The Hammer Museum opened in 2002. The museum’s founder, Dave Pahl, had been collecting hammers for many years. The desire to live as self-sufficiently as possible took Dave to Seward, Alaska in 1973. It was here that Dave met Carol, and they were married in 1980. They won a five acre homesite near Mosquito Lake (30 miles from Haines) from the state land lottery and moved there in 1981. They lived without running water and electricity for many years.
Restoring old tools became a hobby of Dave's. On a rare trip "outside", the lower forty eight states, the hobby became more of an obsession after visiting an antique store and Dave’s decision to start collecting hammers. He became so intrigued with the history associated with the hammers that he decided to open a museum to research and preserve hammers.
In 2001, the Pahls purchased a building on Main Street in Haines, Alaska, to house their future museum. The building needed a lot of work in order to become a functioning museum. The Pahls decided to dig a basement and put in a foundation for the museum building to rest on. This was done using hand shovels, removing the dirt with a wheel barrow and sled.
During the excavation process, Dave unearthed an artifact which was later identified as a Tlingit warriors pick, or slave killer. The Tlingits are indigenous to this area. Dave took the discovery of this stone hammer as a sign that he was right track in giving man’s first tool its own museum.
During a trip to Washington, D.C. in 2002, the Pahls had the privilege of viewing some hammers that were in storage at the Museum of American History. Along with plenty of tools to see, the museum had five mannequins which had been in storage since the early 1970's. The resident curator aggreed to donated them to the Hammer Museum since they were no longer needed by the Smithsonian. They are now wielding hammers at the Hammer Museum, and are a great addition to our collection.
In 2004, the museum became a 501 c3 non-profit organization The main benefit of becoming a non-profit has been the strengthening of ties to the greater museum community. It has enabled us to gain valuable tools and knowledge to improve the museum and work within the bounds of best practice. The Hammer Museum participated in the AAM’s Museum Assessment Program (MAP) in 2005. It required completion of a self-study workbook, and a visit from a museum surveyor. The program identified twelve specific tasks that needed to be addressed. Several have been completed and the rest are in progress.
In 2007, with help from the Alaska State Museum, the Hammer Museum began it’s intern program. It has been a great benefit to both the museum and interns alike. To learn more about the internship program check out the "Support" page.
In 2007, Museum founder, Dave Pahl, constructed and erected a BIG hammer in front of the museum. The handle of the 19'8" claw hammer is constructed from a 26" diameter spruce log. The hammer head is made of styrofoam and fiberglass.
In 2008, the museum was one of 48 national museums to be selected to participate in a pilot program to evaluate the AASLH (American Association of State and Local History) new STEPS program. The Hammer Museum’s area of focus was how to enhance our visitors experience.Three areas for improvement were identified and implemented. Since then the museum has been regularly represented as a member of Museums Alaska and have attended several professional development conferences.
In 2008, the museum received some significant donations Our oldest hammer came from archeologist Dr. Ken Ostrand. It is a rock ball made of dolerite and was used around 2500 BC by ancient Egytians. This one is associated with the building of the third pyramid at Giza. It was found by Dr. Ostrand. Another major donation was the Keathley collection. Bob and Yvonne Keathley visited the museum in 2008, and donated many items relevant to the hickory handle manufacturing trade. The Keathleys owned and operated the IXL Handle Manufacturing Company for five generations, prior to selling the business to Ames Company in 1997. Bob had the foresight to keep much of the vintage machinery and hundreds of photos and other historical documents. The museum is using these collections to help tell the story of a once robust American industry.
In the spring of 2015 the museum board made the momentous decision to hire the museum's first executive director, Ashleigh Reed. Under her direction the museum has continued to flourish. Ashleigh has worked to complete a total inventory of the museum's collection and moved the museum store to the front of the building to improve the flow of people in the museum.