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The History of a Museum for the Yakima Valley

The Story behind this painting

Our history in pictures

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The Yakima Valley Museum has achieved prestigious peer recognition. It is one of only three museums in Eastern Washington to be fully accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and at 65,000 ft2, it is one of the largest cultural history museums in the State.

Community-based campaigns have raised virtually all the ongoing annual support since 1951, but also resulted in capital fund contributions totaling $13,937,162 (in 2012 dollars) for the construction of the current physical plant, a state-of-the-art museum facility with many special features and equipment unique to museums.  Now conservatively insured at a replacement cost of $25,000,000.


The first museum opened in a log cabin clubhouse at the State Fairgrounds, but a fire several years later destroyed this “place for historical relics.”


A. E. Larson dies and wills the City of Yakima his house Rosedell and $100,000 to found a community museum. The City Council rejects the bequest, and the Larson Family later uses the funds to build the Larson Museum & Gallery at the Yakima Valley Junior College.


The City of Yakima celebrates its Golden Anniversary, and within a year three groups announce plans to establish a museum, but none are implemented.


The local chapter of the Daughters of the Pioneers of Washington opens a museum room in the basement of the Yakima City Hall on February 20, 1951.


With the impetus of a grant from the Alexander Miller Trust, local residents donate $160,000 to build a 12,000 square foot brick structure on donated land adjacent to Yakima's new Franklin Park.


A group of Yakima businessmen donate the William L. Gannon collection of horse-drawn vehicles and Native American material, and the community donates $750,000 to add 29,000 square feet to the existing structure. 


The museum is given the Horace M. Gilbert House, an orchard house built in 1898 and located 3 blocks from the museum at 2109 West Yakima Avenue.


Following a third successful community campaign, which raised $1.6 million, the museum is expanded to 56,000 square feet.


The Children’s Underground, a hands-on interactive center, opens.


The Museum Soda Fountain opens.  The museum also receives its first-ever grant from the Institute of Museum & Library Services, a federal agency which each year selects just 400 museums nationwide as grant recipients.


The Museum receives notification of a $400,000 matching grant from the State of Washington. The museum is ranked second among the 80 applicants in terms of need and value to community.


A New Museum for a New Century, a $3,958,000 fund development campaign is made public, and the community responds with gifts and pledges totaling over $4.5 million.


A completely renovated museum building, now 65,000 square feet in size, is completed, work begins on the installation of all new exhibitions, and the Board of Trustees establishes The Basalt Society, an endowment drive designed to ensure a rock-solid future for the museum.


The museum receives the prestigious honor of becoming a fully accredited museum with the American Alliance of Museums - one of only three in central Washington.


$1,500,000 was raised locally to meet a 3:1 match requirement on the offer of a prestigious $500,000 National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant. When all pledges are paid the Museum Endowment Principal will grow by $2,000,000.

2018   The Board of Trustees adopts a new strategic plan


The museum's status as a fully-accredited museum with the American Alliance of Museum is renewed. Of the nation’s estimated 33,000 museums, 1095 are currently accredited. Reaccreditation means the museum continues to meet National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. Museums and remains a member of a community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence. 

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