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A Trip Through Coos History

Photo Credit by the Author

Beside the scenic Marshfield channel, resides the Coos History Museum on the historic Front Street of Coos Bay.

As I entered the museum, Steve and John greeted me and made me feel comfortable.

The gift shop is located right inside the door, so no fee is necessary to enter. The shop contains a variety of items attractively displayed in a small space. The items are all Oregon-related, either here in Coos county, or spanning into the state of Oregon, or beyond. I purchased The Lewis and Clark Journals, a book on my reading wish list. T-shirts, souvenirs, and many other beautiful items grace the walls and shelves.

In the short corridor leading to the museum resided a beautifully crafted and polished myrtle wood desk, dated 1900. I would love to have written this post on that desk. A myrtle wood-dipped scented cotton ball released the scent of a wood found in the Oregon SW corner. These items foreshadow the five sensual delights about to unfurl. Though signs ask the visitors to not touch the museum pieces, they are attractively and minimally placed. A little imagination helps here, which is encouraged with signs starting with “hmm… points to ponder.”

Plaques speak and translate the languages of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw. One plaque displays the Lord’s Prayer. One greets you with Dai, Niishanax, meaning hello.

Speakers played the rhythm of ocean waves breaking on the sand, and painted seagull footprints walked me throughout the main part of the museum. The wall and floor colors of gray, blue, and green reminded me of the colors of the ocean and the pine trees.

The displays divide by the areas of Coos county: tidewater, seashore, and uplands. These wall dividers’ colors of blue and green corresponded to the area they represented.

Further subdivided by area are the towns that reside in Coos county. As a resident of Bandon, I focused on its history. Bandon holds the title for the best life-saving station on the river bar between 1868-1914. In juxtaposition, a display cites Bandon as being cursed by fire.

Several photos are on split canvases, giving them the illusion of 3D. Photographs were in both color and black and white.

Larger-than-life items arrayed the floor and ceiling areas. A tuba hung from the wall so you could picture someone inhabiting that space around it with music. Or a chain saw so you could imagine a logger high up in the treetops cutting them for wood. The Roosevelt ferry wheel – as tall as me – steered transportation before the bridges were built. And a Fresnel lens lit the way for storm-tossed ships.

The All Things Cranberries case included Cranberry Cola. Would it be bittersweet?

Two lynching sections, one inside and one metal plague freestanding outside the front door, display the dark side of our county.

Community involvement in the museum was encouraged during the building and remains today. A Bay area short film plays on a tablet before entering the museum, courtesy of the North Bend Boy Scout Troop #156. During the building of the museum, a call went out asking for artists’ contributions. Beautifully painted flying glass birds hang from the ceiling. A display case holds knots and information to join the Knot Club. Volunteers participate with their time.

Building of the museum was completed in 2015, with the grand opening on September 9. Governor Brown cut the ribbon at the ceremony, and entertainment was provided throughout the day. The Coos County Historical Society, which began in 1891, operates the Coos History Museum.

The museum is a packed sensory experience, built with love from the people of Coos County.

Information about the museum can be found at https://cooshistory.org.

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