Downtown Museum Plan Progress: 2018 Opening

Floor_plans-Ground-May_5_2015Sure, that history within the walls of the Smithsonian is pivotal to our nation and world, but what about the history right below our feet, the events that created this county we call home? The Benton County Historical Society has been working non-stop to fund a project that will bring a brand new museum to Corvallis in 2018. So far, the organization has raised $5.31 million, with $3.75 million left to go to fund a new building.

Currently housed in Philomath, the museum would move to 2nd Street in downtown Corvallis, not far from the Old World Deli.

A main feature of the new museum building will further the historical society’s educational mission to include hands-on discovery for children and families. Many children visit a museum for the first time as part of a field trip from school. The historical society believes there is much to be learned through experiencing artifacts in person as opposed to digitally. You can’t touch animal pelts through a computer screen.

The new museum will emphasize learning at all ages, not only through field trip programs but also through exhibitions and family-focused programs. Weekends will include hands-on art projects, storytellers in the courtyard, and views back into time. The historical society hopes to hire an education curator who will create programming not just for families but for adults as well.

All exhibitions will rotate on a staggered schedule to help preserve the collections. This will also allow for more of the larger collections to be viewed. The Horner Collection, for example, includes approximately 120,000 artifacts and objects, so rotating items will not only offer more variety, but will also protect the objects and allow them to be better preserved.

The museum is planning to host traveling exhibitions occasionally, but no word has been given about what those might be as of yet, since the museum will open in 2018.

Benton County Historical Society and Museum Executive Director Irene Zenev is thrilled about this project. “This is the most exciting cultural project in the state of Oregon right now,” she said. “Not only does the society own the Horner Collection, which is one of the oldest and largest cultural collections in Oregon, but we are working with a world-class architect, Brad Cloepfil of Allied Works Architecture, and we are building in an area that needs economic redevelopment in Corvallis, a city that prides itself on innovation.”

The historical society still needs help, however, to make this incredible new museum happen. If you would like to donate to this project you can find information on the Benton County Historical Society’s website at

Kyra Blank