Sunday, August 16, 2009

Field Trip: Gresham HIstory Museum

What Can I say about the Gresham History Museum? I think that both Khris, my museum buddy and I had a great time at the museum and in Gresham learning of the history and the unique culture of the people of this town. And by the people, I mean those who currently inhabit it the city of Gresham.

Well to begin with, the museum is housed in an old Carnegie Library, one unlike any that I have seen before--a brick structure with unique leaded glass work. Compared to most of the Carnegie Libraries I have seen in Oregon and on the West Coast, this one seems more fitting of the East Coast, mainly because brick structures are so rarely seen. They were taking down the exhibit on the former mayor of Gresham, so things were in transition when we got there. An older gentleman of about 85+ years greeted us and guided us with stories of his youth as we looked at exhibits.

Things of note that I picked up from his stories: if you are riding a horse bareback and it tries to buck you, keep hitting it with your hat as you hold onto its mane; The dairy farmers always new which milk pails were their own; "well...he shot all the elk and deer and told the warden that they could get the meat or it would just rot there, but it ain't no reason to have the guy arrested." And while some of his stories didn't make much sense, nor did they really give us a sense of the history of Gresham, he did show me how a seeder worked, and he did show me where the Multnomah County Fair Grounds used reside.

The images in this set, which unfortunately are a little hard to see are all of the fair grounds which have since been paved over. As far as we can tell, there is a shopping center where these exhibit halls and where a grand set of archways used to stand.

The yoke is an original artifact from one of the settlers. The owl, which interested me more than the yoke was in the old general store. This museum had an unsurprising lack of taxidermy, but seeing the mounted owl, I was left satisfied.

This plaster relief is an original WPA commissioned project that was lost for decades but was found in the attic of the Gresham High School. In my mind, this is probably one of the more impressive artifacts at the museum, aside from the old man who regaled us with stories. It has been restored to preserve it for the future. Some of the artwork to come out of the WPA was quite good, it is nice to see that someone had the sense to move it to the museum instead of city hall. Oh, and city hall for Gresham is apparently in a mini-mall.

And this is an actual wagon wheel. I believe the sign says it as well. So if you had your doubts, be assured that if you go to Gresham, and you don't think that this is a wagon wheel, they will prove you wrong.

So what did I learn? For a one-room museum in a small library, The Gresham History Museum is quaint and nice. There was nothing too kitschy or unbelievable, but there was a collection of scary dolls that was not quite explained. Also to prove it was Gresham, there was a beat-up metal-framed futon and mattress in front of one of the main displays. Apparently it is for sale, the futon, not the display.

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