New curator contextualizes county history

Chelsea Vaughn is the new curator for the Clatsop County Historical Society.

Chelsea Vaughn was already delving deep into the history of post-World War I pageantry for her doctoral dissertation when a call came from an academic adviser that Clatsop County Historical Society needed a new curator.

She joined a five-person staff at the historical society maintaining the Clatsop County Heritage Museum, Oregon Film Museum, Flavel House Museum and Uppertown Firefighter’s Museum.

From the Portland area, Vaughn earned her bachelor’s at Portland State University before attending the University of California, Riverside for her master’s and doctorate in museum work and public history. Her husband, Ryan Hume, teaches writing at Clatsop Community College, and her daughter attends John Jacob Astor Elementary.

Vaughn became interested in history, the stories people have to tell and how those are conveyed to the public.

“Most people actually get their history from museums or other historic sites, rather than the classroom, at this point,” she said.

As a costumer, Vaughn has always enjoyed working with physical objects, she said. She maintains and catalogs artifacts coming into the historical society, many from historic businesses that shut down, from life preservers to the tools of cobblers.

“It was interesting how Astoria sort of has come and gone in waves,” Vaughn said. “In 1911, Astoria was the second largest city in Oregon. A century later, it’s certainly not anymore.”

Vaughn is helping put together a show on natural resources in Clatsop County, a new permanent exhibit at the heritage museum. The exhibit will look at historic logging, fishing and farming, connecting to present-day business and the increased focus on tourism.

“We’ve done a good job preserving the past,” she said. “But what is considered the past is ever-evolving, so we are … looking beyond the Flavels. What’s happened elsewhere in this community? How can we have a more expansive and knowledgeable idea of our shared past?”

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