By Lanny Weaver
When Deb and I started going to the Washington State Historical Society a few years ago, archivist Ed Nolan told me that eventually he wanted me to work on the collection of papers from former State Capitol Museum curator Delbert McBride, but he demurred because he thought that the project would be difficult. Last spring I finally got my hands on the collection and found that Ed had not lied. Large in size (19 boxes) and badly arranged (the result of bumbled handling by contractors), the collection posed the greatest challenge for me yet at the Washington State Historical Society, but I have finally completed the arrangement and description, making this worthy set of papers available to the public and easier to use.
Del McBride was a talented man, an artist, educator, and historian with a wide range of interests. His papers hold a wealth of information on numerous topics and on the man himself. Of particular interest to people from Olympia is the accumulation of research on Thurston County history during his years at the State Capitol Museum (1966-1982) and after. He belonged to numerous organizations both nationally and locally, including the Tumwater Historical Association, the Nisqually Delta Association and the Thurston County Child Guidance Association. From all of the organizations, he kept minutes, newsletters, flyers and newspaper clippings. The Thurston County Child Guidance Association folders surprisingly contain information on the Association-owned building, the Edmund Sylvester house.
A sizeable portion of the collection contains information on the Nisqually Valley and Dupont, their development and ecology, including the creation of the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge and the effect of Weyerhaeuser’s plans on the City of Dupont. Del maintained membership in both the Quinault and Cowlitz tribes. He kept genealogical records to show his descent from those tribes and from the early Nisqually pioneers. His personal essays contain their stories of early life in Washington and Northwestern Native American myths. Del obviously liked to clip articles from the newspapers. The ones in the collection cover topics, not always local in nature, but for the most part relevant to the State of Washington. Someone interested in the Boldt Decision, for instance, can glean insight into this court case just through Del’s papers.
I enjoyed the opportunity to work with the papers of this extraordinary man. The finding aid for the collection should be available on line in the near future.