00 PM
Part of the Whatcom Museum’s expanding campus, the Syre Education Center is in the old fire hall next to the museum. The center occupies the main floor of the old building and houses three permanent exhibits of the natural history of Bellingham and surrounding areas. Admission is free and the tour is self guided; guides can be requested if arrangements are made in advance.
In the main room is an anthropological display of the First Nations peoples of the north Pacific Coast. One section includes a respectable collection of carved wood chests, tools, ceremonial masks and blankets, which are all representative of the northwest coast tribes. The Inuit part of the display includes woven baskets with geometric designs, tools and carved ivory figurines, among other things.
The European settlement of the region is also documented, with recreated rooms of a settler’s cabin c.1890-1900, and a Victorian-style bedroom and parlor. Tools of the settlement years are included, as well as old jars, cookware and butter churns. There are also some excellent photographs of old-growth timber and logging in the northwest, used as background images in the forestry displays.
An entire side of the Education Center is dedicated to an exhibit of birds that are native to the northwest. Once I got over the initial aversion of looking at dead birds, I found the depth of the collection and quality of the specimens amazing. The birds of prey part included many animals you would never have the opportunity to see in the wild, including owls, hawks, eagles and even a vulture. The hundreds of birds are broken down into their natural habitat: sea coast, high mountain and forest, and lowland/farm.
Syre Center building contains the museum’s archives, which is open to the public. Included in the archives are photographic collections from Pacific American Fisheries, The Bellingham Herald and numerous private individuals.
From Lakeway, go down Holly Street to Flora and turn right. Go left on Prospect. The museum is just past the Whatcom Museum of History and Art.
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