I have sat down many times over the past few weeks to write this, my last blog for The History Museum of Hood River County.
As many of you know and may have read in our e-news or the Hood River News, I have decided, after 15 years of serving the County and the community as museum coordinator, to resign my position. My last official day is June 30; however, I am currently at home recovering from major shoulder surgery. I want to say “thank you” to all of you who have called, sent cards, or covered me in “good thoughts” and prayers over the past few months.
Making the decision to resign has been one of the most difficult and emotional decisions I have ever made in my life. If you have followed my museum blog over the past few years, I hope you got the message that I loved my job and that I was/am truly passionate about the history of our beautiful area, as well as being an advocate for making sure that our heritage is preserved; whether that’s in our individual families or in our communities.
Here are some of the things that I have loved the most about my job:
n Working with such a wonderful group of dedicated museum volunteers, board members and community members; including some great AmeriCorps service members over the past five years. I have said good-bye to some great “pioneers” in my 15 years: Elvera Flerchinger, Dave Burkhart, Georgia Linn, Pat Cornett and most recently Doug Fry. I worked hard to carry on what they and so many others started before me.
n Seeing firsthand all the wonderful artifacts, photographs and documents that have been preserved over the past 100 years. These artifacts are essential to keeping alive the story of our community.
n Helping to bring to life our history as told through our ever-growing and fantastic collection of historical photographs. (Thank you Sally Donovan, Matt Carmichael, Bill Pattison and Arthur Babitz, for being the hands and eyes to help make that happen.)
n Having the privilege to take the foundation laid by the Pioneer Society and the Historical Society and their dream for a strong, thriving museum and building upon that dream.
n Working with a great long-range planning team that included community members, board members, volunteers and our fearless leader Bud Oringdulph to bring the museum into a whole new place: new building, new face, new vision. We could not have done it without the financial, physical, and emotional support of so many, especially Phil Jensen.
One of my favorite times in my job was coming to work first thing in the morning. I was always the first one there and could take time to soak up the quietness of the morning, walk through the museum and just stop again and again to marvel at the wonderful collection we have; everything from clothing to fruit boxes. Over the years, I have to admit that I do have a few favorite artifacts.
n The civil war Coe flag, and the speech and story that goes with it
n The soft-boiled egg cooker — it’s just so functional and cute
n The Martha Aleck Native American beading collection
n The entire Alva Day photograph collection — I just love Alva Day
n The little girl’s winter time coat, muff and hat
I will miss these moments. I will miss hearing visitors’ stories as they come in to see the museum. The older woman from New Zealand biking to Michigan; the man who is related to the one-legged civil war veteran portrayed in the picture in the Settlers area; the sound of people talking and children laughing as they experience the beautiful building and the new exploration space; and the tap, tap, tap of that wonderful old manual typewriter.
I leave a much richer person for having had the joy and opportunity to serve as your museum coordinator for Hood River County. I leave feeling truly blessed. I only hope that now as I step down, the community, the Heritage Council, and the County will be able to carry on the baton that I am now passing off to them and keep the museum alive, growing and sustainable.
I would encourage and inspire you to get involved. Find out what’s going on at the museum and volunteer to help in whatever area you can. Continue to buy your tickets and support the annual Cemetery Tales event. Call the Hood River Heritage Council members and encourage them as they work to carry an ever increasing load of financial and operational responsibilities. Ask what you can do to help. Consider making a monthly or annual contribution to help the council fill the gap left by diminishing budget funding options.
It is only through community support and involvement as well as strong leadership that the museum will make it through this transition period. It has to be done. Just like the Historical Society and the Pioneer Society before. Because failure is just not an option. To fail would be to lose 100 years of cultural heritage!
All over the state and across this nation, our community’s cultural heritage is being preserved by small community museums just like The History Museum, but times are tough and many of these museums are operating with little or no professional staff and very limited financial support. When they close, the cobwebs and dust accumulate and eliminate the ability for their stories to be told to the next generations.
This can’t happen in Hood River County; the community will have to stand up and make their voice heard. Don’t let The History Museum down; they need you now!
So what’s next for me? When I first started my medical leave on March 3, I knew that while I needed to stay busy, I couldn’t be involved in anything that added more stress to my life for the sake of my health. I turned to my life-long, secret passion and love of writing. I started a blog and dusted off some children’s book manuscripts that I had started over 20 years ago. This relaxing passion and time with family has renewed my spirit and strengthened my body.
I would love to hear from you and if you’d like a chance to say good-bye or share with me your favorite museum moment, the Museum Board/Heritage Council will be hosting a small reception open to the public on Monday, June 30, from 5-7 p.m. Stop by, enjoy a little snack and take a moment to join me as I conclude my last day. If you want to honor my contribution to the community, consider making a financial gift to the Hood River County Heritage Council.
Again, thank you all!