The first drafts of ideas for turning the “Little White Schoolhouse” on Valley School District’s campus into a local heritage museum were revealed during a recent conference call with staff from the Washington State University Department of Interior Design and several Valley community members.
The historical schoolhouse, built in 1916 to accommodate extra students, was selected for WSU’s Rural Communities Design Initiative and, in result, juniors in the Interior Design program are working on how it would be configured into a museum to best fit the Valley community’s needs. These drawings could be then be used to help find investors for the project and guide its future progress.
The WSU students had their first site visit on Feb. 23 when they were able to see the property in person and discuss the goals for the museum with the Valley Historical Society, Valley in Progress, and other interested community members.
At the March 15 follow-up, Kathleen Ryan, Assistant Professor of the School of Design and Construction, presented preliminary design concepts from eight teams of students for community members and school district employees to review.
The students not only thought about how to configure the interior, which includes a main floor and basement, but also how it will be used. They introduced ideas for permanent or rotating exhibit space and integrating interactive displays, among other things that received much positive feedback from the audience.
“I’m impressed with what they have come up with,” one community member said.
The students developed their designs through similar goals and concepts to guide their thought processes. They gathered from the community that they want a space to connect past and future generations, and share the story of the local community while bringing tourism and interest to the area.
Most plans used the main floor for reception, restroom, and exhibit display area, and the basement for artifact storage and cleaning.
However, concepts varied in how to best arrange the space from taking out walls, to creating an immersion space where its set up like a classroom from that time period, to having a computer area for further research.
Ryan said with the size of the space, they will have a more free flowing circulation rather than a chronological exhibit space. She also said there is possibility in leaving the original look of the windows from the outside, but dry-walling inside so as not to have issues that daylight can create for historical items.
Community members liked the idea of using inspiration from the Colville River to inspire artwork within the interior as the river begins in Valley. The group also favored the addition of electronics used in displays and an electronic archive to save space. Some also liked the idea for using recorded stories as a different way to share personal history.
The audience suggested the students think about the outside display potential as well and many students had included the removal of the portable classrooms in front of the schoolhouse, which currently house the Valley Early Learning Center, to open up the land and view of the Valley. Although difficulties may arise for the district, Jackie Franks, president of the Valley Historical Society, said that is a necessity to making the museum successful.
RCDI projects are selected to help communities of 2,000 people or less revitalize a part of their town, and the Valley Historical Museum is part of the spring semester’s curriculum. The students will be creating conceptual designs, but its up to the community to fund the project and move forward with construction.
Franks said she is excited for the project but also knows that it will be expensive to execute. Construction would cost about $250,000 as the building needs a lot of work to bring it to current ADA standards, building code and environmental efficiency standards, making it fit for a proper museum.
VIP (Valley In Progress) donated $400 to pay for WSU’s first visit and will need to come up with another $800 for two additional visits.
Franks, a graduate of Valley High School, started the Valley Historical Society four years ago to collect Valley history in the hopes of having a museum one day. Three years ago, the school district was thinking of demolishing the building but accepted the idea to use it as a future museum site if the historical society took on the project.
Gabriel Cruden, Communications Director for Valley School District, said the school district plans to retain, maintain and provide services to the building once converted into a museum that would be operated by the Valley Historical Society.
The district is looking for additional donations to continue the project.
During her visit, WSU design student Emily van Dyke said, “It makes the project more meaningful for me because we met the people were are working for and experienced how this project will positively affect the community as a whole.”
By Kellie Trudeau, The Independent Staff
In This Photo: WSU Interior Design students take notes during their visit to the old schoolhouse on the Valley School District property.