Photos by Jerry Gay
Nancy Salguero McKay, Highline Historical Society collections curator, holds a vintage viewfinder among the stacks of boxes filled with items donated for the historical museum.

History of Highline being gathered

In SeaTac, among nondescript government buildings, the history of Highline is being collected.

One day, the collections will be open to the public in a beautiful new building on the southwest corner of Southwest 152nd Street and Ambaum Boulevard South.

The Highline Historical Museum, “a new museum for a new century,” will, fittingly, be located at the entrance to Olde Burien.

But until the museum opens, curator Nancy Salguero McKay along with volunteers and student interns are busy preparing and storing the vast array of donated historical items in a SeaTac warehouse.

Rows and rows of boxes stacked to the ceiling-all carefully cataloged--contain photos, dishes, canning jars, statues, trophies, oral history transcriptions, films and much more.

Other rooms contain larger items like signs, paintings, school desks and, even a Native American canoe.

Prominent are bound volumes of the Highline Times, rescued from dumpsters by managing trustee Cyndi Upthegrove when the Seattle Times stopped publishing the paper. Jerry Robinson resumed ownership of the paper.

Historic events outside the Highline area are headlined in newspapers carefully laminated so patrons can turn the pages of history. Yearbooks from all the Highline schools are there.

McKay estimates that only 30 percent of the collection will be on display at one time in the new museum. Fortunately, the displays will rotate every three months.

She says that it takes about one hour to process each new item that comes in. Some items are popped into a freezer to kill any hitchhiking eggs or bugs. Collection items receive white-glove treatment.

While the collection is not open to the public, researchers can request an appointment through the Highline Historical Society’s website at

Asked for highlights, Upthegrove points to the Highline School District items.

“We have the best schools collection in the Pacific Northwest,” Upthegrove declared.

Also iconic, according to Upthegrove, are the women’s collection, the Highline Times bound volumes, and the Native American canoe--although it is not one of the two fished out of the bottom of Angle Lake.

There are no definite dates for the construction and opening of the new museum but Upthegrove is excited about the prospect.

She notes a museum expert told historical society members the Burien museum will bring 20,000-25,000 visitors and $2 million in new revenue to Burien each year. That estimate was given before the museum qualified to show traveling exhibits from the Smithsonian, Upthegrove added.

While adding to the collection and planning for the museum, the historical society is also hosting several exciting events this year.

Coming up on Sunday, Feb. 24, the society presents “Hidden Treasures in Washington Museums” at the Highline School District ERAC building, 15675 Ambaum Blvd. S.W., at 2 p.m. The event, supported by Humanities Washington and the Boulevard Park Guild, is free and open to the public.

Author and radio producer Harriet Baskas will give what is billed as “an offbeat, photo-filled tour of Washington history through the stories of museum artifacts that are rarely shown.”

A quilt exhibition runs March 18-29 at the Burien Community Center.

On April 27, a San Juan Island National Historic Park ranger will tell the story of several prominent Civil War generals and their connection to Highline.

The society’s annual Highline Garden Tour will feature gardens in Burien, Normandy Park and SeaTac on June 8.

Upthegrove is particularly excited about the three-month “Hope in Hard Times” exhibit, beginning Oct. 4 at the Burien Community center.

The exhibit tells the story of Washington state and Highline during the Great Depression.

Upthegrove expects 8,000 to 10,000 visitors over the three months.

In association with the exhibit will be a film series, old radio programming, old-timers chats, CCC and WPA project tours, classrooms visits and workshops.

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