The words “new” and “discovery” are not often associated with museums and museum collections. We usually think of a museum as remaining essentially the same, year after year, visit after visit, unless a blockbuster visiting exhibit is brought in or some new event is presented. People could even be excused for the assumption that the Thorp Mill Museum, focused on the flour mill and its machinery, would be the kind of place where nothing ever changes. However, these people would be entirely wrong.
The Thorp Mill is a “living” museum, unique due to its centrality to the community and in the memories of the people of Thorp. It has a physical collection made up of the building and items on display. However, less tangible but equally important are the collection of stories and memories that Thorp residents and their descendants share about the mill and its surroundings. The Thorp Mill functions as a laboratory providing a place for museum studies students at CWU to learn how to create and care for exhibits. The Thorp Mill benefits from the research these students carry out and the exhibits they design based on their research that expands our knowledge of the building and region. Further, the museum staff and members of the board continue to actively research the people, objects and events of Thorp’s history in order to bring more of the Mill’s stories to light. Finally, the Thorp Mill museum grounds provide clues concerning the past beyond the operation of the flour mill and sawmill back to the original pioneers of the Kittitas Valley, the Native American people, as well as the geological and hydrological events that shaped the region.