Local history museum raising funds to make space for irreplaceable artifacts

Franklin County Historical Museum holds fundraiser for new building

With limited space and a stockpile of archives, the Franklin County Historical Museum hopes to secure financing for an additional building to feature one-of-a-kind exhibits.

The museum placed in the heart of Pasco is already located in one of the regions only architectural treasures. Housed in the 1911 Carnegie Library, the Franklin County Historical Society is restricted on how they can alter the building to enhance visitor experiences. The library features a unique interior and exterior design complete with cream stucco and a vintage entrance. If funding and proposals are approved for a new annex building, similar architecture and design will be implemented.

The Capital Campaign wishes to secure $600,000 by April 1. The Franklin County Historical Society has already raised $450,000 since the start of 2020 but need the rest of the funding to move forward with plans. They hope to present a building proposal for the new annex by the end of March to move forward on construction.

The annex will be built next to the existing museum located at 305 N. 4th Avenue in Pasco. Members purchased two lots next to the Carnegie Library and a construction company emptied the area. Franklin County Historical Society member Dr. Richard Sheuerman told KAPP-KVEW Local News the annex will provide space for community events, meeting space for society members, and much more.

“It’s hard for us to announce a public event because we are legally allowed only so many people inside this building,” Dr. Sheuerman said while standing inside a cramped section of the Carnegie Library, “but with a new building, we would have space.”

Dr. Sheuerman has worked with the Franklin County Historical Museum for only a matter of years but has a vast knowledge of the history of Franklin County and how it has shaped the northwest United States and the world. He explained the impact of the transcontinental Northern Pacific Railway through the Tri-Cities allowing for migration and industries to grow, cementing the long-lasting population and workforce eastern Washington holds. The company that stored much of the irreplaceable railway artifacts went out of business recently. The Franklin County Historical Museum stepped in to save those documents and treasures. Key artifacts from the railroad, its construction, and its history are in the museum but many of them are knitted together in a small space, something Dr. Sheuerman says wouldn’t be the case if they had ample room.

“We have the original Mullen Stevens maps showing the Northern Pacific railroads transcontinental line right through Pasco and Franklin County, which was huge in the development of the Pacific Northwest,” Dr. Sheuerman said, “We have a marvelous, priceless collection which we basically inherited last fall and have no space to do anything more than just temporarily put things here and there.”

This is only one of the many exhibits that are stifled by the lack of space inside the standing museum. The Northern Pacific Railway may be one of the more notable historical events in Franklin County but visitors can also expect to find some less known, hidden gems. The museum holds unique artifacts from writer Zane Gray who visited the area and wrote novels about his experience. A house that is still standing in the Tri-Cities held many of the items and furniture Gray used while he was in the area. With dozens of artifacts and the history to back them up, an extensive exhibit would be possible if space allowed. Pieces are currently featured throughout the museum with a bench on one side of the building and his writings on another. To some, these treasures could be the reason they book a trip to the local museum, but others may see it as an interesting history lesson. Regardless of the impact, society members want to offer a more cohesive experience to their visitors.

“There are people that love his work,” Dr. Sheuerman said, “and we have all the pieces to put together something great for people here.”

Dr. Sheuerman shared countless stories of the artifacts the museum held, including the power of paintings and artwork to an award-winning film shot in the county. Society members receive many of the artifacts on a day-to-day basis. Storage rooms referred to as the vertical file collection are based inside the museum and flooded with documents about historical moments in the Tri-Cities and region.

“A lot of the collections that are offered to us that are one of a kind treasures for Pasco and Franklin County, like the vertical file collection I just shared with you,” Dr. Sheuerman said, “We’re to a point where we just would have to say, we can’t take those anymore. It would be a shame to see treasures like this leave the area.”

Not only are storage rooms filled with documents, but other areas around the city are as well. The society has rented space in Pasco City Hall and the Pasco Police Department due to the climate control space in those building basements. Society members are also storing items in their homes to ensure their safety. They also store items in two large storage containers on the lots they are trying to build the annex.

“We need to be good stewards of what we have,” Dr. Sheuerman said, “This stuff just goes clear to the top and I’m happy that folks over time have accepted things. I want to see it safeguarded but it needs to be either exhibited or stored in a more climate-controlled condition.

With only weeks until the Capital Campaign ends, the society planned a grand re-opening for the Franklin County Historical Museum. There would be live music, free admission for visitors, and most importantly, the unveiling of a recently obtained late 1700’s original printing of the great seal of the United States. The grand re-opening would feature many of the museum’s newest treasures but days before it was set to happen on March 14, it was canceled.

The society wrote on social media, “With the health and safety of our visitors at the forefront of our mind, we have chosen to cancel lie reopen event – for now. When it is safe to hold events again, we will reschedule.”

The statewide Coronavirus outbreak put a stop to the event but the Capital Campaign is still going on. The Franklin Historical Museum does remain open on March 14 though, with free admission still offered in honor of the re-opening. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. Anyone wanting to donate to the Captial Campaign can give in person or can contact the society for more options.

Dr. Sheuerman reminds KAPP-KVEW Local News that in the past, lack of space and resources caused many artifacts to leave the region or disappear.

“Many things have left the area, and we have many war stories, tragically, that would have been wonderful to celebrate here as part of our incredible heritage but in the absence of space, we’ve lost a lot of those things,” he said, “We don’t want that to happen under this generation’s watch and the successful completion of the capital campaign will give us a place to make sure that doesn’t happen.”