The Columbia River Maritime Museum and its director received high praise from professionals in the museum field last weekend.

The museum hosted the annual conference of the Council of American Maritime Museums, which represents about 250 institutions in North and South America. Directors, curators and other representatives of museums in the United States, Canada tended to council business, heard presentations on exhibit philosophies, and took in the sites at the museum itself and the surrounding area.

During the four-day conference the representatives elected CRMM director Jerry Ostermiller as president of the council.

"This is one of the golden apples of the profession," he said of his new honor.

Ostermiller said he is more excited about the response the conference-goers had for the museum and the displays installed in its recent $6 million renovation.

"In my position, it's always nervous being under the microscope of one's colleagues - having people with a very practiced eye come into your living room and look at how the rug is arranged," he said.

The exhibits, including the U.S. Coast Guard display featuring a motor lifeboat, represent a departure from the traditionally conservative approach most maritime museums take, and they appeared to leave a deep impression on most of the guests, he said.

"We were very bold in the exhibits and in the direction we took, and all the institutions were curious how it worked out," he said. "This was an opportunity for all our colleagues to take a look at what we did."

Most people were "thrilled" with the museum and many said they planned to incorporate some of its ideas at their own institutions, Ostermiller said.

"They now perceive Columbia River Maritime Museum as being the best interpreted museum in North America," he said.

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