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Historical artifacts at George Fox University have been moved from site to site without a place to call home

It’s unlikely anyone would suspect that key pieces of George Fox University, the Friends Missions and Northwest history reside within the walls of the university’s plant services building.

Behind a once concealed door, Clyde Thomas, director of plant services, rebuilt a secret storage space when Pacific College’s museum relics and artifacts needed a home.

“It used to just be a wall and then I cut in a door so we could access the room, using it for storage,” said Thomas.

He designed the plant services building in the 1990s with the intention of having a secluded storage space that others couldn’t use at their disposal. When the museum needed a place for storage he gutted out the second story attic, above the plant services workshop, providing a safe unoccupied place for the museum items to stay, with enough room to walk around and view of all the items put in storage. by: SUBMITTED - Ancient Native American stone tools and other artifacts have been in storage at George Fox University since the space that formerly held Brougher Museum was converted to classrooms.

In the 600-square-foot storage space historical items dating back to pre-historic times line shelves with more than 300 items, arranged into semi-organized piles and boxes, collecting dust.

Lining two of the walls in the storage room there are crates with pre-historic stones, bison hip bones and even mammoth teeth.

There is a pair of White House chairs from Herbert Hoover’s presidency, a miniature version of a balsa boat made from reeds, Quaker bonnets and dolls and all the original display cases that were once housed in the George Fox Museum.

Piled into one section are old farmer’s tools dating back to the 1900s and two old pump organs. There are cream skimmers, wool spats men wore over their boots and a medical bag belonging to John Brougher, whom was the curator of the museum in 1977, according to the GFU Journal.

Along with all the furniture and tools, and old cheer sweater can be found among the artifacts. The cheer sweater is from the 1970s, when GFU had no official mascot.

“For most of its history there was no official mascot, though there were several nicknames that were used before the Bruin bear was made official,” said Rick Fieldhouse a volunteer historian at the museum.

Back in 1891, the museum was in the Hoover Building, the it was moved to the Wood-Mar Building, then to the Shambaugh Library in 1977. Frank and Geneave Cole were museum curators during the 1960s and 1970s while the collection was housed on the second floor of the library. It remained there until the library was remodeled, then moved to Brougher Hall in 1987.

In 1997, the growing school needed Brougher Hall for classroom space, so the collection was moved to the North Street Annex building, behind Minthorn Hall, until that building was converted into mail and print services and the university pottery lab.

It was then that the museum items were packed up and stored at the new plant services building. During the move, the museum items were labeled on index cards according to type, but no indication was given where the item could be found in the storage room.

Recently, Fieldhouse has been working on a more descriptive catalogue system where each item was logged, photographed, given a description and storage location. Some of the items he has photographed can be found on Flikr.

He says he could use more help and is hoping that by cataloging the historical items those who have any information would be willing to share the site’s historical story with him.

“Right now, as a historian, the biggest tragedy is that these significant items are without a story. Once there is not a story attached to it, then it is no longer important,” Fieldhouse said. “The generation that knows about these items (is) quickly dying off and that is why there is a real since of urgency to get all the relics organized.”

Once all the items are organized it would make it much easier to create micro displays so artifacts could be used as needed, another option Thomas and Fieldhouse are considering since there is no plans for another museum.

If Thomas had his way, he would turn a house near the intersection of Hancock and River streets, originally built by C.A. Butts, into a permanent home for the museum. The privately-owned home currently serves as off-campus housing.

“The parking lot next to the house and its central location to the university makes the house an ideal place to have a public museum,” Thomas said.

Until the cataloging is complete and a more visible location is found for a museum, retreating back in time and marveling at the way history unfolds through artifacts, will continue to be kept in boxes shelved behind a locked door until Fieldhouse and Thomas find others who are willing help. To view some of the GFU museum items, visit www.flickr.com/photos/gfumuseum.

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