Peter Brix, whose family has deep roots in the maritime and forestry industries, will donate $1.5 million to the Columbia River Maritime Museum over the next four years to help speed the digitization of collections and begin several new exhibits, including a permanent gallery on indigenous peoples.
Brix, whose family started Brix Maritime, is also the co-founder of Brusco Tug & Barge. He helped fund the museum’s construction and has been involved on its board for 35 years.
“I think the museum is preserving important history on the Lower Columbia,” Brix said. “We’ve developed a very good staff, and an opportunity I think to be a leader in the maritime museum industry.”
Jeff Smith, the museum’s curator, said a couple of people have already been hired to help digitize collections and make them available on WorldCat, a global network of library catalogs.
The museum has three exhibits planned over the next several years with the help of Brix’s donation. The first will be about shipwrecks on the Columbia River, while the second will focus on modern and historical river commerce such as the 40 percent of U.S. wheat exports that exit the river.
The third exhibit will become a permanent gallery dedicated to local indigenous peoples, with visiting exhibits about farther-flung native cultures and their maritime history. The gallery will not open for at least six years, Smith said.
Sam Johnson, the museum’s executive director, called Brix’s donation transformative.
“This is almost like getting a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities,” he said.
The museum recently received a $1 million endowment from longtime patrons David and Anne Myers. The interest supports museum operations in perpetuity.
The museum recently purchased a lot near the Barbey Maritime Museum used by North Coast Auto Service. After the company’s lease runs out next year, the museum plans to demolish the building and install a pond for model sailboats in a park-like setting.