News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Historical Society announces new museum

The historic bungalow at 410 E. Cascade Ave. (next to Suttle Tea) will be the new home of the Three Sisters Historical Society. A museum, office and gift shop will open in late spring or early summer in the building most recently occupied by Sisters Dental, which has moved its offices to 491 E. Main Ave.

Floyd Leithauser, president of the Historical Society, made the announcement at the organization’s annual meeting Thursday night, following a Fireside Talk at FivePine by Jarold Ramsey of Madras. Ramsey, a longtime board member of the Jefferson County Historical Society, embraced the idea of a museum in Sisters.

“I commend your timing, as there is a real sense of local history in the three counties of Central Oregon,” Ramsey said.

George and Virginia Wakefield, who originally purchased the property on the corner of East Cascade and Larch from R.J. Skelton, built the home in the mid-1930s. Chris Boxwell and Belita Palu-ay now own the property, and will rent a portion of the historic home. The museum will occupy four rooms, and will feature a display of local history, a museum gift shop, and the organization’s office. A generous gift from John and Jan Hodgers is making the museum possible.

Volunteers from Three Sisters Historical Society will staff the museum, and when historic walking tours of Sisters resume this summer, they will start at the new museum. Most recently, the Historical Society has been renting an office at Sisters Art Works, and created a pop-up museum with displays of Sisters history in the entry gallery there.

An opening date has not yet been determined. Final arrangements are being made with the City of Sisters, and modifications including a handicap-accessible restroom are in the works.

“It will be a soft opening,” Leithauser said.

The mission of the Three Sisters Historical Society is to deepen the understanding of past choices, present circumstances, and future possibilities by preserving, sharing and bringing to life the history of the Three Sisters area, and thus strengthening the bonds of the community.

In its short, three-year history, the organization has grown to encompass 250 members, 50 volunteers, and 450 Facebook friends. This year there are four Fireside Evenings (previously three per year), and they are assuming responsibility for the annual Book Sale on Quilt Show Saturday. (See related story "Book sale will continue on Quilt Show Saturday").

Last year the historical society took first place for their float in the Sisters Rodeo Parade; had exhibits of historical quilts in the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show and Quilts in the Garden; conducted three historical walking tours; participated in the Farmers Market; and held a local history sharing day. They contracted for videography services; and purchased museum software which will enable the organization to accurately catalog photographs and donated artifacts and books in the reference library.

As part of his discussion, guest speaker Ramsey compared local historians and academic historians, saying that there is a need for both.

“All history is local,” he said. “I like to look at history through a zoom lens.”

Academic historians look at the wide-angle view, while local historians zoom in to a particular place and time. A good example of local history is the building of railroads in Central Oregon, and academic history shows how the railroads brought about westward expansion.

Pursuing local history can be a fun, social endeavor that’s relatively inexpensive, except for your time, Ramsey said. A local museum can be planned and carved out as a place where things happen, and all people, including women and children, are represented, and where natural history can be displayed alongside human history. The latest trend, he said, is the History Pub, an evening celebrating local history in a convivial setting.

The next Fireside Evening will be Sunday, April 26 at FivePine Conference Center. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the program will start at 7, featuring author William Sullivan’s talk on “Hiking Oregon’s History.”


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