Museum Chatter: The Amazing Collection of Historical Objects
By Lloyd Musser
Last month the subject of this column was the Museum and the exhibit galleries. The exhibits utilize real historical objects and text to convey the message of the exhibit. These historical objects are from the Museum’s Collection of Historical Objects. The Collection’s purpose is to support the Museum’s mission to preserve and interpret the history of the Mount Hood area. The collection has four subjects of interest, which are: winter and mountain sports, Barlow Road/Oregon Trail history, local history, and natural history of Mount Hood area. All the objects in the Museum’s Collection have been donated to the Museum.
The size and depth of the collection is amazing considering the Museum is only 23 years old. Museum curators generally separate collections into four object types for record keeping and storage purposes. The object types are photographs, books, archive objects or historical objects. Photographs include all types of still photography and motion photography in any format. Books are commercially printed and bound. Archive objects are any paper that is not a photograph or book. Historical objects are the three-dimensional objects that are natural or manmade.
The Museum’s photography collection has over 10,000 photographs and 50 movies in various formats. A collection of rare local photographs taken by Edward Roberts around 1910-20 were collected and donated to the Museum by the late Robert Childs. We have many photographs taken by Oregon’s most famous photographer, Ray Atkeson. Ray was a member of the Wy’east Climbers, as were professional photographers Al Monner, Curtis Ijames and Ray Conkling, and well represented in the museum’s collection. Local wildflowers are well-represented in the collection with many photographs taken by Helen Gerding, Jock Pribnow and Beth Horn, a Forest Service botanist. Historic photographs of local events and places taken by George Henderson, Fred McNeil, Bill Keil and Carl Reynolds taken in 1930-1960s are of great interest. Modern landscape photographs by Pete Wingle, Dick Buscher, Molly Kohnstamm, Dale Crockatt, Tom Iraci and Gary Randall are appreciated. The oldest moving picture in the collection dates from 1926: a home movie made by a member of the Oregon City Ski Club documents their three-day visit to Government Camp. None of these members can really ski, but they have fun carrying their skis uphill and attempting to ski downhill. The movies made by Richard Kohnstamm and Homer Groening to promote Timberline Lodge are the most entertaining in the collection. Homer was the father of Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons cartoons, and had a great sense of humor.
Archive objects include everything on paper from advertisements to transcripts and everything in between. Some of the most interesting objects in the archives include brochures from early local businesses, menus from long gone restaurants and homestead deeds signed by the President of the United States of America. Newspaper clippings, business records and various club records are of great interest to history researchers.
Mount Hood history and snow skiing are the primary subjects of the 500 books in the Museum collection. The oldest and rare book is titled “Guardians of the Columbia” by John L. Williams. This book, printed in 1912, is basically a Chamber of Commerce-type travel promotion in the form of a 140-page, high-quality bound book with numerous photographs, featuring Mount Hood, Mount Adams and Mount St. Helens. The newest book in the Collection is “Steiner’s Log Cabins” by Skeet Arasmith, 2023, printed, distributed and sold by the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum.
Historical objects include everything from art objects to washboards. These objects are by far the largest and most diverse part of the collection. Next month we will share information on some of the most interesting objects in the collection. We will also provide information on how individuals can contribute to the Museum Collection.
We hope this short introduction will inspire you to visit the Museum. Anytime is a good time to visit, but October and November are very good times to visit the Museum. The summer crowds are gone, the roads are still snow free and the Museum is dry on a rainy fall day. Entry to the Museum is free but donations are accepted. The Museum is open Wednesday-Sunday during the months of October and November. Come visit soon.
Lloyd Musser is the volunteer curator at the Mt. Hood Cultural Center and Museum. The Museum is located at 88900 E. US 26, Government Camp, Oregon. Open Wed-Sun 9-5. Contact them at www.mthoodmuseum.org or ph. 503-272-3301.