Small Town Museums

For a bit of history and eccentric exhibits, peruse the displays at local museums in California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico, and Montana.

Antique car, Klamath County Museum, Klamath Falls, Ore., image

The Klamath County Museum exhibits antique cars, Native American settlements, and more.

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Klamath County Museum Klamath Falls, Ore. "I couldn't get enough here," writes Barbara Newcombe of Oakland, Calif. "This old brick armory is stuffed with exhibits on natural and human history, Native American and later settlements, industries, railroads, cars, and a display on a Japanese balloon bomb that exploded at a Sunday school picnic during World War II." co.klamath.or.us/museum/index.htm

Bolt's Antique Tool Museum Oroville, Calif."Stories make the displays come alive," writes Diane Van Gilder of Oroville. "There are 5,000 old hand tools made before or during World War II, including a socket set hand-forged by a blacksmith." boltsantiquetools.com.

Burlingame Museum of Pez Memorabilia Burlingame, Calif."An amazing look at the candy that wins us over by being half collector's item," says Jennifer Reeves of Capitola, Calif. "Hundreds of Pez dispensers are featured, from antique ones to the bunnies you stuffed in your kids' Easter baskets." burlingamepezmuseum.com.

Campbell County Rockpile Museum Gillette, Wyo."A great little free museum," says Phyllis Mueller of San Jose. "Not only does it feature local history, it has several Model Ts, a horse-drawn hearse, and a ‘Grandma's attic' where children can dress up. There's also a video on coal mining and what dynamite can do." wyshs.org/mus-rockpile.htm.

Clarke Historical Museum Eureka, Calif.
"Visitors come from around the country and the world to study and enjoy the collection," says Janet Menschel of Citrus Heights, Calif. "It has a great set of Northern California Native basketry and much on Humboldt County history." clarkemuseum.org.

Des Chutes Historical Center Bend, Ore."Housed in an old stone schoolhouse, the informal displays here cast a nostalgic light on Bend's timber-town roots," writes Mona Derby of Bend. "Old logging-camp memories, Forest Service memorabilia, and domestic scenes with an old cast-iron stove set with cooking utensils and aprons." deschuteshistory.org.

Echo Historical Museum Echo, Ore."In this 1920 Roman classical bank are all the furnishings left when it closed in the 1960s," says Mark Hooker of Stanfield, Ore. "Also, period clothing, horse-drawn firefighting equipment, and material on boxer Jack Dempsey, who worked one of the large rabbit drives in the early 1900s." echo-oregon.com/bank.html.

Favell Museum of Western Art and Indian Artifacts Klamath Falls, Ore."Amazing!" says Laurie Barna of Los Gatos, Calif. "Three collections with more than 1,000 pieces of Western and wildlife art, thousands of mounted Indian arrowheads, and a rare collection of miniature firearms." favellmuseum.org.

Geronimo Springs Museum Truth or Consequences, N.M."An excellent museum in a beautiful high desert town," writes Robert Long of Mendocino,Calif. "There's Mimbres and Tularosa pottery, Apache baskets, mammoth and mastodon skulls, a miner's log cabin, and ornate courtyard gates salvaged from early Hispanic homes." geronimospringsmuseum.com.

Linn County Historical Museum Brownsville, Ore."In this old train depot and the boxcars beside it are farm tools, furniture, telephones, musical instruments, and an Oregon Trail covered wagon," says Traci Durrell-Khalife of Corvallis, Ore. "There are also replicas of a general store, a bank, and a barbershop." co.linn.or.us/museum.

Lyon County Museum Yerington, Nev."The model train is a treat," says Pam Rebillot of San Jose, "and the display case full of colorful copper ore—the old Anaconda mine is just outside town—is beautiful." yerington.net.

MILLMAN LEGACY GALLERY Spanish Fork, Utah."On display are 200 hats," writes Janet Anderson of Carson City, Nev., "several antique football helmets, a pilot's hat stamped u.s. airmail, a green canvas hat worn by a Golden Gate Bridge builder, and a Mexican monk's hat from 1760." (801) 798-1776.

Milwaukie Museum Milwaukie, Ore."Always fascinating," writes Sherri Campbell of Milwaukie. "It's very small—but it has an 1872 trolley and an upstairs exhibit devoted to horticulturist Seth Lewelling, who's a town founder. Turns out Bing cherries were named for Lewelling's Chinese assistant, Ah Bing." milwaukiemuseum.tripod.com.

Museum of American Heritage Palo Alto, Calif."A super nostalgia trip," says Carol Gilbert of Palo Alto. "It's as if you're back in the 1920s: a kitchen, a general store, a radio repair shop, plus old toys and games." moah.org.

Musselshell Valley Historical Museum Roundup, Mont.
"Ever seen a foldable bathtub?" asks Gabriele Ramsbrock of Roundup. "It's here in this old schoolhouse as part of a display of a five-room 1890s home. There's also a hospital operating room, simulated coal mine shaft, a blacksmith shop, a general store, and local wildlife." mvhm.us.

Niles Essanay Silent Film Museum fremont, Calif."I loved the tin-lined projection booth, hand-cranked projector, and photos of Charlie Chaplin and Broncho Billy," says Diane Holcomb of Los Altos, Calif. "Plus, there are silent films every week." nilesfilmmuseum.org.

Tulelake–Butte Valley Fair Museum of Local History Tulelake, Calif."I'm not a museum enthusiast," says Richard Shryock of Oakhurst, Calif., "but I was captivated by displays explaining that Tulelake was where thousands of Japanese Americans were relocated during World War II." users.cot.net/~tulefair/tbvmuseum.

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Photography by Ric Ergenbright

This article was first published in September 2007. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.

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