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MAHS will expand its library and research center to make items more easily accessible to the public.

The Molalla Area Historical Society is planning some big upgrades to its library and research center this summer, Board President Iris Riley said. The museum's Vonder Ahe house , built in 1865, will see its research area expand into what is currently the living room space, with more appropriate storage of historic documents — including old maps and the museum's collection of 100 years' worth of Molalla Pioneer newspapers.

Currently, the library houses several small tables, with some collections being kept upstairs, requiring volunteers to help retrieve requested items.

COURTESY PHOTO: IRIS RILEY - An expanded library and research center will take the place of the current main living area in the Vonder Ahe house at the Molalla Area Historical Society museum complex.

"We've outgrown our little library space," Riley said. "It would be really nice to spread out into another room and have the things that most people would need to look at out in the main room with more desk space."

MAHS is currently seeking grant funding to complete the expansion. Debbie Culmsee, MAHS treasurer, has applied for grants with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department as well as the Kinsman Foundation, both have supported the museum in the past.

Additionally, MAHS received a donation from Ann Ridings Wellman, daughter of Dorothy Del Ridings, for whom the expanded research center will be named. Ridings was a teacher at Molalla Union High School and advocate of preserving local history. She was also one of the original founders of MAHS, according to Riley.

While more and more documents are digitized and archived online, the space will allow more accessibility for members of the public to conduct research or browse the physical documents in the new space.

The library has already purchased a couple of scanners and a new computer to help with digitization, but upgrades will also allow for better preservation regarding climate control and proper storage, said Riley. Additions will include custom cabinetry and bookshelves with more table space to spread out newspapers or photographs.

Riley added that items are donated to the museum's library all the time. For example, MAHS recently received a donation from extended family of the Dibble family. In going through the five cartons of papers and photos, Riley said she's learned so much about Guy Dibble, grandson of the Dibble family who was likely born in the Dibble house an died in 1954.

COURTESY PHOTO: MOLALLA AREA HISTORICAL SOCIETY - The 1865 Vonder Ahe house was moved to the MAHS complex in 1972 and houses the library and research center.

"It's interesting to have these new facts come to light," Riley said. "Because of that donation, we're learning things about early business connections and family relationships in Molalla.

"I've really enjoyed resurrecting people who might otherwise be forgotten."

More information and projects like these will be available through the library with the expansion. While there isn't a guarantee that MAHS will receive the grant funding its applied for, public donations are also accepted for the project. MAHS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and donations may be tax deductible.

"Molalla is growing so fast, and there's a lot of history here," Riley said. "It's really nice to be able, if people are interested, to let them know the history of this little town."


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