Several new faces have recently joined the leadership at the Two Rivers Heritage Museum, giving the site an infusion of renewed enthusiasm and fresh ideas.
Erin Leverman, a Vancouver resident and student at Washington State University, was recently appointed by the Camas-Washougal Historical Society Board of Directors to the museum’s executive director position.
Leverman, who holds an associate of arts degree from Clark College, is currently a senior with plans to graduate in December 2013 or May 2014 with a bachelor of arts degree in history.
When she saw the announcement about the local museum’s open position, she thought it would offer an opportunity that combines her interests and her education.
“I’ve loved history for years,” she said. “This is something I’ve explored before as an avenue for my degree. I thought this would be a great opportunity to learn what goes on in a museum, help out, use my degree and get the learning experience.”
Leverman also has a background in business. She and her husband opened Passport Health NW, a franchise offering travel and specialized vaccinations. In her role in the business, she scheduled for multiple officers, engaged in customer service, maintained and inventoried supplies and vaccines, created and tracked patient records, corresponded with physicians and health care professionals, and oversaw marketing and public relations.
Leverman succeeds Phil Harris, 71, who died May 31, 2012. Harris had begun the process of implementing PastPerfect, which is a museum collection management software. The massive amount of work needed to get all of the museum’s documents and photos entered into the new system will continue with the new leadership.
It is one of several areas Leverman will focus on in her new role, which is an unpaid volunteer position. She will also be charged with filtering out items in the museum’s collection that are redundant or don’t have a place, keeping the facility organized and focused on information specific to the Camas-Washougal area; and working toward making it possible for visitors to conduct self-guided tours, rather than always being escorted by volunteer docents.
“We expect to have some visible changes by the end of the year,” Leverman said.
Historical Society President Richard Johnson, of Camas, said after Harris had to step down in the summer of 2011 due to health reasons, the duties of executive director were doled out to several different board members.
“The day-to-day operations — paying the bills, coordinating the volunteers — really needs to be managed by someone,” he explained. “It’s been separated into too many pieces. It’s a big job and it can be overwhelming.”
In addition to a new face at executive director, there have been changes to the Historical Society Board as well.
Washougal resident Curtis Hughey, a walking encyclopedia of information about the history of Camas and Washougal, has stepped down as president after 16 years. He will, however, continue to serve as a board member — to the relief of many museum volunteers and patrons who find his knowledge invaluable.
Johnson was appointed president in January, joining other new members of the 13-person board including Camas residents Marilyn Brown and Joseph Blanco, who is leading an update of the museum’s website.
There are no paid positions at the museum. All of the work to keep it up and running is completed by dozens of volunteers who in 2012 alone contributed more than 5,500 hours of service.
Funding comes from an endowment fund, in addition to admission fees, donations and grants.
The Camas-Washougal Historical Society was established in 1979. The museum’s first home was in the basement of the Camas Public Library on Northeast Fourth Avenue, where it remained until October 1996 when the collection was moved to its current building on Durgan Street in Washougal, next to the Pendleton Woolen Mills.
Money for the property purchase was amassed through a dedicated fundraising effort combined with proceeds from the sale of a Camas building deeded to the museum by a women’s professional organization after it disbanded.
In 2002, thanks to a $350,000 donation from the estate of the late Christine Kropp, the construction of a new 2,000 square foot addition was completed and opened to the public.
Today, the museum is home to 6,000 photographs and 200 oral histories, including information about pioneering families of east Clark County. Visitors can access land records and family histories including donation land claims and homesteading information. Displays include art, antiques and memorabilia. A rotating display changes several times a year.
Johnson said the museum focuses on highlighting local people, places and stories, rather than simply serving as a place to display artifacts.
“I just love the rich history of this area along the Columbia River,” he said. “There is a story every mile, if you can dig it out.”
What: Two Rivers Heritage Museum
When: Open Tuesday through Saturday, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Where: 1 Durgan St., in Washougal.
How much: Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for senior citizens, $1 for students and free for children ages 5 and younger. Group tours are available by appointment.
Featured display: “Fashions of the Past,” which includes an extensive hat pin collection owned by museum volunteer Shirley Stott and several hats purchased by Camas resident Belva Baz at the old Farrell & Eddy department store.
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