Submitted by Rene Carroll for Two Rivers Heritage Museum
The Two Rivers Heritage Museum in Washougal is filled to the brim with interesting and historic artifacts which tell the rich history of Camas and Washougal.
A committee of volunteers has been working over the past several years to identify, catalog, cull and reorganize the museum’s sizable collection and create space for additional local treasures of the past.
“The museum invested in PastPerfect Museum Software to help manage our inventory back in 2010,” said Karen Johnson, museum volunteer. “Since that time all donations have been logged in, but it has taken some time to go back and log in many of the earlier donations.”
Intermittent periods of moratorium were placed on accepting new donations during the past few years while volunteers worked through the new and improved recording process. Using volumes of Deed of Origin notebooks, the group located and reunited items with their donation paperwork to catalog them in the new system.
The committee has also created and documented a new donation procedure and clearer criteria to determine what items to accession. They follow Washington State rules and best practices set out by the PastPerfect Software in all aspects of the donation process.
“The process runs from the door to inventory,” said Johnson. “It is vitally important that original documents stay with all items until accessioning is complete. This helps to safeguard the accuracy of the donation and inventory records.” Museum volunteers have made great headway on the project and are ready to welcome donated items from the community.
New museum volunteer, Gayle Godtilbsen of Washougal, has stepped up as Accessions Curator. In this role, Godtilbsen is the only person authorized to accept artifact donations. “I talk with or meet prospective donors and examine items with consideration of relevance, condition and duplication,” she explained. “Basically, I check whether it has a connection to our area, is in suitable condition to be displayed and whether or not we have any other or better examples of the item in our inventory.”
“Gayle has a great eye for significant pieces,” said Johnson. “She has excellent judgement on what items are worthy of being considered for our collection.” Once Godtilbsen accepts an item, it is presented to a committee for final approval.
Another important aspect of accessioning is collecting local stories that go along with the artifact. “If you find an antique tool or implement at a garage sale and bring it in, we may not be willing to accept it into inventory,” says Godtilbsen. “However, if that item is unique and was owned and used by a local pioneer farmer or has a family story that you can tell, we are much more interested in it.”
“It is all about the stories,” added Johnson. “It is what brings these pieces to life for visitors to the museum.”
A few interesting pieces in the museum that have local stories include the hat worn by Doc Harris at decades of high school football games as he stood along the sidelines, a photo of the wooden flume that traversed many Camas property lines to bring logs and lumber to the mill from Mt. Livingston and trophies and a photo album featuring the Washougal High School Drum and Bugle Corp from the 1940s.
“If you have something you feel is an interesting item that is in good condition, has historic significant to the area and a story behind it, I’d love to talk with you,” Godtilbsen said. “If it is accessioned you know the piece will be protected and available to display for future generations.”
Godtilbsen is at the museum each Friday during regular hours from 11am-3pm for accessioning work. She is also available by appointment and is willing to travel to a donor if they have a large item, a collection or have no way to get to the museum.
Godtilbsen and husband Ivar are two of the newest volunteers at the museum. A retired office manager at a local hearing clinic, she was intrigued and enchanted by the museum. “The appeal of volunteering here is to meet wonderful people and learn more about the Camas/Washougal area,” she said. “We have lived here 15 years and love this area and the Gorge.” She encourages anyone with a little extra time on their hands and a love for local history to check out volunteer opportunities at the museum.
The museum regular hours are Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Museum admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors, $2 for students and free for children under 5 and all Camas/ Washougal Historical Society members. Call 360-835-8742 for more information about the museum and volunteering.