When previous owner Jack Erickson announced he would be no longer operating the Tillamook Air Museum and then moving his collection to Madras, Oregon, there were questions about what would happen with the collection owned by the port, as well as use of the blimp hangar.
The Port of Tillamook Bay decided to continue the idea of an air museum and transitioned to operate the Tillamook Air Museum. Two employees who worked under old management remained on staff, one in maintenance, one on the administrative side as museum curator. Phyllis Rice joined the crew as Museum Director.
Changes and updates
Nearly 3 years have gone by and the crew have worked hard to make improvements and upgrades to the museum. The environment has proven to be rough on the exhibits and their signage. The maintenance crew and Museum Curator, Christian Gurling, have been working to rebuild exhibits, as well as upgrading their information signs. They have even received help from volunteers.
The new signage is being designed by Gurling, but this time printing is being outsourced to accommodate being printed on signage material that is often used for outdoor signs. This has allowed for a more professional look, as well as better resistance to the damp environment.
When it came to fixing and adding onto exhibits, Gurling and Rice decided to have a bit of fun.
"Museums are changing, they are more interactive" Rice said. "You need to keep people engaged."
Gurling and Rice want to work on bringing more to the museum, shifting the focus away from strictly Airplanes and being an "Air Museum".
With that in mind, one of the projects they have designed is a new exhibit showing a British Air Raid Shelter from World War II. There were roughly 3 million of these in London, each buried 3 feet into the ground. The shelters were built to be 4.5 feet wide, by 6 feet long by 6 feet tall. All this was set up for a family of 4 to 6 people. In wanting to keep people engaged, the exhibit allows for visitors to actually go inside to experience the tight quarters themselves!
In tune with wanting to keep people engaged, the museum also expanded a hands on area for kids. There are more mock cockpit exhibits that kids can get into. They are creatively laid out on a mock runway, which is also appropriately lit up.
They also want to work at opening up areas within the blimp hangar, which is often an overlooked piece of the museum. Some of this was brought on by questions from guests that sparked ideas with the staff.
When the Port of Tillamook Bay began operating the air museum, the business went from a for profit mentality to a not for profit business. This has changed the view and mission of the museum. For Rice, it was a surprise that when she talked with people in the community, most had not been to the museum. Many didn't even know it was still open. Rice and Gurling are hoping to build the number of exhibits up, as well as work with other groups in the community, to have rotating exhibits to encourage locals to come in.
The museum staff wants to become more a part of the community than it has in the past. They want to emphasize service as part of their mission. In the past year they have hosted Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. This past spring was the Easter Bunny's first visit to the museum, with their presence hugely popular. They had three times more people show up than they had expected.
As we enter December, the museum will be hosting Santa Claus and special guest, The Grinch, Saturday, December 2nd. This year, as in years past, the museum is requesting guests bring non perishable food to donate when they come to visit Santa. Last year the museum collected over 300 pounds of food to donate to the Oregon Food Bank.
Partnerships and Events
Rice and Gurling hope to be able to build partnerships with other museums and groups in the community. In doing so, the hopes are the groups can cross advertise and support each other.
The two have been working with the cruise ships that come into Astoria to have guests come down to check out the museum. The museum gets about 40 bus loads of cruise passengers between March and October. They have also formed relations with tour buses to swing by as well.
The museum is also open for events. On top of hosting tour groups, they have hosted Tillamook High School Dances, kids birthday parties, even events for the Cheese Factory Farmer's group.
Visit the Tillamook Air Museum's webpage at www.tillamookair.com
The Air Museum can be found at:
Address: 6030 Hanger Rd, Tillamook, Oregon 97141