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Board votes to leave high-profile downtown site and move back to PCC Rock Creek facility, starting Sunday

FILE PHOTO - The Washington County Museum exhibit space in downtown Hillsboro. shortly after its move there five years go. Five years after moving to downtown Hillsboro, the Washington County Museum is heading back to its old home at Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus.

Museum officials made the announcement this week, with plans to close the space this Sunday, Sept. 10.

Since 2012, the museum has been headquartered in the Hillsboro Civic Center, located at 120 E. Main St.

News of the move comes two months after the museum hired Executive Director Pam Vorachek, who is tasked with fundraising and finding a new location for the museum. The lease with the city of Hillsboro runs out in 2028.

"Downtown Hillsboro is a wonderful place but we see a strong opportunity to partner with civic groups, nonprofits, governments and others to visibly share our rich and vibrant history," Vorachek said in a statement. "By placing greater emphasis on community outreach, we can connect with even more people in their own communities without requiring a physical location in downtown Hillsboro."

Vorachek told Pamplin Media Group the museum will not face a penalty for breaking the lease with the city

Five years ago, the move to Hillsboro was seen as a way to bolster the museum's poor attendance, former museum board members said. Sam Shogren, the museum's director at the time of the move, said the museum was seeking a wider audience, but declined to offer further comment.

The Civic Center facility was seen as the perfect location at the time. Near the MAX light rail line, it is easily accessible and Main Street has regular festivals and farmers markets from which the museum hoped to draw visitors.

But the high-profile site never brought in the business museum officials had hoped for.

Two years after making the move, the venue was losing money. The museum brought in about $1.7 million in fundraising in 2011-12, but that number dropped 70 percent the following year, at a time when expenses were climbing. Revenue from grants and donations dropped and overall revenue fell by more than half a million dollars.

Shogren was fired in 2014.?

"We didn't see the attendance levels previous (museum) administrations expected and that was one of the factors," Vorachek said. "But we were a success in downtown in providing a lot of educational programs and opportunities to share Washington County history."

"Remember, we're changing strategy," said Museum Board Member Juanita Lint of Forest Grove. "Our goal is to reach out to the county and do more museum activities outside of the museum. We're going out with activities like Your Story (a mobile author program), which will be offered in different locations so the location of the museum doesn't actually mean as much."

Mark Harmon, who worked as executive director at the museum for two years following Shogren's ouster, said the museum was in good financial standing when he left in April to pursue a position in Florida.

The museum will likely be closed for several weeks as it moves back to the Rock Creek building, which was being used as a warehouse during these years. Plans are to reopen the museum in its new home in late October or November, at least to schoolchildren on field trips, according to Vorachek.

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