A new feel

Two Rivers Heritage Museum freshens its appearance, displays

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If you go

Two Rivers Heritage Museum is located at 1 Durgan St., Washougal.

Hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Thursday through Saturday.

Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for students. Children under 5 are admitted free of charge. Group tours are available any day of the week, by appointment only.

Call 835-8742 for scheduling.

The CWHS Board will be hosting an open house at the museum for CWHS members from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Membership information will be available at that time and can be found at the website at www.2rhm.com. Light refreshments will be served.

When Bernie Englund enters the Two Rivers Heritage Museum to begin her volunteer shift, it has a whole different feel than a few months ago.

That’s because the museum has undergone a facelift during its winter closure, which volunteers are hoping will make it more appealing and interesting for visitors.

“It’s now a better experience for the younger generation, and reminds the older folks of what life used to be like,” Englund remarked.

Displays include a replica of a 1930s kitchen, a one-room schoolhouse complete with potbellied stove, a blacksmith shop replica and parlor area. Music from different eras is piped into the rooms to give them an authentic feel.

A wall of photos and memorabilia includes well-known local residents, from Louisa Wright, the area’s first doctor, to Alexa Efraimson, 2015 Camas High School graduate and professional runner. The changes were made possible through months of volunteer labor and a grant from the Beals Foundation. The museum volunteers have updated flooring, removed well-worn carpet and linoleum, and installed shiny new floors including simulated wood planks in the entry.

“For the past several years the museum has closed its doors during the winter months so that needed repairs and reorganization can be made,” said volunteer maintenance director and Camas-Washougal Historical Society Board member, Walt Eby. “This year the changes are significant.”

He noted that since items in the museum had to be moved in order to accommodate the renovation, volunteers took advantage of the opportunity to rethink the story the museum told through its exhibits.

“We gave thought to how to present each room better,” Eby said. “We have moved display case locations and organized rooms differently to open up space. We are also taking the opportunity to bring out items that have been in storage and find ways to feature new historic topics.”

A goal of the project was to create displays for local visitors to see things that will trigger memories of the area.

“We have really thinned things out and changed displays to freshen our appearance,” Eby said. “We want the experience to be about the stories,” he said.

Longtime volunteer Jannie Van de Burgh is enjoying the museum’s new feel.

“This took months to finish,” she said. “I like the space. The room is a lot more open than it was before. Having a one-room schoolhouse replica is neat, too. It brings back memories.”

One of the volunteer projects started several years ago with identifying and organizing artifacts, both on display and those packed in storage. Then came the task of inputting that information into an electronic data base.

This is just one of a number of duties for volunteers. A committee has also developed new display policies and are setting out to implement them.

When revamping the displays, the museum board took a new approach by inviting local volunteers with expertise and interest in specific areas to take on the development of those. They were responsible for researching the topic, selection and arrangement of the artifacts, and maintaining the area within the display policies.

“We have about five new displays, but all areas of the museum have seen changes to some degree,” Eby said.

The new displays include: Camas/Washougal veterans, the paper and woolen mills, local schools, mining and Native Americans.

Volunteers assisting with the changes have included: Richard and Karen Johnson, Jim and Lois Cobb, Dick Lindstrom, Pauline Eby, Carol Phillips, Cynthia Purdy, Duane Markel, and Brad London.

Volunteer Donna Martinez has taken on the challenge of the Native American display. The museum’s extensive basket and arrowhead collections are at the center of the display in the first room upon entering the museum.

“There was a lot of activity along the river, with a large native culture,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t like the towns we see today. It was more of a web or network of families and trading. In the old days, the Columbia River brought people together for trade and to share the resource that was the salmon, as well as huckleberries, salal, camas, and wapato. At those times of the year, families would reconnect with each other, marriages would be made, and folks would celebrate making it through another year.”

Van de Burgh witnessed Martinez’s dedication to updating the display.

“She spent months redoing everything,” she said. “She was here eight hours a day.”

Martinez wanted to ensure the display illustrated the history of the native people from the area.

“There is a rich cultural heritage in the Camas and Washougal area,” she said. “It is just as much as at Fort Vancouver and in Portland.”