Established by Oregon Agriculture College and Professor John Horner in 1925, the Museum of the Oregon Country was a place where people could "see the world" without leaving Corvallis, Oregon. The museum housed an eclectic mix of artifacts, photographs, oral histories, and other archival materials. It was renamed the John B. Horner Museum of the Oregon Country in 1936, three years after he died, and became commonly known as the Horner Museum.
The museum was located in various locations on the Oregon State University grounds, until it moved to its final campus location in Gill Coliseum in 1951. In 1995, the 60,000-artifact museum officially closed to the public due to the statewide budget cutbacks resulting from the passage of Oregon Ballot Measure 5 (1990). Ten years later, in 2005, a final agreement for transfer of physical custody was signed between OSU and the Benton County Historical Society. The society transferred the collections to their facility in Philomath, OR, and plans to create a museum in downtown Corvallis to showcase some Horner artifacts.
In 1996, a year after the Horner museum was officially closed to the public, the Friends of Horner Museum was organized as a non-profit corporation. Guided by officers, including Pete Smith and Robert Lowry, the group sought to establish or find a new facility for the Horner Museum collections as well as to locate new resources of funding (other than state government) for the maintenance of the museum. The group disbanded in 1999.
Pete Smith, who served in an official capacity for the Friends of Horner Museum organization, assisted fellow OSU alumnus Kenneth Munford in the organization of tours for the Horner Museum. In addition to giving the tours, he researched accomodations and sites for overnight trips. These tours started in 1982 by Horner Museum Director Lucy Skjelstad and Munford.
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