Located in Florence, Oregon, the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum showcases a variety of exhibits and displays detailing the indigenous and pioneer history of the Oregon Coast region. The area that is now Florence, Oregon was the traditional home of the Siuslaw indigenous tribe prior to the arrival of Europeans in North America.
In 1836, Hudson Bay trapper A.R. McLeod led an expedition to the region, though it was not settled by pioneers until the region was opened for settlement by the United States Government in 1876. After the opening of a local cannery and general store in the late 1870s, the Florence region was established as a major port area in 1883. The town is believed to have been named after Lane County’s state senator A.B. Florence, who served from 1858 to 1860, though it may be a reference to an 1875 French shipwreck of the same name.
The Siuslaw Pioneer Association was established in 1920 for the purposes of honoring prominent Florence citizens who contributed to the cultural development of the region. Proposals for a historical museum facility were made in 1946, and in 1969, the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum Association was formed for the purpose of developing a permanent museum location. $5,000 was donated by the Florence Junior Chamber of Commerce for the museum’s development, and after a four-year property search, four sites were proposed for the museum, including the city’s former Lutheran Church of Glenada. After additional funding campaigns and renovation efforts, the museum was opened in the former church building in 1974. In 2006, the museum moved to a new location at the city’s former 1905 downtown schoolhouse building.
Permanent Exhibits and Collections
Today, the Siuslaw Pioneer Museum is operated as a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the indigenous and pioneer cultural history of the Siuslaw and Oregon Coast regions. It is housed within the city’s 1905 former schoolhouse building within its historic Old Town district, one block from US Highway 101. A variety of historic exhibits and displays are offered, along with a research library and visitor gift shop.
Larger museum artifacts are housed in the museum’s Patio Display Area, including a historic pictorial mural of the Siuslaw region, the preserved Melba J fishing boat, and several preserved components of the Siuslaw River Bridge. Displays are also showcased throughout the museum’s lobby, including a collection of early photographs of the Mapleton region and specimens of Mastodon teeth. A Gift Shop is also offered, selling books and multimedia items related to the region’s pioneer history along with apparel, home goods, and children’s items.
Exhibits within the museum include a Domestic Living exhibit, which showcases household items, clothing, and home technologies from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In the How Folks Supported Themselves exhibit, common pioneer professions are examined, including hunting, trapping, agriculture, fishing, logging, and shipbuilding. A DVD documentary about the area’s early maritime industry is shown periodically within the exhibit, examining early trade commerce at the city’s port.
On the museum’s second floor, major artifact collections include historic cameras, telephone switchboards, and a photography retrospective of the region’s historic schools. A Military Room displays uniforms and memorabilia related to major 20th-century international conflicts, while a Business Equipment exhibit houses collections of furniture and artifacts from early local businesses. Indigenous Siuslaw culture is showcased in the museum’s Native American Room, which displays artifacts such as arrowheads, basketry, and traditional clothing. A Sewing Room also displays a collection of early sewing machine technologies.
Ongoing Programs and Events
The museum’s Kyle Memorial Research Library houses volumes and documents related to the area’s civic, business, and social history, including collections of census and early settler genealogy records. Business records from the region’s fishing and lumber industry are held, along with a microfiche collection of local newspapers and magazines dating back to the 1800s. Other collections include a historic Bible collection, a historic cookbook collection, a collection of historic documentaries on the Siuslaw region, and a collection of Osterhoff paintings. The library may be accessed by appointment by students, researchers, and those wishing to find out personal genealogy information.
A storytime event is hosted at the museum on the last Friday of every month between February and October, bringing local authors, historians, and pioneer family descendants to the museum for discussions about historical topics. The museum offers special exhibits for the city’s annual Rhododendron Festival and provides meeting space for local organizations and groups by reservation. Information and maps are provided by the museum for self-guided historic walking tours of Florence’s Old Town area. 21 sites are included on the historic walking tour, including the historic David, Johnson, and Laurel Street Houses, the Harbor Theater, and the Mapleton Depot.
278 Maple St, Florence, OR 97439, Phone: 541-997-7884