New museum director brings art curator’s know-how

LYNN ORR, new museum director for the History Museum of Hood River County stepped in Monday. Orr brings experience in art history and museum curating, as well as passion for local history.

Photo by Patrick Mulvihill
LYNN ORR, new museum director for the History Museum of Hood River County stepped in Monday. Orr brings experience in art history and museum curating, as well as passion for local history.

The History Museum of Hood River County has found a new director in Lynn Orr, an art history instructor and museum curator from Palo Alto, Calif.

Orr, who stepped in Monday, has spent most of her career in California but she’s no stranger to the Columbia River Gorge. Her husband, Brad Schrick, patent portfolio manager for Insitu and president of Gorge Tech Alliance, has worked in Bingen for the last twelve years, commuting for the job.

A passionate and experienced art historian, Orr hopes her professional background will complement the skills of local museum volunteers.

“They know the history, they know the collections — I bring the museum expertise,” said Orr.

The museum will hold a benefit event Friday, Nov. 6 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at Springhouse Cellars for its paddlewheel restoration project. The “Show Boat Night” will feature riverboat jazz music by Mike Stillman and Friends, a live auction, “Monte Carlo” games, hearty appetizers, wine and beer. Tickets are available for $20 at the museum. General entrance to the museum is $5.

Orr holds a Ph.D. in Art History from University of California, Santa Barbara. Most recently she taught at Stanford, and served as a curator for Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.

Her specialties included art from the 17th and 19th centuries, but her most recent book – published nationwide Oct. 1 — is titled “Art Deco: 50 Works of Art You Should Know” and covers the lavish Post-World War I European movement.

Orr’s passion for history traces back to museum exhibits — and the narrative resonance inherent in physical artifacts.

“I’ve always been captivated by the physical presence of objects and the stories they tell … the time they were made, and the people who made them,” said Orr. “For me, even though I’m coming from an art museum background, history’s always been so compelling.”

Since Orr stepped in at the Hood River museum Monday, the pace has been “chock-a-block.” In addition to her work, she’s been learning about the history of Hood River and “curating” her new home; her last package of belongings arrived Tuesday.

Orr covers a spot left vacant since June, when former executive Megan Shuemate was terminated amid disputes over work performance and experience. The director before Shuemate, Connie Nice, stepped down in 2014 for medical reasons following an extended series of organizational changes sparked in 2013 by county concerns over record keeping.

Orr listed “re-cementing” the museum’s relationship with political leaders and community entities as one of her goals.

“The heart of the museum is more than just the building and the permanent displays. It’s the outreach, the programs, the educational coordination and collaboration with the schools,” Orr said.

Fall has been busy for the museum, and its many community initiatives. Volunteers just wrapped up Cemetery Tales, and are now digging into the past, conducting research for an education exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of Hood River’s schools.

The museum is also rallying around the Henderson paddlewheel, which has fallen into disrepair.

Throughout the summer, the wooden beam holding the wheel’s axle has started to bulge due to dry rot, said museum volunteer Dottie Gilbertson. In the near future, the beam could collapse, causing the wheel to fall and smash down on its cement pedestal.

An early estimate of the cost needed for full repairs was $19,000.

“The museum really needs public financial support as well as the donations of time, expertise, labor and equipment to accomplish the repair and restoration,” said Gilbertson.

Fundraising for the repair project kicks off at a benefit event on Nov. 6 at Springhouse Cellars.

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