16 June 2012

Chelan County Museum: Cashmere, Washington

A roadside billboard alerted me to the phenomenal archaeology collection at the Chelan County Museum in Cashmere, Washington.* The fishing and hunting implements dating back thousands of years in central Washington certainly warrant the $5.50 admission fee.

Ancient Indian artifacts, however, are not the only treasures on display. The museum has some fine displays of nineteenth and twentieth century Plateau Native artifacts, and a small amount of Coastal as well. Of particular note is a large display of traditional Indian medicines. This display lists plants, their medical uses, and displays dried specimens of each.

The museum also has a strong display of late-nineteenth century pioneer life. The pioneer village contains more than a dozen original structures that were moved to and reassembled on the museum grounds. There is a mission house and a saloon, a post office, print shop, jail, blacksmith shop, and several homes. Some variability in construction techniques and materials are evident, and helpful explanations in each building guide the untrained eye. There is on display a waterwheel that was used to pull water for irrigation from the Wenatchee River a short distance from the location of the museum. Cashmere sits in the heart of the nation's premier apple growing region. It is the home of the highly addictive Aplets and Cotlets.

The natural history museum includes a terrific collection of rocks that seems better than the one that I recall from my university's Geology Department. If I wanted to refresh my memory for identifying the many rocks I learned to identify three decades ago, an hour or two in the Chelan County Museum would do the trick. There are also plenty of stuffed birds and critters in the natural history section, including a bear.

Of particular interest to those who concern themselves with political memorabilia, and highlighted in the verbal overview given me when I paid and signed the guest book, is a collection of campaign buttons. I was saddened a bit to see one that I wore in 1980: "Reagan Bush The Time is Now." I suppose youthful errors are forgivable, even when the consequences endure for decades afterward. The collection has buttons going back to a couple dated 1908 for William Taft and for William Jennings Bryan. There were several for Theodore Roosevelt, whether 1904 or 1912 was not clear. There were quite a few for Woodrow Wilson from 1912, and some undated. At least one button had the name William McKinley, and there were several others with matching mug shots. Those could have been from 1896 or 1900. Some of those for Bryan may have dated to 1896. There are more than a dozen for Barry Goldwater from 1964. One was a bright gold button with the single word Goldwater. Another was white and pictured a glass of water with the term H2O. There was a card that appeared to have a button from each state for Nixon Ford 1972 (I did not count to see whether any were missing). Democrats are represented, too. There were several clever campaign slogans evident in the Lyndon Baines Johnson buttons.

The museum is a two and one-half hour drive from my home in Spokane. It is well worth the price of gas and expenditure of time to warrant a second trip.

*The official name of the museum seems to be Cashmere Museum and Pioneer Village. It was created by the Chelan County Historical Society, and the name Chelan County Museum appears on some websites and signs.

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