Curating county museum artifacts a 'distinct honor'
History is personal and exciting for me. My incredibly intelligent grandmother inspired a love of learning in me at a very young age and mesmerized me with stories of my Oregon ancestors. I was a Generation X-latchkey kid and hearing about my family made me feel better connected to them and much less alone. As I grew older, that feeling of belonging evolved into an obsession with genealogy and Pacific Northwest history.
While studying History and Anthropology at Portland State University, I volunteered in the Collections Department at Washington County Museum. I worked as registrar for two years after graduating, until becoming Curator of Collections and Exhibitions in April 2016. I can absolutely say that I live my dream every day and cannot believe I get to do history as a job! On top of caring for a wonderful collection of local artifacts, I have the distinct duty and true joy of honoring the Washington County citizens who left those things behind. I often feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that I want to share about them — incredible artifacts and stories that would help the public understand the history of the area in a more fulfilling way.
Through collections based exhibits and archival research, along with an amazing education team, the Washington County Museum provides the public with historical information and interactive experiences.
As a curator, I work to preserve over 10,000 objects, 30,400 images and countless documents, maps and old county court records. I am constantly discovering amazing stories when researching for exhibits or filling archival requests.
My co-workers always know I have uncovered something fun when they hear loud exclamations of joy and wonder coming from the archive. I become giddy and I start to giggle like a love-struck teenager.
In hopes of filling the shoes of the great professionals that came before me, I'd like to use this column to teach others about the value of treasuring local history. So much information has piled up in my head that this will be a great way to empty some space in the file cabinets of my extremely active brain.
The sky is the limit on Washington County topics, so stay tuned for stories about the people, places and events that make up our county and state history. Using objects, photos and primary sources, I will talk about everything from the Native Americans of Tualatin Valley (the Kalapuyan-Atfalati) to pioneer life, railroads and logging, crime and 20th century technology. I will even discuss how to take care of family heirlooms, dating your vintage pieces, the value of interns and volunteers and other museum-related matters.
If there are any subjects on local history you would like to learn about, I would love to consider researching and discussing it in a future column. From a ceramic 30-gallon sauerkraut jug to Tualatin Hotel ledgers, daguerreotypes, courthouse banisters and old dental equipment, we will journey together into the Washington County past!