Washington County Museum

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Washington County Museum
Washington County Museum logo 2012.png
Established 1975 (1975)
Location Hillsboro, Oregon, United States
Coordinates 45°31′21″N 122°59′22″W / 45.522458°N 122.989479°W / 45.522458; -122.989479Coordinates: 45°31′21″N 122°59′22″W / 45.522458°N 122.989479°W / 45.522458; -122.989479
Type private: history
Director Mark S. Harmon (2016)
Curator Liza Schade (2016)
Owner Washington County Historical Society
Public transit access Hillsboro Central MAX station
Nearest car park Up to 2 hour free parking in lot adjacent to Civic Center corner First and Washington.
Website www.washingtoncountymuseum.org

Washington County Museum is a history museum located in downtown Hillsboro, Oregon, United States. Opened in 1975, the museum is operated by the Washington County Historical Society with a mission of preserving the history of the area.[1] The museum moved the main exhibit space to downtown Hillsboro at the Civic Center in November 2012. The prior museum space remains as a research library at Portland Community College's Rock Creek Campus and as home to the original Washington County Jail built in 1853.[2]


In the 1930s, local historian Albert E. Tozier donated his collection of artifacts, books, maps, and other items to the county historical society.[3] Beginning in 1939, the artifacts were displayed at Hillsboro's Carnegie Library.[4] In 1956, the Washington County Historical Society was incorporated.[5]

In 1962, the society looked at using Shute Park as a possible home for their museum, temporarily moved their collections to the park's pavilion.[4] Then in 1975 the county decided to start a formal history museum.[5] From 1975 to 1987, Washington County owned and operated the museum.[6] During that time the museum was in downtown Hillsboro, Oregon, at the Heidel Home.

In 1982 a new museum was built at the Portland Community College (PCC) campus at Rock Creek, and it opened in January 1983.[5] Then in September 1987 the Washington County Historical Society took over operations at the museum.[5] In 2007, the museum began a $1.7 million expansion of the facility to more than double the size of the museum.[7] The museums annual fundraiser featured Oregon State Beavers basketball coach Craig Robinson as the master of ceremonies in 2009 and raised around $90,000 for the museum.[8][9]

Grand opening of the new exhibit space in Hillsboro in 2012

The museum moved into a space at the Hillsboro Civic Center in a return to downtown Hillsboro, opening in November 2012.[10] The new space covers 12,400 square feet (1,150 m2) on the second floor in the commercial portion of the center.[10] After signing a fifteen-year lease, the museum was set to complete $1.5 million in improvements to both the new space and the former location at PCC.[10][11] The former museum building at PCC underwent renovations in 2015, and remains a repository for the county archives and an historical research facility.[10]

After securing a traveling NASA exhibit of the Hubble Space Telescope, the museum opened the new exhibit space in November 2012.[12] Renovations of the former exhibit space at Rock Creek and additional improvements at the Civic Center are planned to be completed at a later time.[12] After the departure of the exhibit Hubble Space Telescope: New Views of the Universe in May 2013, a new featured exhibit on the history of the development of the Silicon Forest in Washington County was installed, opening in April 2014. An exhibit exploring the history of the Bracero Program is also a featured exhibit.[13] To coincide with the inaugural season of the Hillsboro Hops minor league baseball team, the museum opened an exhibit in June 2013 spotlighting the history of baseball in the county.[14]

The museum fired director Sam Shogren in June 2014; the director in 2016 is Mark S. Harmon.[15][16] The museum closed for several weeks in February 2015 to retrofit exhibit walls for seismic upgrades.[17]


The museum received 5,000 visitors annually at the PCC Rock Creek campus location's 5,000-square-foot (460 m2) facility.[18] The downtown Civic Center location, Mobile Museum Program, and the Research library now serve about 11,000 visitors annually.[citation needed] The museum operates a small store in the Civic Center location selling books about local history, historical toys, and an assortment of other small gift items.[19] The PCC Rock Creek location is the Robert L. Benson Research Library with over 25,000 images, more than 1,400 maps, and over 500 books along with other historical records and newspapers. The Rock Creek location also serves as the collection storage facility housing over 40,000 artifacts and items of historical significance to the County's history, and is open by appointment only.[20]

Inside the old building at PCC

Collections, exhibits, programs[edit]

