“To gather and preserve all manner of objects…” reads the articles of incorporation of the Eastern Washington State Historical Society. Collecting and preserving art and artifacts significant to Eastern Washington and Inland Northwest history and culture remains at the heart of the museum’s mission. As the Historical Society for eastern Washington, the museum is a repository for a vast array of Inland Northwest artifacts, art, photographs, and texts, numbering over a million and constantly growing.
The collection is organized into four areas of expertise: Archives/Library, Regional History, American Indian Cultures, and Fine or Visual Art. As the museum collection continues to grow, collection managers and curators acquire objects guided by the museum’s established mission of stewardship and focus on collecting the material culture of eastern Washington and the Inland and Pacific. Pieces from the collection are periodically exhibited or may supplement traveling exhibitions to provide a local perspective on the subject matter.
Regional History Collection
The Regional History Department focuses on preserving and sharing the human stories of all Inland Northwest people, their values and lifestyles, their interactions with each other, and their relationships to the land and its resources – within the context of the American West, the nation and the world.
The themes and strengths of the collection include: early missionary and fur trade; quilts, clothing and household artifacts; tools and equipment; cultural diversity; and decorative arts - including the museum’s largest artifact, the Campbell House. Current collecting initiatives include cultural diversity and the mid-20th century.
American Indian Collection
The museum works closely with regional tribes, as well as others throughout the nation, to respectfully attend to the objects in it’s care and to gain knowledge of the cultures which the collection represents.
Scholars recognize the museum’s Plateau collection as one of the foremost in the nation. The collection includes over 5,000 items of everyday use - such as cornhusk bags, coiled and twined baskets, and food preparation utensils - as well as items of special significance - clothing and personal adornments, horse gear, weapons, and dance related objects.
The museum acquires works of art that are of historical and contemporary significance to the northwest region and the State of Washington, particularly to eastern Washington and the Inland Northwest.
The museum’s art collection currently numbers over 2,000 pieces and includes works by 19th and 20th century northwest artists. The collection reflects an emphasis on mid-20th century works on paper, especially those associated with the WPA and the Spokane Art Center, as well as contemporary works by native artists.
The Museum’s Archive collects and preserves first-person primary source materials (letters, diaries, photographs, audio-visual recordings, architectural drawings, maps, and regional business records,) which reflect the evolution of the Inland Northwest region (tribes of the Columbia Plateau and 20th century commerce and community development). The Archives collections is available to researchers for personal, educational, and commercial projects; it is an excellent resource for historians, students, artists and designers, architects, publishers, cultural resource managers and businesses to learn more about our region’s heritage. Digitized collections are always being added to our online store, where you can purchase unique images for licensed use.
Collections Highlight Corner
During their 1903 and 1909 tours of Egypt and Europe, the Campbell family shipped a case of alabaster and a case of marble sculptures back to Spokane. 1910 photographs of their home library show the sculpture “Psyche Revived by the Kiss of Eros” - likely from one of these shipments.
The sculpture is a copy of an extremely popular – and commonly reproduced - work by the Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822). Canova’s sculpture depicts the god Eros (Cupid in Latin) who has just landed on a rock where the girl Psyche lies unconscious. Cupid touches her gently with the tip of his arrow to make sure she is not dead, then lifts Psyche in a tender embrace.
For years the statue has graced the Campbell House Library, resting on its green marble stand. However continuous display during the decades when the Campbell House was a public museum had left the sculpture in poor condition. It was dirty, cracked and the fragile wings had been broken, poorly repaired and broken again.
The sculpture needed care that was beyond the expertise of museum staff; object conservator Linda Roundhill of Seattle was contracted to provide diagnosis and treatment. Roundhill performed tests that revealed that the sculpture was of alabaster, a stone softer, lighter and more translucent than marble. She removed old adhesives and rebuilt the broken wings using appropriate materials based on the new information and cleaned the entire surface.
We’re sure that the Campbell family would be delighted to see their alabaster sculpture looking clean and whole again.
Special thanks to Karen Sonneborn and Diane DeFelice for their financial support of this project.