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Mid-Valley Live: A day at the museum
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Mid-Valley Live: A day at the museum

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My family made occasional daytime visits to Horner Museum when I was a child.

I was old enough to be allowed to drift off on my own to check out all the cool stuff the venue held.

Sooner or later I would bump into Bruce the Moose.

I would stare at him, taking in his sheer size as he loomed over the room. I could not fathom a larger land animal.

My reaction was always the same: I moved from dumbfounded fascination to fear. That the museum was often nearly void of visitors at the times I was there just enhanced the uneasy feeling.

My imagination would shift into overdrive and suddenly Bruce was alive and on the brink of a rampage. I would make a quick exit before he trampled a path on his way to freedom.

I had not seen Bruce in years.

That changed not long ago. Horner Museum has been gone since 1995 and it wasn’t until February that the Corvallis Museum opened its doors.

Bruce immediately caught my eye as I walked into the museum. He now stands at the far end of the entrance lobby, overseeing the visitors as they begin the journey through the venue.

I decided not to give Bruce a close look until the end of my visit, and made my way into the Fred and Mary Brauti Gallery.

The walls are lined with various photos taken in the area through the years. Slideshows move along on four screens and there are tables set up with hands-on viewing tablets.

One section of the wall is dedicated to dogs, including a shot of three well-dressed men and a dog, children with a doll and a dog, three women in a business with a dog, and a dog in a canoe.

There’s a swimmer on the brink of bouncing off the diving board at the old Corvallis High School pool, shots of a hop-picking crew, the Corvallis Fire Department, Benton County National Bank, Lewis Southworth with a violin, and the 1936 Whiteside Theatre fire, among others.

Most of the exhibits are located on the second floor, so I took a quick trip on the elevator and wandered into the College Town room. Photos from the history of Oregon State University are displayed, including Lucile Roberts’ Oregon Agricultural College dorm room, a 1951 Bozo the Clown mask, a statue of Mercury that once stood in the OSU library, and two shots of the “Lady of the Fountain” statue, a gift to the school from the class of 1902 — the second showing the statue in pieces after it was destroyed.

Sports memorabilia includes a 1942 Rose Bowl ticket, the Beavers’ travel itinerary for their trip from Corvallis to Durham, North Carolina, for that Rose Bowl game (moved from Pasadena, California, due to World War II) and a basketball signed by the Beavers, including Gary Payton and coach Ralph Miller.

The Mercury statue stands alongside the top part of an OSU marching band uniform.

Another room (the Mary C. Verhoeven Gallery) holds hats and chairs. It’s an interesting approach to a gallery to pair one of the two items. The centerpiece contains various chairs, each paired with a hat of some type.

There is a wheelchair, a loveseat, a buggy, a sleigh and a few rows of seats taken from the Corvallis High auditorium, which were removed from the school when it was torn down in 2005.

Hats include a Bob’s Benny Beaver Club baseball cap, a gas mask, a Corvallis High beanie, a Starker Forests baseball cap, a hard hat, a few military caps and helmets and a derby.

The room is ringed by photos of hats and chairs, adding more depth to the exhibit.

Heading between exhibit rooms, I noticed that small collections are placed on shelves in the hallways. On the second level you can find clocks, lunchboxes (the Star Wars box and thermos were my favorites), some small baskets, ornate eggs, kitchen tools, a toy train and cameras (the Polaroid and Kodak Instamatic brought back memories).

Back on the ground floor, small vases, teacups, more eggs, animal figurines and decorative shoes can be found.

The Peter and Rosalie Johnson Gallery covers area towns. You can check out a photo of Bellfountain’s 1937 state championship basketball team (Oregon’s version of the team from “Hoosiers”), a telephone switchboard and a Pontiac engine from Monroe.

Instead of small descriptions in front of each artifact, information is found on wood planks that can be pulled from a box at the end of each station.

Other items include a two-man chainsaw, a logging springboard, a still, a drum from the Siletz Indian tribe, a trunk used on the Oregon Trail, some bell-bottom pants and a 1984 Hewlett-Packard computer.

The goat suit caught my eye. Complete with a beard and horns, it was worn by photographers to be able to move in close to mountain goats.

The museum has nice wood floors and it has plenty of open space for larger crowds. It’s worth a visit for all, and is a must for those who grew up in the area.

A main staircase connects the two floors, and there are postcards and small photos to check out on the way down (or up).

As I left the building, I gave Bruce a close look and a mental nod.

He’s not so scary after all.

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