On exhibit at the research library is the original Washington County Jail built in 1853.[21] This structure was listed on the National Register of Historic Places from 1986 until 2008.[22][23] Previously located at the county fairgrounds, the structure was rehabilitated and moved to the museum in 2004. The 10-foot (3.0 m) by 16-foot (4.9 m) jailhouse was originally located inside the museum,[21] but was moved outside when the museum was expanded in 2007.[24]

Other artifacts in the collections range from everyday items such as sewing machines, to a wedding dress of a local prominent family.[25] The museum's other exhibits include This Kalapuya Land that focuses on the Native Americans of the area, Washington County in a Nutshell that features artifacts from throughout the county's history, and a changing exhibit along with visiting collections.[24] Visiting exhibits have included Oregon is Indian Country from the Oregon Historical Society, among others.[26]

Formerly, the museum hosted an annual plowing event named the Draft Horse Plowing Exhibition to demonstrate farming before mechanized agriculture.[27] However, the event has moved to Champoeg State Park.[28] Washington County Museum also educates the local community on the history of the county including use of a mobile museum.[29]


  1. ^ Local Historical Organizations. Lewis & Clark College. Retrieved on March 31, 2007.
  2. ^ Get Out Guide. OregonLive.com. Retrieved on March 31, 2007.
  3. ^ Buan, Carolyn M. This Far-Off Sunset Land: A Pictorial History of Washington County, Oregon. Donning Company Publishers, 1999. p. 15.
  4. ^ a b "Washington County Groups See Another Museum Vote". The Oregonian. June 21, 1962. p. 11. 
  5. ^ a b c d Our History. Washington County Museum. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  6. ^ Washington County Museum may charge admission. The Oregonian, August 6, 1990.
  7. ^ Gorman, Kathleen. A bigger commitment to history. The Oregonian, September 28, 2007.
  8. ^ Luna, Taryn (October 14, 2009). "Washington County Museum remakes itself to attract more members, visitors". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  9. ^ Tierney, Dana (November 12, 2009). "Organizers say Washington County Museum gala was a success". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2009-11-13. 
  10. ^ a b c d Ho, Sally (June 20, 2012). "Washington County Museum's expansion includes Hillsboro move, public library". The Oregonian. Retrieved June 21, 2012. 
  11. ^ Gaston, Christian (September 7, 2012). "Museum moves to Hillsboro center". Hillsboro Tribune. p. A1. 
  12. ^ a b Redden, Jim (October 19, 2012). "Reaching for the stars". Hillsboro Tribune. Retrieved November 11, 2012. 
  13. ^ Castillo, Andrea (November 16, 2012). "Washington County Museum retrieves memory of Bracero farm laborers". The Oregonian. Retrieved 18 November 2012. 
  14. ^ Smith, Taylor (June 18, 2013). "Washington County Museum pays homage to the area's baseball roots, Hillsboro Hops". The Oregonian. Retrieved 29 June 2013. 
  15. ^ Townsley, Nancy (June 27, 2014). "County museum board fires director Shogren". Hillsboro Tribune. Retrieved 30 June 2014. 
  16. ^ "Museum Leadership :: Washington County Museum". Washingtoncountymuseum.org. Retrieved November 17, 2016. 
  17. ^ Fuller, Kathy (February 5, 2015). "County museum will close Feb. 12 to March 10 for construction". Hillsboro Tribune. Retrieved 10 February 2015. 
  18. ^ A call to step up, help county history stay alive A call to step up, help county history stay alive. The Oregonian, June 15, 2006.
  19. ^ Store. Washington County Museum. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  20. ^ "Research Library". Washington County Museum. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  21. ^ a b "The years have changed 'Doing Time'", The Oregonian, September 9, 2004.
  22. ^ "Oregon National Register List" (PDF). Oregon Parks & Recreation Dept.: Heritage Programs: National Register. Retrieved 2008-02-29. 
  23. ^ "January 2, 2009". National Register of Historic Places Listings. National Park Service. Retrieved 2009-01-07. 
  24. ^ a b "Exhibits". Washington County Museum. Retrieved 2009-10-15. 
  25. ^ Collections. Washington County Museum. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  26. ^ Gregory, Roger (November 17, 2009). "Thursday reception to celebrate local museum's latest exhibits". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2009-11-18. 
  27. ^ Draft Horse Plowing Exhibition, The Oregonian, May 19, 2006.
  28. ^ Draft horses find greener, softer pastures for plowing exhibition. News-Times. Retrieved on March 31, 2007.
  29. ^ Education. Washington County Museum. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.

External links[edit]