EDITORIAL | Historical artifacts are treasures that must be shared

Who would have thought? A piece of Washington’s history, a significant piece for that matter, may have been resting off the west side of Whidbey Island for more than 200 years.

The lost anchor from the HMS Chatham, the survey brig that accompanied British Navy Captain George Vancouver and the HMS Discovery on the historic exploration of Puget Sound in 1791, is believed found.

And so close to home. It’s enough to make one wonder what might be buried in their own backyard.

But, as one state official has astutely noted, “The jury is still out” — the authenticity of the anchor found by a group of divers in 2008 remains unproven. We simply won’t know where it came from until it is successfully recovered and examined by experts.

Meanwhile, we’re left to wonder just what it might be. We don’t, however, have to wait for other answers, for they are already clear.

Ownership issues aside, this anchor, be it from the Chatham or another ancient ship, is a piece of our history and belongs in a local museum or a place where it can be enjoyed by all.

No doubt, historical societies around the region would salivate over the possibility of displaying such a relic and they are all right to do so. History is a bridge to our past and artifacts are their highway, for things we can see and touch connect us with yesterday in a way that books and lectures cannot.

They are the window through which we glimpse the lives of our forebears, and one look can tell us of their hardships, their victories, their courage.

Doug Monk, the Port Angeles man who found the anchor, said it best. This isn’t an artifact for a single individual’s yard, and selling it to the highest bidder is simply not right. He and his partners should be thanked for their hard work, their tenacity and their efforts to see the anchor raised legally and by professionals.

They are hoping to recover their significant personal investment and that’s both reasonable and fair. Perhaps they should even make a profit as well, but the price tag should not come at the expense of the public’s equal right to know and see its history.

May the right decision be made and all Washington residents benefit from this incredible find.

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