In late October of 2018 – after 28 years of service to the City of Auburn – Patricia Cosgrove, director of the White River Valley Museum and the historic Mary Olson Farm, will retire.
She began working in museums in 1979 and came to the White River Valley Museum as its first staff member in November of 1990. Prior to that, the Museum had been run exclusively by volunteers. During her 28 year tenure she has mounted roughly 60 exhibits, served under four mayors of Auburn, and grown the organization to an annual operating budget of $620,000 with two full-time employees, six part time employees and 36 volunteers.
Cosgrove was instrumental in establishing a partnership between the White River Valley Historical Society board and the City of Auburn. This resulted in a Museum Services Agreement that codifies the partnership between the Historical Society and the City. This is a unique and much-admired arrangement that is often looked at by other non-profits as a model. Throughout her tenure with the City Cosgrove has volunteered to teach professional development courses for regional non-profits and served on the boards of 4Culture and Auburn Rotary.
In the mid-1990s she spearheaded Museum renovations, raising $2 million from grants and individuals resulting in the award-winning community Museum we have today. Restoration of the Mary Olson Farm followed and was opened to the public in 2011. She raised over $2.4 million for that restoration project which went on to win Historic Seattle’s Best Restoration Project award.
As Past President Mike Weibel says:
“From a patch of blackberries in a forgotten corner of Auburn, Patricia Cosgrove recognized the potential of a run-down family farm, envisioned the possibilities for what it could become, and helped birth the remarkable historic site and facility that is today the Mary Olson Farm.”
“Patricia’s passion and leadership have been key to the development of both the White River Valley Museum and more recently the historic Mary Olson Farm,” Mayor Backus said. “In addition, her skills as a local historian have added great benefit to the City on numerous projects.”
Starting in 2007 Cosgrove and a team of museum educators developed and designed a formal fieldtrip program at the Mary Olson Farm that has served over 23,000 children. The program now averages roughly 2000 students a year, with another 2500 who visit the Museum on curricular based fieldtrips each year.
“I have been honored to serve the City of Auburn and work with a rich and vital group of board members, staff and volunteers over the past 28 years,” Cosgrove said. “My work at the Museum and Farm has been transformative and difficult. It has been an expression of love and an exercise in hard work.” Her plans to retire coincide with the retirement of her life partner and together they plan to investigate new projects, work on their small farm which has itself won regional honors for wildlife preservation practices, and hopefully train their beloved Border Collie named Zip to herd!”
City of Auburn Director of Parks, Arts and Recreation Daryl Faber will begin work with the City’s Human Resources office to conduct a national search for the next Museum Director. Cosgrove hopes for some crossover with the new Director.
About the White River Valley Museum:
The White River Valley Museum creates an exciting and educational experience for visitors through a series of award-winning exhibits and programs on regional cultures, arts and history. The Museum’s artifact collections focus on Puget Sound history, Northwest Native culture, Japanese immigration and the Northern Pacific Railway.
The Museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. On the first Thursday of each month the hours are extended from 6 to 8 p.m. It is located at 918 H St. S.E. in Auburn. Regular admission is $5 adults, $2 seniors and children, children 2 years of age or younger are always free. Admission is free for everyone all day on the first Thursday and the third Sunday of every month.
Call 253-288-7433 or visit www.wrvmuseum.org for event information.