What was I thinking!!?? For some reason, I had in my mind that once the museum opened again after our 13-month renovation and remodeling project, that things would slow down and get back to a somewhat normal pace and I could start to get a little caught up on my list of things to do.

But I am starting to think that there must be a new normal now for The History Museum, which in many ways is exactly what we wanted when we started this project. We want the museum to grow and be busy. Otherwise, what’s the point?

We reopened on a cold and somewhat snowy January Sunday. We had quite a few discussions about how many cookies to order since we weren’t sure how many people would come. Hood River, you surprised and blessed us with your presence that day.

Our final count for the two-hour event was 250 people. You could just feel the energy and excitement of all the people gathering around to look at the exhibits and visit with museum volunteers and old friends. It was in many ways just like a giant family reunion. And it just hasn’t stopped since.

Yes, we have had a few “slow” days, but overall, people in the community and a few visitors off I-84, are coming to see what’s new. The most common response as guests stand in the big new space is “Wow, this is just beautiful — and the colors!”

But now we’re back to the business of day-to-day museum operations. Here are just a few of the things we’re currently working on:

n I am getting my potential list of characters made for Cemetery Tales. Hopefully by next week I will have time to get a notice out with details so that actors and volunteers can sign up. I am about a month behind where I like to be at this time of the project, so hopefully everyone will step up quickly when the call goes out.

n I just finished reviewing the proof for the Hood River photo history book that is being published by Arcadia Press. It will be available April 1 and we have scheduled a book signing for April 20 at 2 p.m., during Blossom Festival. We will also be hosting our very popular Fruit Label Swap Meet that day, so mark your calendar.

Overall, I am very happy with how the book has turned out. I have to admit, I was pretty excited one day when I was searching for something on Google, and our book popped up from Amazon! There was my name right on the cover! We will have them for sale in The History Shoppe. (You will also find them at Waucoma Bookstore.)

n We are almost done fine-tuning our event calendar for 2013. We have a variety of wonderful opportunities for people to visit the museum and experience all it has to offer. If you have not been attending our Tuesday evening winter program series, you are definitely missing out. Carly did a fantastic job of scheduling some very interesting speakers. Every week after the program I think, “Wow, that was great. That must be my favorite yet.” But then the next week comes and they just keep getting better.

This week was my friend and author Richard Engeman. He shared with us three very intimate and unique stories of Oregon historical personalities and their association with history and food culture. Very interesting! Our whole theme has been various ways we capture, preserve and celebrate stories.

Coming up yet are Lillian Pitt and then later will be a very special movie premiere showing of an oral history documentary about a woman in the Willamette Valley who grew up and spent her whole life on her family farm — and the diary that she kept all those years.

The Tuesday evening programs will continue until, March 19. Remember, museum members get in free to these special programs.

Also, mark Saturday, May 4, on your calendar. The Antique Appraisal Fair will be back with guest appraisers Sandra Millius and Jeff Motsinger. We haven’t done this event for a few years, but in the past, the limited time slots have filled up quickly. Watch for more details soon.

n The museum board and staff are also working hard on the initial development of Phase II which includes a collection storage wing and another gallery space.

While we really have no desire to jump so quickly back into the fundraising arena, we also have no desire to continue to pay our annual rent on our very expensive off-site storage. With a 40-minute round trip from the museum to the storage warehouse, working with the artifacts has become increasingly difficult.

If you’d like more information about this, please watch the website or give us a call.

n While additional funds are always needed and appreciated, what The History Museum needs most at this very moment is volunteers. It takes an average of 26 volunteers per week to staff the greeter desk. Most volunteers sign up for two shifts per month, but that still means that we could really use an additional 25-30 volunteers to adequately serve the public. We also need volunteers to help staff and assist with research requests and visitors on Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The collection/exhibit teams meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (two shifts) and the more hands we have trained to work with the artifacts the more we get done.

Also, I am in need of a great dedicated volunteer to assist me with development. This includes helping with press releases, marketing, fundraising programs and events. Ideally, this person should have previous experience and knowledge of this area, including social media. Hours are very flexible.

If you are interested in helping in any of these ways, contact Carly Squyres, volunteer coordinator, at or call the museum office at 541-386-6772. There is a greeter training session scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 23, at 3 p.m. for new and returning volunteers that have yet to complete the new procedures training.

I totally understand that life is busy, but I will say that nonprofit organizations, such as The History Museum, and many others in this county would just not survive without volunteers. If you can’t give money, please consider giving of your time.

n We have been doing a major redesign of our whole museum store area as well as the procedures and sales processing. We have gotten a few new items, but what we have been most excited about is the great local artists who have provided consignment merchandise for the store.

The unique thing about a museum store is that all the items for sale have a direct connection in some way to our local area as well as the museum exhibits and themes.

The proceeds from sales in The History Shoppe go directly to help support ongoing education programs and collection and exhibit needs. These are areas that are not covered within our county budget so the extra dollars from the store go a long way to helping us fulfill our community mission.

If you are a local artist and are interested in having some items in the store, please contact me at 541-386-6772 or The History Shoppe just opened a new Facebook page, so “like” us to keep up to date on featured artists, book reviews and special promotions.

Artists we are featuring currently are Bertha Logsdon, jewelry designs; Sarah Chenoweth Davis, pottery; and Nick Bielemeier, barn photographs. You don’t have to pay museum admission if you’re just shopping in the store — and we have some great gift ideas for Valentine’s Day coming up.

And speaking of Valentine’s Day, I just want to close with a few of my favorite things that I love about our new museum!

n I love having a local man come in one day and spend three hours enjoying the new mezzanine library, our interesting books and wonderful recliners! Very special! That’s exactly what we envisioned when we designed that space.

n I love the beautiful rich colors of the interior walls and the exhibit display panels. Who would have thought that purple would look so good in contrast with the Native American leather bags and stone artifacts! Thanks Bud (architect) and Larry (exhibit design) for making us step out of our comfort zone in regards to color in the museum.

n I love hearing the comments from the guests as they move through the museum reading the labels and enjoying the displays!

n I love, love, love the wonderful new atrium gallery and the soft diffused light that fills the gallery and my new office!

n I love the inviting new landscaping that perfectly frames our new entrance (thanks Master Gardeners and the Stone Yard).

n I love the outside color and how when you drive by, it catches your attention and beckons you to stop and visit! And keep watching for the beautiful new signs (thanks Dayna).

n I love our Winter Program Series (organized by our AmeriCorps member, Carly) and the fantastic programs we’re heard and the friends we’ve made!

n I love the more than 40 individuals and families who have purchased museum memberships since we opened this year. The funds generated from this program directly go to offset expenses related to our education programs and collection and exhibit needs. Also areas not covered in our county operating budget. Museum members get into the museum free! And receive a discount in The History Shoppe.

n I love all the board members and volunteers who have faithfully worked to complete the Phase I project — and still keep on going. They are like a gaggle of Eveready Bunnies! They just keep on going.

Overall, even though there have been a few days in the past year of this project when I have gone home tired and frustrated at this whole renovation process, I do love my job and I love the opportunity to serve my community in this capacity.

Hope to see you at The History Museum soon — either as a guest or as a volunteer. For now — from my desk — Happy February!

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