Sherman County Historical Society and Museum
Open Daily 10 until 5 May through October
Excerpts from an article by McLaren Stinchfield, publisher and editor
The Condon Times-Journal
The AASLH awards program is the nation's most prestigious competition for recognition of achievement in the preservation and achievement of local, state and regional history. The award is accompanied by a $500 cash award. The Corey award is specifically designed to recognize a small, primarily volunteer operated historical organization that best displays the qualities of vigor, scholarship and imagination in its work, and is given only once to any given organization.
Volunteers is the operative word! The Sherman County Historical Society attracts 100 volunteers, from a county population of 1,850, and has no paid staff. The 10,000 square foot museum in Moro is open May through October seven days a week.
The Society and museum are managed by a nine-member board of trustees that are elected by the membership. A museum team of 25 volunteers manages and operates the museum and is supervised by a museum coordinator who is responsible to the board. And, finally, 79 hosts, recruited, trained and supervised by the volunteer coordinator, operate the museum on a daily basis. They are all volunteers.
At Omaha in September to accept the award for the Sherman County Historical Society were [the board president, three trustees with two spouses. It was a great education -- the workshops, tours and the awards program.] The experience gave them confidence in knowing that what they were doing at the Sherman County museum is on the right track.
In 1982 the American Legion Post at Moro donated the community building to use as a museum. Two publications were started that year -- The Plow and Sherman County: For The Record, both published twice a year.
Local fund-raising efforts began in 1983 to make improvements to the museum building. Items were accepted for exhibits; trustees received training in museum management; the first in-county historical bus tour was conducted; and at the fall meeting that year the museum was dedicated.
The following year, 1984, became a pivotal year in the museum's development. An evaluation team from the Oregon Museums Association made recommendations on preservation, planning, exhibits, governance, job descriptions, volunteers, ethics, collections management, expansion, education and fund-raising. [The trustees] plugged into the museum community. The museum listed 846 visitors during its six-month season in 1984.
Collections for exhibits and reference began to develop. In 1986 the Society adopted policy and [a] mission statement...Joint meetings were held with neighboring museums, support grew, the Museum Store opened, and the trend went from loaned objects to donated objects for exhibits.
The Friends of the Museum was organized for financial support in 1987. Festivals focusing on local history were organized, and the first school group toured the museum. Visitors numbered 2,900 that year.
Exhibits continually expanded. Slide, video and published works were created to tell the story of Sherman County, and preparations were underway for the county's centennial celebration.
In 1989, the Sherman County Centennial Committee, which became so interwoven with Society and museum affairs as not to be distinguishable, hosted a myriad of centennial events during the year which began in February and concluded with placing a time capsule at the courthouse in September.
Construction began on a new wing for the museum in 1990. Fund-raising became a large part of museum business. In 1992, the Society applied for seven grants from a variety of sources and were successful in obtaining each one for an amount totaling $94,330 to help pay for the new wing, the bridge in the park, the kiosk [on Highway 97 in Moro], the Oregon Trail exhibit, Oregon Trail Sesquicentennial activities, the Oregon Trail brochure, the museum's overhead door and operating expenses.
In 1993, the Sherman County Historical Society was "on the dusty trail" to honor the sesquicentennial of the Oregon Trail. Members placed a six-foot column of basalt rock at an interpretive site near the John Day River; developed an Oregon Trail exhibit brochure which won honorable mention from the American Association of Museums for graphic design for supplementary materials for museums with budgets under $500,000; constructed picnic tables for trail sites and the museum; provided Oregon Trail bus tours; hosted two Oregon Trail wagon train groups as they passed through the county; opened the museum's new wing and the exhibit, Oregon Trails, Rails and Roads in Sherman County.
And planning continues for additional improvements. The Society's current membership totals 516, and volunteers for the museum and society operations during 1993 totaled 100. Along with its membership and volunteers, the success of the Society has been bolstered by a partnership of collaboration, support, education, hard work and cooperation with dozens of individuals, agencies, municipalities and businesses within Sherman County, throughout Oregon and beyond Oregon's borders...approximately 75 Society supporters, collaborators and contributors.