Paths of History

Museums provide color, culture and historical context


by Tor Hanson

Photo Courtesy: Independence Heritage Museum

Deschutes Historical Museum

Bend, Oregon

The Deschutes Historical Museum in Bend, Oregon, highlights the interplay between the Indigenous tribes that lived in the area for millenia and the European settlers who were drawn to the area by the establishment of the Homestead Act of 1862. “We tell the story of the area’s mill history, the impact of the railroad and failures of the frontier. Homesteading was not always a rosy American Dream,” said Museum Director Kelly Cannon-Miller. The museum also houses the county’s first automobile, a 1907 Holsman Model 3. See for more information. 

Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum

Hood River, Oregon

Relive the era of unbridled optimism and technological progress at the Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum in Hood River, Oregon. Located at the Ken Jernstedt Airfield, the museum boasts more than 400 artifacts. “We focus on the Golden Years of transportation and aviation,” according to Museum Director Stephanie Hatch. One of the top attractions is an air-worthy Curtis JN “Jenny,” the airplane which ushered in the barnstorming years of the 1920s. See for more information. 

Idaho Potato Museum

Blackfoot, Idaho

Blackfoot, Idaho adopted the moniker, the Potato Capital of the World for good reason. “Idaho is responsible for 30% of the nation’s output, and Bingham County—where Blackfoot is the county capital—grows more potatoes than any other county in the state,” said Idaho Potato Museum Director Tish Dahman. The museum features the prototype Spudnik potato loader as well as the world’s largest potato chip, measuring 25 by 14 inches. Naturally, the cafe serves up baked potatoes in the restored Oregon Short Line Railroad station building. See to learn more.

Independence Heritage Museum

Independence, Oregon

Beer enthusiasts recognize this city as the historic Hop Capital of the World, stretching back to the 1890s. With a look back at inclusivity, “our focus goes beyond telling the Pioneer story,” said Independence Heritage Museum Director, Natascha Adams. “The annual harvest sculpted the way Independence treats its community, residents and visitors. During harvest time, the city grew hundred-fold with the arrival of more than 20,000 seasonal pickers spanning a broad cross-section of society—from Native Indians and Mexicans to Victorian women and people taking working vacations.” Visit to learn more. 

Basque Museum & Cultural Center

Boise, Idaho

This museum highlights the ancient culture of Basque sheepherders on the American High Desert, an area covering Oregon, Idaho, Nevada and northern California. “The Basque Block [district] serves up opportunities for visitors to immerse in Basque culture and taste authentic food at one of the local restaurants,” said Annie Gavica, executive director. Later this year, the museum will feature an exhibit about famed author Ernest Hemingway and his connection with the Basques. Visit to learn more.