New executive director no stranger to museum or its mission

Camas-Washougal native Brad Richardson has a new title but isn't a new face at the Clark County Historical Museum

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

Published:

 

If You Go

What: Clark County Historical Society’s centennial gala

When: 5:30 to 9 p.m., Sept. 16.

Where: Fort Vancouver stockade, 1001 E. Fifth St.

Information: cchmuseum.org; 360-993-5679

The histories of Brad Richardson and Clark County are intertwined.

It’s not just that Richardson is a Clark County native. Or that he’s filled half a dozen roles at the Clark County Historical Museum, including his new job as executive director.

“Whether you’ve been here for nine months or 90 years, it’s your history. You’re creating history the moment you come here,” he said.

Richardson, who was a student volunteer at the museum seven years ago, likes to point out that history is an ongoing process.

“History is not a final story. It’s a continuing conversation,” said Richardson.

That conversation is rooted in people, he said. While artifacts and exhibits form a museum’s inventory, “They don’t mean much without stories. We’re in the business of storytelling.”

The 35-year-old Richardson took over as executive director on Monday. He replaces Katie Anderson, who held the position for about 2 1/2 years.

Bob Stepsis, a member of the search committee, said that Richardson was among about 30 applicants and one of three finalists.

“We always liked Brad. He was not just a local pick. He was the best candidate,” said the trustee. Stepsis is past president of the board of the Clark County Historical Society, which operates the museum at 1511 Main St. (The historical society is celebrating its centennial this year.)

The trustees focused on regional applicants this time, Stepsis said, after undertaking a couple of national searches in 2014, when Susan Tissot moved to California.

Richardson was born in Washougal and graduated from Camas High School in 2000.

He was working on his history degree at Washington State University Vancouver when he volunteered to help out at the museum’s Harvest Days event. The job included helping people build scarecrows.

Richardson’s other positions there included intern, visitor services assistant, visitor services coordinator and museum experience coordinator.

“We made up the title,” he added.

After earning a master’s in public history from Portland State University in 2015, Richardson became museum curator. He left the museum for a job with a local investment company, then applied for the executive director’s job when it opened up.

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up,” he said. “It was something I’d always dreamed of.”

Stepsis noted that Richardson’s application packet included a track record of expanding museum services. In his previous positions, Richardson expanded the walking tour program and launched the history town hall series.

“We don’t want to be Vancouver-centric,” Stepsis said. “There are other cities we need to serve. Brad made that pitch.”