Keeping the Doorways to Local History Open

With the cold, winter weather now in the rearview mirror, and warmer weather on the way, the tourist season will soon be upon us. Many people come from all over to visit family, explore the landscape of the lakes, rivers, forests and mountains, and for touring the historical sites. 

Museums often house the cultural and historical records for their communities and depend on volunteers and funding to keep their doors open. Grants, support from the state, and revenue from tourism can provide some of those income streams. Merchandise purchases can also help cover museum operational costs.

An example of this can be found at the Stevens County Historical Society Museum located in Colville, WA, where they have a gift shop stocked with all types of goodies. Shop manager Donna Cox has curated items from local crafters and producers such as Functional Arte, Hunting Bee Apiary, and others, and has a wide selection of books, artwork, vinyl record clocks, sewn handbags and even handmade beeswax candles. Donna’s main goal for the shop is to help “highlight local artists and their crafts” while raising funds to assist with maintaining the museum. 

Special events are also a way to get people interested and in the doors. In addition to the artifacts, photographs, documents, and displays related to the area’s Native American cultures, pioneer settlers, logging industry, mining history, 20th century toys, and more, the Stevens County Historical Society Museum has a collection of Smokey the Bear memorabilia and will be celebrating the iconic bear’s 80th birthday with a big party. (Does Smokey even like cake, you may ask? Yes, but without the candles, of course.)

For area museum openings, hours, and other information, a starting place to check out is the Washington Museum Association’s website ( and click on “Directory.” Who needs a time machine when you can instead visit a local museum packed with history?

By William Jefferys