Grants from local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter, county program will fund restoration of antique books

Fort Nisqually

fort nisqually volunteer bastion
Volumes once owned by two of the Fort’s early managers

As part of the Fort Nisqually Living History Museum’s ongoing mission of historic preservation and education, a selection of antique books from the artifact collection will undergo a conservation and stabilization project this summer.

A recent inventory of the book collection identified 10 books in particular need of professional conservation to repair damage such as deteriorating bindings and detached covers.

These books include volumes owned by Dr. William Fraser Tolmie and Edward Huggins, two of the men who managed Fort Nisqually as a fur trade and agricultural center in the mid-19th century. Tolmie’s books are signed and dated in his handwriting on the inside cover. One of Huggins’ books, Jeffrey’s The Modern British Essayist (1846), features a handwritten inscription on the inside cover indicating that the book was a gift from Hudson’s Bay Co. employee William Grieg. The note goes on to list all the men in Grieg’s military unit from when he served at Fort Steilacoom. Other books represent Tolmie’s medical and scientific interests, Hooper’s Medical Dictionary (1830) and Elements of Physics (1827). Artifacts such as these represent an irreplaceable, tangible connection to the people who lived and worked at Fort Nisqually more than 150 years ago. Appropriately, one of the books Fort Nisqually Living History Museum will conserve through this project is Maunder’s Treasury of History, published in 1851.

“Part of Fort Nisqually’s mission as a museum is to continually improve our professional standards, such as taking action to care for vulnerable artifacts,” said Curator Claire Keller-Scholz. “We’re very excited to work with a professional conservator and stabilize these books so future museum visitors will be able to view them in their original setting; the Factor’s House.” The Factor’s House was finished in 1855 and was home to first Dr. Tolmie and then Edward Huggins and their families.

Conservation will prevent further damage to the books, and eliminate the possibility of losing valuable historic information if detached covers and pages become separated. Many of these books are primary artifacts for the Fort Nisqually collection as their provenance documents that they were owned by some of Puget Sound’s earliest European residents who significantly impacted the development of the region.

The National Society of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) awarded a $2,000 grant to the Fort Nisqually Foundation for this project, made possible through the sponsorship of the local Elizabeth Forey Chapter of the DAR. A Pierce County Historic Preservation grant provided matching funds for this conservation effort as well.

“These books contribute to our knowledge of early Puget Sound history, and taking care of them means that students, scholars and others interested in the area’s history will be able to learn from them for years to come,” Keller-Scholz said.

The conservator, Carolina Veenstra, will be examining the books over the summer and plans to complete the first half of the project by early September.

Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound. Visitors travel back in time and experience life in Washington Territory during the 1850s. Nine buildings are open to the public, including the Granary and the Factor’s House, both National Historic Landmarks, and a Visitor Center with Museum Store.

For more information, please contact the Fort at (253) 591-5339 or visit


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