Museum committee members take their research on the road

An ad hoc committee has begun the process to establish the city’s first museum, though it’s not the first time citizens have tried. 

The committee was formed this summer and its first action was to visit several established museums in Linn and Benton counties. 

“The touring is for helping us get a feel for displaying things, how they’re approaching the museum,” said Mayor Paul Aziz, committee member. “The other really important thing for us is to find out about the organization: how the volunteers work, their financing, how they started, and all those operational kind of things that are really the nuts and bolts of what we’re trying to do.”

As touring continues, the committee has already established a board for the Lebanon Museum Foundation and added a new committee member who can run the finances. Their next step is to make the foundation a nonprofit entity and begin garnering community interest and support for the museum.

Preserving Lebanon’s heritage is part of the Lebanon 2040 Vision, and opening a museum has been a goal for Aziz as mayor, he said. Several attempts in the past have failed to result in a museum.

Prominent local businessmen Chick Davies, John Eggen, Larry Spires and Jim McDaniel were among a group formed in 1976 to open a temporary museum at 32 E. Sherman St. until a permanent location could be found. In 1977, a woman who lived in California but was raised in Springfield, wanted to buy the old Lebanon Hospital at 185 Ash St. to open a museum and antique shop, but that never came to fruition.

After that, several offers were made to the city for museum structures, including property at the old Crown Zellerbach paper mill site in 1983, the Donaca house offered in 1987, and the old Lebanon Hospital offered in 1989.

Also in 1989, the nonprofit organization Lebanon Historic Resource Commission was formed to preserve historic properties, and it included a Lebanon Museum subcommittee, which considered the Southern Pacific Railroad Depot on 3rd Street and the old Elkin’s Flour Mill on Olive and Eaton streets as possible museum sites.

In 2008, Linn County donated the old Scroggins Mill at 280 W. Sherman St. to Scroggins Mill Rural Heritage for the purpose of turning it into a museum. The nonprofit has since been working on fund-raising and  cleaning up the site to attain its goals of becoming a museum, retail, and meeting site. They currently host an outdoor Movies at the Mill each summer.

SMRH will probably mostly focus on the agricultural and logging aspect of Lebanon’s history, said Pete Boucot, president. They also have a connection to the turkey slaughtering facility that operated during the Depression up to WWII, plus the freezing of local strawberries that were shipped on the rail.

Boucot has been working on a relationship with the current Lebanon Museum committee, as he believes they both have something to offer.

“It would make sense that we work together and I agree with that wholeheartedly, and I want to be as supportive of them as I can in the hopes they will be supportive of us,” Boucot said. “What they’re doing and what we’re doing could very easily work hand in hand in the future.”

Aziz is determined to make this effort to establish a museum stick.

He agrees that Scroggins Mill would be a good location to exhibit Lebanon’s history with farming and such, but is concerned with how long it will take for the mill to be restored until it is usable, he said. His biggest goal right now is to find a safe environment where they can collect historical items before they’re gone.

Aziz’ sense of urgency stems from the concern that access to potential items for the museum is becoming slim as older generations pass away and their collections are dispersed or thrown out, he said. In fact, he’s already been contacted by several people who want to donate material, but he currently has no place to store them.

“My goal is to get the stories and to get the items as soon as we can,” he said. “But we have to set up the processes so we can do it properly, store them properly, and also get the accession process.”

But committee members agreed at last month’s meeting that they want to be careful about what they accept so they don’t end up with a lot of unnecessary stuff, which means they have to agree on what Lebanon’s museum will focus on.

“The community needs to develop a vision, so at this point I don’t want to press my ideas much, but I definitely would like to see an exhibit on the Native Americans done with the help of the tribes, and something on the Santiam Wagon Road,” said Linda Ziedrich, committee member. 

“We have lots more to think about: the big picture, what is our mission, what do we want to show and teach people through our museum?”

She said she feels some of the museums they’ve toured had too much stuff in them, and she’d rather focus more on storytelling rather than “stuff.” Jami Cate, also on the committee, indicated at a meeting she would like the museum to be selective on what’s displayed so there is less of a cluttered look.

Thonni Morikawa, a committee member who has an extensive background in museum curation in Nevada and California, approaches her views from a different angle.

“More than anything else, I feel I can bring them the ‘what not to do’ side of a museum,” Morikawa said, “but I would like to see something that takes into consideration Lebanon’s role in the Santiam Highway and the fact that we also have the race track.”

The museum committee also includes Library Director Kendra Antila, resident Nichole Bowman, resident Allen Collins and Councilor Wayne Rieskamp.

The Lebanon Museum will host a kick-off event at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Lebanon Public Library in the community room. The Kalapuya Cultural Heritage of the Lebanon Area event will feature a presentation by Tony Farque, local archeologist and historian.

It will be an opportunity to learn about what the Lebanon Museum is planning and to see some historical items of interest, Aziz said.

To find out when the next museum committee meeting is, visit www.ci.lebanon.or.us/ahc.

Anyone interested in Scroggins Mill can go to the member meetings held at 7 p.m. every second Tuesday of the month at Appletree restaurant, 1890 South Main St., or call (541) 258-3237.