Springfield History Museum to close for 6 months

By Rebecca Hansen-White (KLCC)
SPRINGFIELD, Ore. Nov. 27, 2023 9 p.m.
In this undated photo, Springfield History Museum curator Maddi McGraw displays an American flag patch, Springfield Frontier Days button and brown leather belt that have been stored together in a box for several years. The museum is closing for six months to reorganize items in the interest of preserving them as they age.

In this undated photo, Springfield History Museum curator Maddi McGraw displays an American flag patch, Springfield Frontier Days button and brown leather belt that have been stored together in a box for several years. The museum is closing for six months to reorganize items in the interest of preserving them as they age.

Rebecca Hansen-White / KLCC

The Springfield History Museum will close for six months starting in January to preserve vulnerable items in its collection.

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Curator Maddi McGraw said there are thousands of objects that haven’t been on display for years that need care, such as 200-year-old quilts, clothing and farm equipment.

“We’re like an iceberg,” she said. “Our exhibits that we have are just one tiny bit of the collections that we are stewards of.”

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McGraw said the museum has grant funding to digitize its photo collection and is working to preserve its newspaper archive as well.

She said many items that have been boxed away for years contain artifacts that shouldn’t be stored together, such as a leather belt in the same box as an American flag patch from a uniform, and a historic pin.

We’ve got the chemicals from the glue, we’ve got whatever they used to tan and dye the leather with, we’ve got plastic, we’ve got metal,” she said. “All of these things are going to interact with air differently as they age. If they’re all in a box together, they’ll probably interact with each other in ways that we don’t want.”

She said 3D objects often are the most challenging to safely store and preserve. She said her team will focus mainly on those objects during the closure.

Those looking to get involved can volunteer to help with the restoration project. She said the only qualification is an interest in history and crafts.

During the closure, people can also get involved by visiting pop-up exhibits at Springfield City Hall, or by visiting an exhibit that will be displayed in the museum’s front windows. That project, “Illumination,” showcases Black history in Lane County. The public can use their phones to scan a QR code and listen to oral histories shared by long-time residents.

When the museum reopens in July, McGraw said, she hopes to create an exhibit showcasing many items that haven’t been seen by the public in years.

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