A living museum

Improvements to musical instruments, books are designed to enhance user experience

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Thanks to a new grant, the Camas-Washougal Historical Society will be able to refurbish some musical artifacts and make them accessible to the public.

“We really want to make this a living museum,” said Jim Cobb, president. “Right now, these pieces are objects, but we want to bring these artifacts to life.”

The historical society is a recent recipient of a $5,220 Clark County Historical Promotion Grant, which will pay to refurbish and repair an 1886 Arion Square grand piano, a 1921 Bond player piano, a 1910 Cornish & Co pump organ, and an antique child’s pump organ. These musical artifacts will be on display at the Two Rivers Heritage Museum in Washougal.

“We feel it is important to have these instruments repaired as an upgrade to the museum,” Cobb noted. “We are grateful to Clark County Planning Commission for selecting our project for funding.”

Cobb is hopeful the work can be finished before summer, and that a celebration can be planned to welcome the newly usable instruments.

To learn more

The Camas-Washougal Historical Society operates the Two Rivers Heritage Museum at 1 Durgan St., in Washougal, from March through October. Regular hours are Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission costs are $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $2 for students and free for children under 5 and all CWHS members.

Group tours are available any day of the week, by appointment only. Call 360-835-8742 for scheduling.

For more information about the CWHS and museum, visit

Joe Garrett of “G” Piano Works Inc. of Gales Creek, Ore. will do the refurbishing on the Arion piano, while Larry Fisher of American Piano & Organ Technology in Vancouver will repair the player piano and organs.

It was a new experience to apply for a grant, but Cobb noted that county officials were very helpful.

“We just followed the process and did what they wanted,” he said. “I was rather surprised we were picked the first time around, but you just need to be exact about what you want the money for and what benefit will result.”

In his application, Cobb noted that success of the grant could be measured by hearing the music generated by the historic instruments and presenting the history and its relation to the local families in the community.

“Perhaps the enjoyment of a visitor who can sit down and play one of these beautiful artifacts will bring life and sound to our museum,” he said.

Cobb has been CWHS president for the past year.

“One minute I was cooking hot dogs for Heritage Days and the next minute, I was president,” he joked. “My wife (Lois) has been the volunteer coordinator for six years and so she got me into this. Our volunteers are a great bunch of people to work with and the museum itself is a very efficient organization.”

In addition to having musical instruments refurbished, one of the ways volunteers are trying to increase the museum’s usability is by cataloging all of the books and other research materials into an online database.

Judy Mason, who worked for 32 years with the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District, is spearheading the operation.

“She has had every book in this place itemized,” Cobb said. “What we are trying to do with the museum is make it a place where we people can do research as well.”

The plan is to turn the basement into a research library when it re-opens in March.

“We want all of these items to be accessible,” Mason said, as she gestured at shelves stuffed with various books, high school annuals, historical information and fiction.

She is using special plastic sheeting to keep older, fragile books safe.

“We want patrons to be able to use these items, but also to keep them from further damage.”