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Welcome to the Cowlitz County Historical Museum

The museum collects, preserves, and interprets information and artifacts that tell the story of Cowlitz County. The Cowlitz County Historical Museum operates as a partnership between Cowlitz County and the Cowlitz County Historical Society. Formed in 1949, the Society began operating a museum in a space provided by Cowlitz County in 1953. In 1979, the museum relocated to its current location on Allen Street. Museum staff are a combination of Historical Society and County employees. This public-private partnership has benefited our community by making the Cowlitz County Historical Museum an attraction providing quality exhibits, archival research facilities, and engaging educational and public programming.

For information about museum tours, click here.

Cowlitz County logo

Please enjoy these short films produced by Historic Commissioner and Museum Curator Bill Watson on behalf of the Cowlitz County Historic Preservation Commission. These films feature eyewitness accounts by travelers of the Cowlitz Trail Corridor.


NEW!!! Download our Mount St. Helens Audio Tour.


A Note from the Director

Welcome to the Cowlitz County Historical Museum! Cowlitz County is a great place to live, with easy access to the ocean, Mount St. Helens, and Portland. Nestled amidst forests and rivers with a mix of rural and urban settings, Cowlitz County provides the best of all worlds. Our county has a rich history tied to the land and its natural resources. From being the “Smelt Capital of the World” to some of the richest groves of old growth Douglas Fir, natural resources play a significant role in our past and present.  Our permanent exhibition, “Cowlitz Encounters,” is regionally and nationally awarded and shares the history of our county, from its first inhabitants, the Cowlitz People, to American settlement, and the growth of the timber industry, both resource extraction and timber products processing. We have over 35,000 objects in our collections and nearly one million images in our archives. These resources are available for research, academic study, and exhibition. I invite you to visit the Cowlitz County Historical Museum where we keep history alive!

~ Joseph Govednik, Museum Director

Become a member of the Cowlitz County Historical Society!


Cowlitz County Art
Past and Present

Lake Sacajawea 2020 by Nick Ciancibelli

A local artist’s paintings of our area, a Victorian floral wreath made of human hair, wool, sewing samplers from early area pioneers, an animal figure carved of pumice, and the Columbian Artists Association’s varied art on the theme of area timber: All of these can now be found on display at the museum. Nick Ciancibelli was born in Longview. He now lives in Kalama where he practices his love of art which began as a 2 year old inspired by a cartoonist on TV. His subjects shifted from fantasy to realism while enrolled at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. His artistry background blends formal and self-taught experiences with his work having been displayed at numerous galleries since 1994. The Museum has paired a selection of Ciancibelli’s works with a sample of historical art pieces from the collection. We are also happy to be hosting the latest art from the Columbia Artists Association who hold an annual “art challenge” for its members. A subject is chosen and everyone creates a piece of art on that theme. This year the theme was area timber, and several of the artists used photos from the museum’s collection as inspiration. We hope to see you here to experience all this wonderful art, past and present, now through December 2022!


In the News

April 8, 2022 Columbian Artists Association’s 44th Annual Spring Art Show award winners work on display at Cowlitz County Historical Museum in Kelso

April 1, 2022Cowlitz County juvenile center adds artwork to create welcoming space

January 28, 2022 Cowlitz County Historical Museum plans state-funded project to expand collection space

July 3, 2021Mount St. Helens audio tour launched by Cowlitz County Historical Museum

January 5, 2021 ‘History in the making’: historical committee, museum ask for COVID-19 stories

September 13, 2020 Cowlitz County Museum reopens with COVID-19 precautions

August 19, 2020Vote for women’ Local groups mark 100 years of women’s right to vote

May 10, 2020 Cowlitz County Historical Museum seeks local COVID-19 stories

April 4, 2020 Cowlitz museum director: ‘This too shall pass’

August 30, 2019 New Cowlitz Museum exhibit highlights local suffragettes

November 15, 2017 New Historical Museum exhibit explores Cowlitz County’s WWI contributions