By Brendan Relaford
For The Sentinel 

Presby opens for the season


Brendan Relaford

TAKE A LOOK AT THAT: Standing in front of a buffet that was part of the original furniture in the Presby House, Inez Freeman points out the unique features of the dining room to Keith and Virginia Pederson of Bellingham.

When the Presby House Museum opened on May 1, two people were waiting at the door to take a tour. Later, three more people arrived to ask for information. By the time the museum closed, six adults and two children had visited the 117-year-old house, a good showing for so early in the season.

The museum is run by the Klickitat County Historical Society (KCHS), which was organized in 1958 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, and presenting the history of Goldendale and Klickitat County. In 1962, the society purchased the three-story, 22-room Presby Mansion, built in 1902 by Klickitat attorney Winthrop B. Presby (1859-1914).

At first a family residence and later a boarding house for teachers and railway workers, the house is now home to thousands of items KCHS has accumulated since it opened 57 years ago. This year, a new project is underway to enter all the information about the museum's holdings into a database designed specifically for museums.

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The project began with a suggestion by KCHS Board member Dennis Birney, who recommended that a $1000 preservation grant from the Klickitat County Commissioners be used to purchase a program called PastPerfect so the museum could store all its available information about photographs, objects, references and archival material. A limited number of volunteer workers delayed implementation of the project until late last year, when relentless recruiting efforts brought in 8 enthusiastic volunteers willing to dedicate 2 hours a week to enter information into the database.

"We're working first with our photographic collection, entering information and scanning the pictures," says program coordinator, Inez Freeman. "When the project is complete, visitors won't have to handle fragile old photographs, as they will be stored in a fire-resistant filing cabinet. Instead, they can print the photo and information about it while sitting at a computer dedicated to the PastPerfect database."

Freeman also says that KVHS has learned through the Washington Secretary of State and the Washington State Library that the museum might be able to get 278 newspapers dating from 1885 to 1907 digitized before they deteriorate further. "When Shawn Schollmeyer of the Secretary of State's office visited last year," KVHS's latest newsletter reported, "she agreed that the fragile old newspapers would be good candidates for the Washington Digital Newspapers program, which will put them in a readable format for people who want online access to these unique primary materials."

The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week between May 1 and Oct. 15. Admission charge is $5 for adults (13 years and older) and $1 for students (6 to 12). Admission is free for children under five and members of KVHS.


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