The Fort Vancouver National Trust announced the closure of Pearson Air Museum in Vancouver, Washington. Operated on contract with the city of Vancouver by the Trust for the past eight (8) years, the museum offered the public a glimpse into the Golden Age of Aviation history from the early 20th Century. The museum featured fifteen historic planes, a gift shop and Flight Simulator Lab. The museum facility also hosted over 100 community events during the year and was supported by over fifty volunteers investing over 6,000 hours a year at the museum.
The closure was the result of an unresolved dispute with the National Parks Service regarding park use policy. Trust administrators were asked on February 4th to turn over keys to the museum to the park service by February 6th. The trust, which either owns or has secured loans for all the planes and exhibits inside the museum, decided to move the contents to new locations rather than risk handing private property over to the Park Service.
For now, the museum is essentially empty, and its fate remains uncertain. Many events, including the Aviation Resource Fair scheduled for Feb. 16, have been put on hold or canceled due to the situation.
“Because air museum aircraft exhibits are either owned by the Trust or on loan to the Trust, it was not feasible for us to turn this property over to the National Park Service,” said Elson Strahan, Trust President and CEO.
The Pearson Air Museum has long been part of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, housed in a retired hangar at the oldest operating airfield in the West. It not only serves educational purposes but also hosts dozens of community events, including weddings.
While the future of the museum still is uncertain, many are hoping the players involved can come to an agreement. Protesters gathered at the site on Saturday, February 10th.
“It’s one of the few larger locations with a larger floor room that there is in our community,” said protester Diane Green Hartley. “And that has been lost to our community.”
“We are part of aviation history that is over 100 years old,” said another protester. “And they are the keepers of that history.”
Organizers has launched a “Save the Pearson Air Museum” page on Facebook and local congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler has introduced a bill to transfer the Pearson Museum from the National Parks Service to the City of Vancouver so the museum can reopen under management by the Fort Vancouver National Trust.
The Trust is also encouraging interested parties to contact the following to weigh in on this arbitrary decision by the National Parks Service:
The Superintendent of the Fort Vancouver National Site,
Tracy Fortmann: 360-816-6205
WA Senator Patty Murray: 360-696-7797
WA Senator Maria Cantwell: 360-696-7838
WA 3rd District Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler: 360-695-6292