Benton County Historical Society Receives $1 Million Challenge


The Benton County Historical Society has received a $1 million challenge from longtime Society supporters Peter and Rosalie Johnson. The money will go toward the Society’s goal of raising $9 million to build a new museum in downtown Corvallis.

The Corvallis building will provide exhibition and program space to augment the Society’s existing Benton County Historical Museum, located in Philomath, and will serve a larger audience of County students, residents and visitors.

Rosalie Johnson has said, “Museums help us understand where we’ve been and how we got where we are today.” She went on to stress the importance of people in the future being able to see the struggles and triumphs of previous generations, “Museums are a link, a bridge, between the past and the future.”

Pete Johnson added that BCHS was particularly important to the couple because, “The Society’s museum is in some ways Oregon State University’s museum too since it now houses the former Horner Museum collection.”

The Johnsons are major donors to OSU, having pledged major support for the construction of a new education and research facility in the College of Engineering on the Corvallis campus. They have also provided scholarship and faculty support funds to the university.

The Society is currently seeking major gifts to help meet the challenge. Within the first two months after the Johnsons’ pledge, over $220,000 in matching funds have been raised from previous donors to the project.

General public appeals for smaller donations will begin once the project has secured 80% of the required funds.

The campaign got its start in 1995 when the Society was given the opportunity to double the size of its collection by assuming ownership of Oregon State University’s Horner Museum collection.

The first major step in the project was the construction of a state-of-the-art collections center on the Philomath campus. The Johnson Collections Center now houses most of the Horner collection as well as items from the Society’s own collection. Today, the collection includes over 120,000 valuable objects, artifacts and works of art. The public never sees most of these objects due to the limitations of the Philomath museum.

Society Executive Director Irene Zenev calls the new museum, “A landmark building in the historic heart of Corvallis.” The SW Second and Adams building will feature exhibition galleries, spaces for educational programs and for public events. There will also be courtyards for viewing outdoor artwork and for relaxation.

Oregon native Brad Cloepfil of Portland’s Allied Works Architecture has designed the new building. Among Cloepfil’s internationally renowned projects are the Museum of Art and Design in New York City, the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver and the Wieden + Kennedy headquarters in Portland.

The Society will retain its Philomath facilities and expand its research library there when the Corvallis building opens. Current plans call for the new building to open in early 2017.

Further information is available through the project’s website,

The Philomath Museum is open 10–4:30 Tuesday through Saturday. Behind-the-scenes media tours of the Johnson Collection Center will be arranged on request.

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