Appelo Archive Center: Naselle’s Gem of a Local Museum
Labors of love. You can feel that sentiment when you enter the community museums of Southwest Washington. These are the spaces that preserve and celebrate the most local of histories. They tell the stories of early residents, preserve artifacts and traditions, and provide educational resources.
The Appelo Archive Center and Memorial Library is one of a number of interesting museums in the area including the Knappton Cove Heritage Center, Fort Columbia National Historic Site in Chinook, Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center at Cape Disappointment State Park, and Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum in Ilwaco. Other nearby historical museums including the Pacific County Historical Museum in South Bend and the Northwest Carriage Museum and Willapa Seaport Museum in Raymond. This is an area rich in local museums!
The Appelo Archive Center tells the story of logging and life, with a special focus on the Finnish roots of the Naselle/Gray’s River area. It was founded by local resident Carlton Appelo, 90, who has donated many items from the collection of his family. His father, Carl Arthur (C.A.) Appelo, emigrated to the U.S. from Finland in 1906. He moved to the Deep River, WA area in 1912 and become Deep River Postmaster, a position he held until 1960.
Located on SR 4 in Naselle, about 30 minutes from the Long Beach Peninsula, the museum also serves as a visitor’s center “for those passing through the area needing assistance and a good cup of coffee,” says museum co-founder Karen Bertroch. A new cafe is opening this month in the center.
Karen knows the history of the museum well. “Carlton has always loved history. He has been saving documents, newspapers, books, interviews, research materials, etc for years,” she shares. “The collection was stored in one of the Appelo family’s general stores in Naselle. He has always had the idea of making it available to the public. It was set up as nonprofit in 2005 with the Wahkiakum Community Foundation, then set up as an independent organization in 2010. Now almost 91, Carlton’s memories and life’s work still are an important factor in the Center’s development.”
Site Manager Samanatha Hollo is in the process of scanning the archives extensive and growing photo collection of more than 3,000 photos using PastPerfect museum software. The photos are then filed in binders for easy research and ordering by museum patrons.
The memorial library has an extensive section where people can research their families including genealogical and cemetery records. The research area includes books, newspapers and oral histories, many of which are transcribed. “Carlton has loved sitting down and talking with people and he always has a tape recorder or video camera going,” says Samantha.
The Appelo Archive also publishes books about the area including the latest title “When Logging was Logging – One Hundred Years of Big Timber in Southwest Washington.” Other books by local authors plus Pioneer Voices booklets are for sale in the shop. Books and photos can be ordered from the museum’s online store.
Along with the expansive photo collection, the diverse collection preserves the local heritage with items like a desk from the original Naselle school, the original switchboard from Deep River and a plethora of logging artifacts.
One charming exhibit includes dresses from the Appelo family and others including the wedding dress of Agnes Appelo.
The photo collection documents the rich history of the area.
The power of a local museum is felt in this gem. “The Center has certainly given the community of sense of renewed pride in their heritage of logging, their Finnish tradidtions and awareness of the importance of educating school children about their own local history,” Karen Bertroch reports. The Center sponsors the “Old Timber Loggers Reunion” on the last Saturday in January each year.
That local pride will continue as the Archive Center expands with a cafe, logging displays moved from the second to the first floor and a new exhibit on living through hard times in Washington history (on loan from the State Historical Society), which will be on display July through October 2013.