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Aug. 15, 2022

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All Aboard! Clark County Historical Museum reopening

County’s rail history is focus of new exhibit

By , Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published:
5 Photos
Vancouver resident Todd Clark helps arrange historical signs for an upcoming exhibit at the Clark County Historical Museum, which reopens Saturday.
Vancouver resident Todd Clark helps arrange historical signs for an upcoming exhibit at the Clark County Historical Museum, which reopens Saturday. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

They’ve been working on the railroad.

While construction crews were finishing up their Clark County Historical Museum remodel, history enthusiasts in the Main Street landmark have been preparing a new exhibit for the grand reopening Saturday.

The 11 a.m. event also will serve as a centennial celebration, noting the 100th anniversary of the Clark County Historical Society.

In addition to exploring a remodeled facility — it was built in 1909 as a Carnegie Library — visitors will get to see the new exhibit: “All Aboard! Clark County Rides the Rails.”

As an introductory panel explains, Clark County’s early residents focused on the Columbia River for transporting goods and people. Eventually, civic leaders realized that rail was the way to go: “Railroads eliminated some of the problems with water transportation, such as long routes and obstacles on the rivers. Cities and towns made great efforts to be on the railroad route.”

With rail service, “People, goods and services could travel farther, faster.”

One of those rail providers gets special recognition. In the first half of the 20th century, Vancouver was a regional hub of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway.

If You Go

 What: Reopening of Clark County Historical Museum.

When: Ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. Saturday.

Where: 1511 Main St., Vancouver.

Admission: Free (underwritten by Riverview Community Bank).

While earlier rail operations that set the stage for the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway are part of the exhibit, the focus of “All Aboard!” is the SP&S, said Keith Lohse, museum outreach coordinator.

Columbian stories from the 1950s reported that almost 700 people worked at Vancouver’s SP&S facility; more than 1,000 cars moved through the freight yard each day.

To make room for the railroad exhibit, a display of Northwest Indian basketry — “Woven History” — has been retired after a 12-year run.

However, another showcase for tribal artistry — “Making Beauty: Indian Beadwork of North America” — is back on display. The exhibit shows more than a century of beadwork, from artifacts created in the mid-1800s up to contemporary creations.

And, the museum is using the centennial of the Interstate 5 Bridge for a return appearance of another exhibit. “Bridging the Gap: The History of the Interstate Bridge” first went on display in January 2011.

Another exhibit — “Food for Thought: Clark County’s Food History” — also will be back on display.

The museum has been closed for remodeling since the end of September. The most visible interior upgrade is new flooring on the main level.

Sixty-year-old tile was peeled off and replaced with a new wooden floor.

Remodelers had hoped to restore the museum’s original wood flooring, but discovered it couldn’t be refinished after the tile was stripped away, Lohse said.

Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

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