WASHOUGAL — Although Two Rivers Heritage Museum in Washougal may have looked placid from the outside during the past year, significant changes were afoot inside.
After being closed for 13 months in accordance with COVID-19 safety guidelines, the museum is once again open to visitors from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. That’s not as many days per week as before, but it’s a step toward the regular Thursday-to-Saturday schedule.
“We’re just taking it easy right now to see how things go,” said Joe Cobb, board president of Camas Washougal Historical Society, which oversees the museum. “We’ll see if we get the traffic.”
Now might be an excellent time to join that traffic and be among the first to see the museum’s redesign, as well as check on the progress of the Gathering Place at Washuxwal pavilion featuring carvings by La Center artist Adam McIsaac. This volunteer-built labor of love is now “90 percent complete,” according to Cobb. The pavilion, modeled after Native American cedar plank houses of the 1800s, needs only some final sprucing up with shrubs, tile steps and river rocks.
“What we wanted to do was to bring the Native American history into our museum along with the pioneer history,” Cobb said, adding that he looks forward to welcoming tour groups and schoolchildren to the Gathering Place for programming and lectures about local Native American history.
Inside the museum, visitors will be treated to a refurbished reception area, featuring a small but thoughtfully reorganized gift shop and a 9-by-4-foot scale model of the Columbia River Gorge created in 2019 by students from Camas School District’s Discovery High School. The model covers 90 miles of the Gorge, roughly from Camas to Bonneville Dam, with landmarks that light up.
New exhibits in the Carriage House, a large building to the south of museum’s entrance, include “All Boxed Up,” featuring vintage wooden grocery boxes and information about local grocery stores of years past, and “From Here to There,” showcasing early surveying equipment and mineral samples.
The “School Days” exhibit has been dismantled and some pieces have been sent back to storage while other school artifacts now grace other displays. A replica of the carriage used by Dr. Louisa Wright, Washougal’s first doctor, is still on display but is now raised up on a platform to allow easier viewing of other objects.
The Carriage House also holds replicas of a mine entrance and a blacksmith’s shop. There’s a display of tools stretching back well over 100 years, including an early chain saw weighing 95 pounds. (“It gives the kids a kick to look at it,” Cobb said.) Meanwhile, in the museum’s other areas, staff have endeavored to build an enviable collection of Native American artifacts.
The Native American basket collection includes about 100 items, Cobb said.
“Believe me, it’s a beautiful exhibit,” he said. “Some of those baskets are absolutely gorgeous.”
The Camas-Washougal Historical Society plans to hold its annual plant sale fundraisers at the museum on May 13 and another in June, featuring an array of unusual and hard-to-find plants such as Camas lilies and hardy perennials. Cobb said a large number of plants are donated to the museum by local residents and are repotted for sale.
However, what the museum needs most is volunteers, Cobb said.
“We’re looking for gardeners to take care of our plants, to water and prune and trim them,” Cobb said. “We need volunteers who are skilled with computers. We’re transferring materials to CDs and inventorying every item in the museum. We’re also scanning and categorizing over 6,000 photographs. We need people who like to build displays or set up exhibits or people who would like to come and help with the plant sale.” Cobb added that the Camas-Washougal Historical Society is also looking for four or five new board members, most especially a secretary. If you’d like to serve, call Lois Cobb at 360-835-5449.