Before it housed artifacts and history, Clark County Historical Museum was a Carnegie Library; one of 2,509 built with money donated by Scottish businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie between 1883 and 1929.
Built in 1909 on land donated by the Hidden family, the library was the first public building in Vancouver to have electric lighting. But, according to James Kice, manager of operations and collections at the museum, the first librarians were so distrustful of electric lighting—it was known for being unreliable—they insisted that gas lighting also be installed throughout the building.
In 1963, the library moved out and the historical society moved in and opened the museum in 1964. There was just one problem, Kice recounts. A provision in the deed stipulated the building was to be used to house a library, or it would revert back to the Hidden family. So a research library was included at the museum to meet the requirements of the lease. Today, this valuable resource gives the public access to historical books, maps, individual and corporate records, historical photographs and negatives and oral history transcripts.
I took my 13-year-old son Isaac with me to check out the library on a beautiful sunny afternoon. A cool breeze drifted through the open windows, lifting the curtains and seeming to bring with it whispers of the kind of memories 100-year old buildings seem to have. The museum space might seem small, but there’s a lot to see.