CORVALLIS, Ore. — A Corvallis couple has presented the Benton County Historical Society with a $1 million challenge: if it raises $1 million in donations by the end of Feb. 2015, the couple will match it.
The society is planning to open a new museum in Corvallis by 2017 – but it still needs community support. The museum will be located at the corner of Second St. and Adams Ave. So far, the museum has raised $3.5 million from 120 community members. The $9 million project still has a long way to go, but Rosalie and Peter Johnson are encouraging the public to take part.
“Museums are a link, a bridge, between the past and the future,” Rosalie Johnson said.
The couple says the new museum will be significant to the community because it will house artifacts that used to be in a museum in Gill Coliseum.
“The Society’s museum is in some ways Oregon State University’s museum too since it now houses the former Horner Museum collection,” Peter Johnson said.
The Horner Museum faced budget cuts and was forced to close in 1995.
The Benton County Historical Society inherited the Horner Collection, and is thrilled about opening a museum in Corvallis.
“I’m so excited,” said Volunteer Joyce Nesson. “I’m going to have tears streaming down my face when it opens.”
Nesson says as a volunteer, she greets visitors at the entrance of the organization’s museum in Philomath.
“I’ve been here a long time at the front desk,” she said. “I’ve seen the visitors and I talk to them. And every so often, a group – maybe 3-5 people will come in and they’ve come in the front door – but you can tell they’re just about ready to back out. Because they came into the museum but they’re not quite sure it was the right choice. And so I start to talk to them and pull them in and tell them a little bit about the museum, and they say: ‘We’ve never been to a museum before.'”
“And they’re wondering if they belong. And so I try to talk to them a little bit and make them comfortable. And then, suddenly, one of them will see something in the exhibit and they’ll say: ‘Ooooh look! There’s….’ whatever it is. And that chasm between their reality; their world, and the people who visit museums is just gone. They’ve just discovered that their world is in the museum and is part of the museum. And if that isn’t opening and broadening people’s lives, I don’t know what is.”
Nesson says having another museum in Corvallis will give more people access to viewing historical collections from Benton County.
Anyone who would like to help donate to the new museum can call Executive Director Irene Zenev at the museum at (541) 929-6230.
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