The Sherman County Historical Museum has a new display this summer — “From This Day Forward: A Wedding Exhibit — and it’s one that continues to grow.
“We invited the community to participate in this exhibit by bringing photos to be placed on the wedding bulletin board,” explained Executive Director Patti Fields.
Residents responded with enthusiasm, and the many pictures, old and new, now occupy a large display board in the corner of the temporary exhibit, which will remain on display through Oct. 31.
Like all the exhibits at the award-winning museum, the featured artifacts don’t just represent the county’s history but are local treasures.
“It’s all just about Sherman County, our Sherman County community,” Fields said.
The genesis of the display was found in the museum’s stored collection. “We had these textiles, and wondered how to store them properly,” Fields explained, pointing to one of the dresses making up the cornerstone of the exhibit that is located in the main display area of the museum. “We decided to showcase them instead of storing them. We worked first with the dresses, then added to that.”
Three of the wedding dresses — all white — are the centerpiece of the exhibit.
All three have ties to Sherman County, as well as Wasco County and The Dalles. They include the dress worn for the wedding of Stuart and Evelyn Macnab Dec. 27, 1945. Stuart Macnab was raised in Sherman County, and Evelyn Zodrow lived in The Dalles and graduated from Saint Mary’s Academy. They were married at St. Peter Catholic Church in The Dalles.
She also wore the dress in the 1939 Rose Festival Parade as Queen of the Mount Angel-Silverton Flax float. They were married 43 years and raised a family in the Wasco area of Sherman County.
Also on display is a dress worn in the wedding of Mac and Reba Hall May 23, 1948. Mac was raised in Moro and Reba Jackson moved to The Dalles as a child. They wed at the United Brethren Church in The Dalles. They were married 47 years and farmed east of Moro for many years.
A third dress is that worn in the wedding of Phillip and Melanie Morris May 26, 2001. Phillip was from California and Melanie Smith was a fifth generation Sherman County native from Grass Valley. The dress was handmade by Melanie’s grandmother.
On a nearby reception table, a cake topper from the wedding of Pat and Maxine Macnab in 1949 is displayed on a cake donated by Sweetheart Bakery in The Dalles. “We really appreciated the cake, things like this are on such a tight budget,” Fields said.
In addition to the display of textiles, visitors can walk back in time and enjoy a garden wedding (dresses from Margilee Morse Kaseburg and Frank and Mayme Baver) and a wedding from the World War II-era (Bill and June Rolfe) that was pure simplicity. “They didn’t have much of a ceremony, during the war,” Fields explained.
Filling in the exhibit is a desk, notary seal stamp and registry book used to file marriage, along with a selection of early wedding portraits and a historic studio camera, popular before photography of the ceremony itself became popular.
The “From This Day Forward” theme has been a great way to explore local history, Fields said. “A wedding is the starting point of a new family,” she said.
Fields credited community volunteers with the success of the exhibit. “We have a really good volunteer team,” she said. Together they came up with the theme and helped with the brainstorming and problem-solving involved in the quest to show what weddings have been like through the history of the county.
The temporary exhibit is just one of the upgrades at the
museum, which included new LED lights throughout the museum and modernization of communications, with a new website by Immense Imagery of The Dalles and a greater social media presence. “We’re already having more school groups come in,” she said of the changes.
The new LED lights have not only improved the lighting and look of the museum, they generate much less heat and are better for the artifacts on display, she added.
And they aren’t done yet. “We’re changing things up, bringing stuff out of the archives,” Fields said.
“I think we will have another rotating display out next year, and maybe some traveling displays as well.”
The temporary exhibit occupies a small corner of the museum, which has won national recognition for the size and quality of its displays.
“People come in from all over to visit, and they are amazed at what we have,” Fields said. “They say, ‘we did not expect this kind of museum here!’”
Adding to Field’s optimism for the future of the museum is an informal network growing among museums located near the Columbia River from Troutdale and Washougal, upriver on both the Oregon and Washington shores.
“We get together now a couple of times a year, to talk about issues unique to museums,” she said, and travelling visitors are encouraged to stop at other museums along their route.
In The Dalles, a taste of the new exhibit can be found in the old JC Penney building, 212 E. Second St., where a Sherman County display based on a western theme — including a wedding dress — make up portions of the historically-themed window display at the now vacant building.