The Unique World of Corvallis History
Through the double-doubled doors of the brand-new Corvallis Museum, the first things you will see are a desk, two rooms to your left, and a huge moose on a pedestal. It might not look like much, but as you venture further inside, you will find many treasures from Benton County’s history.
The Corvallis Museum joins the Philomath site of the Benton County Historical Society. It officially finished construction in December 2020 but had to delay its opening due to the global pandemic. It finally opened in February and has hours between 10 am and 5:30 pm Wednesday through Saturday. They do stress the use of social distancing and mask-wearing, as well as booking an appointment before your visit.
The very first room that is on the first floor of the two-floored building, is the Fred and Mary Brauti Gallery room. This room is full of photos including pictures of CHS in its pool days, downtown Corvallis in the 40s, and a picture of Louis “Lewis” Southworth who I share a birthday with and who was able to raise enough money in California, playing the violin at local dance schools, and bought himself out of slavery and bought land in Waldport, Oregon. You can read more about his story in Oregon’s State Archive Article “Black in Oregon: Louis (Lewis) Alexander Southworth”.
The other room on this floor is the museum’s Konick Family Store. They have many books about Benton County and Corvallis history, lots of adorable moose and beaver plushies, and lots of prints of art made by Benton County residents. The shop is also featured online and you can visit and purchase from their website.
On the way to the second floor, there is a small staircase gallery that has vintage small-scale photos of residents in the 1900s, and small belongings like wrist watches and even a binky from somebody’s baby in the 30s!
The first space you see when you reach the top of the steps is the James and Ashnah Plunkett Gallery, which has more 3D items such as a taxidermied beaver, pieces of a statue of Hebe which was gifted then destroyed in the 1940s, and a small copper of Hermes, donated from a retired OSU professor.
The room adjacent to this one is the Mary C. Verhoeven Gallery. This room was a favorite to many people visiting recently! The exhibit contained an old-fashioned gas mask, a bike with one HUGE wheel, an old-fashioned baby carriage and a wheelchair made from wicker.
I met a nice couple in the room and asked them a few questions:
“What is your favorite room or exhibit so far?”
“I think we both can agree this room is so far the favorite.”
They both nodded.
“Do you think you’ll go again?”
“Certainly, if we don’t finish looking at everything before the museum closes!”
I informed them it was 5:15 so they might have to return as the museum closes at 5:30.
The last gallery room is a little hidden. However, it is a pleasant walk to it as there is another hallway gallery filled with more obscure objects like strange cups, pocket watches, and a donut maker!
This room is called the Peter and Rosalie Johnson Gallery. This room had more 3D objects, including a big tree-cutting saw, vintage roller skates, and even a mountain goat suit paired with an old video explaining it. Longtime museum followers will recognize what’s featured in a little pocket gallery, where a huge panel contains different rocks that fluoresce under a blacklight. Next to the wooden panel was an explanation of how to rock scientists used blacklight when determining what type of rocks they were.
As you head downstairs again to exit, be sure to visit the Konick Family Store because they have many fun souvenirs that visitors will enjoy. There’s also books, including one called “Brides of Eden: A True Story Imagined” by Linda Crew. She was born in Benton County and wrote the book based on her grandmother’s experience in the 1903 Corvallis cult, “The Holy Rollers.” It’s a fascinating book, and as somebody who grew up in Corvallis, it’s uncanny.
This museum will hopefully grow into a fixture of downtown as it rotates in more exhibits that go more in-depth into Benton County’s history.
At a glance:
Address: 411 SW 2nd St., Corvallis, Oregon
Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Main Exhibition: Picture room and Bruce the Moose
Prices: Free admission for members, OSU & Linn-Benton CC students with a valid ID, and ages 18 and under; otherwise $5 tickets each
Website: Benton County Museum