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About Odessa Heritage

About This Collection

Joshua Elmer's ChildrenJoshua Elmer's children
circa 1903-1905.

Odessa Historisches
Museum Collection.
Odessa Heritage is a project of Washington Rural Heritage, a collection of historically significant materials residing in libraries, heritage institutions, and private collections throughout Washington State. The collection includes photographs, documents, and artifacts which tell the stories of Washington's small and rural communities.


This collection documents the birth and development of the Town of Odessa, located in Lincoln County, Washington. Settled in the late 1800s and already an important agricultural center by the early 1900s, the town was named by its large community of German-speaking wheat farmer immigrants from Russia. Those pioneering families transformed a rugged-yet-fertile section of Washington's Channeled Scablands Region into what today ranks as one of the most productive wheat-growing areas in the United States. The digitized materials presented here come from the holdings of the Odessa Historisches Museum, the Odessa Public Library, and local private collections.


The goals of the Odessa Heritage digitization project are:

  • Highlight the historical collections of participating institutions by making selected materials freely available to the world.
  • Serve the specific needs of audiences including: the general public; local students; and genealogists (especially those researching their German heritage or family ties to Odessa's founding Germans from Russia).
  • Provide a digital preservation component to the management of rare and fragile materials susceptible to damage or loss.

Collection highlights include:

  • Joshua Elmer Collection. Elmer was a local professional photographer who documented many of Southwest Lincoln County's working farms and farmers, primarily at the turn of the 20th Century. The collection includes many of Elmer's original panoramic photographic prints mounted on linen. These provide detailed and dramatic glimpses into wheat farming and harvest, as well as homesteads and families of the region.
    • The Elmer-Beck-Michel Collection is a subset of Elmer's photos. This collection was given by Elmer to his friend George Beck, a geologist and paleontologist who went to high school in Marlan, WA, and later taught geology at Central Washington University. In 2012, this collection—annotated by Beck's daughter, Virginia Michel, and passed on to her son, George Michel—was donated to the Odessa Public Library for digitization. Consisting of photographic negatives, and prints mounted on old stereograph cards, the collection documents farming, irrigation, community events, and domestic life throughout southwest Lincoln County and eastern Grant County, Washington.
      Processed by Sharalyn Williams, Digitization Intern, 2014.
  • Historiches Museum Barn Collection: A collection of vehicles, agricultural implements, objects, and realia unique to the Odessa area.
  • The Way We Were is a photographic slideshow with accompanying audio narration, originally created and recorded by Dr. John E. Gahringer in the mid-1980s. The 35mm. slides and cassette audio were digitized in 2012.
  • Old Town Hall Interviews. A collection of oral history interviews with Odessa senior residents about the Old Town Hall or "Community Hall". Conducted and compiled by Odessa High School Class of 2013.

Rights & Use

Some items from the Odessa Heritage Collection are under protection of copyright. Please contact the Odessa Public Library and/or the Odessa Historisches Museum for permission to use the items in this collection.


By the use of these digital images, texts, audio, and video recordings, users agree to the following:

  • Materials may not be used for any commercial purpose without prior written permission from the copyright holder and/or owning institution. The Washington State Library does not have the authority to grant such permission.
  • Materials may be used for purposes of research, teaching, and private study. Please contact the holding institution and/or copyright owner for permission related to other uses.
  • Credit must be given to the contributing institutions (e.g., 'photo courtesy of the Odessa Historisches Museum and the Odessa Public Library').
  • Materials may not be re-published in print or electronic form without prior written permission from the holding institution and copyright owner.
  • Materials may not be mounted on an additional server for public use, or for use by a set of subscribers without prior written permission from the holding institution and copyright owner.


View the Washington Rural Heritage copyright statement for additional information.

Washington Rural Heritage home

Contributing Institutions

Odessa Public Library


Odessa Public Library

(509) 982-2903, Librarian

(509) 982-2654, Library

odessapublib@odessaoffice.com

P.O. Box 218

21 E First Ave.

Odessa, WA 99159



Odessa Historisches Museum


Odessa Historiches Museum

Contact the Museum

4th and Elm Streets

P.O. Box 536

Odessa, WA 99159


This project is supported with Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funding provided by the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) through the Washington State Library, a division of the Office of the Secretary of State.

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