Trust sits at the heart of the Oregon Historical Society. The museum holds objects in trust for you. The library holds materials in trust for you. It is a shared history, not a lecture or a footnote, but a history that belongs to you.
If you’ve taken a picture, you are a documentary historian. If something passed down in your family like a railroad pocket watch ends with you, then you have an artifact of family history.
It’s that simple, and that complex.
Multiply your artifacts and photographs by the number of people on your street, in your town, in your state. Now add all the people and their gear from the beginning of recorded time.
In the first example, you have a horizontal sample of stuff from people living today; in the second, you have a vertical collection from year zero.
In either case, it’s a lot of stuff. What do you do with it?
From ohs.org: “The Oregon Historical Society’s mission is preserving and interpreting Oregon’s past in thoughtful, illuminating, and provocative ways.”
It is thoughtful to exhibit the treasures of Oregon history for all to see. It is illuminating to learn how Oregon fits in with the other forty-nine states and the bigger world. It is provocative to learn the parts of Oregon history that rarely see the light of day.
But is it enough?
Oregon people like to know who was here before them; they like to know how much of Oregon they share with their ancestors. Oregon blood runs through today’s Oregonians the same as it did the loggers and fishermen and farmers who settled here; the same as it does through the natives who were first on the land. They know certain parts of their history.
The Oregon Historical Society works to connect the dots.
Professors and museum experts make a living telling you about history. Their history isn’t the same as your history; yours is more important. Finding a better way of sharing Oregon history, your history, is the challenge.
It is about trust.
It’s about you.
You might not remember everything you learn from a visit to OHS. You might not remember all the names and dates. But you will remember how you felt while you were there.