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Archaeological Research in Urban Neighborhoods: Searching for the First Fort Vancouver

June 10, 2019

Written by: Amy Clearman, SHPO Archaeology Intern

Archaeological research is often hidden from public view, leading to misconceptions about archaeology and an underappreciation for the relevancy of this research to non-archaeologists. Over the last few decades, archaeologists have increasingly called for sharing our work with the public and even including community members as partners in archaeological research.

As a graduate student in archaeology at Portland State University, I undertook a thesis project that partnered heavily with community members. My work took place in two residential neighborhoods in Vancouver, Washington where I worked with homeowners to archaeologically excavate in their backyards. The intent was to search for the material remains of the first Fort Vancouver built in 1825, located somewhere on the bluff above the Columbia River about one mile northeast of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site, a commemoration of the second (1829) Fort Vancouver.

Twelve homeowners volunteered to allow excavation in their yards, and with these residents I was able to dig 32 small holes to search for artifacts. I discovered over 500 artifacts, which were a mixture of modern and historic items, some dating as far back as the early-nineteenth century. While I did not find evidence of the exact location of the first fort, a combination of archaeological, documentary, and ethnographic research resulted in discovering the most likely area where the fort existed.

In addition to archaeological discoveries, this project explored ways of making archaeology and heritage personally relevant to residents in the project neighborhoods and in the wider community. I found that archaeology has the power to spark people’s imaginations in a way that nothing else can. The act of unearthing objects used and discarded by people in the past significantly affected homeowner’s feelings about the place where they live, work, and play, and by the end of the project most residents expressed feeling more attached to and more proud of their neighborhood as a site of heritage. These residents are now wondering what other stories are buried under the ground about the those who have occupied the landscape over time, and I am so pleased that this project has helped pique curiosity about archaeology, heritage, and past people not only in these residents but the wider community, as well.

Amy Clearman served as the State Historic Preservation Office archaeology intern for spring 2019. She is a graduate student at Portland State University studying historical archaeology, focusing on public archaeology and the early history of Fort Vancouver in Vancouver, Washington. Visit to find out more about her thesis project.

Suffragettes – They Weren’t All Home Grown

May 13, 2019

When women have had no direct influence whatsoever on legislation, this has resulted in their being subject to all the laws created by men, no matter how difficult and inconvenient for women these laws have been.

– Maria Raunio, 1872-1911

Written by: Mike Leamy, Greenwood Cemetery & Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries

Maria Raunio found her final resting place in Greenwood Cemetery near Astoria, Oregon. Her simple gravestone bears only her name and the numeric parentheses that enclose her brief life… and the hammer and sickle she would not have claimed.

Born in Finland in 1872, she was the eldest of thirteen children. Her working family was poor, yet Maria and all of her siblings were able to complete an elementary education. She married and bore seven sons. Her husband emigrated to the United States, but was killed in a mining accident the same year. Widowed, Maria left her children with her parents, and sought work that would eventually provide for her family, unwilling to depend on poor relief to feed herself and her small children.

Shaped by conflicting and sometimes chaotic ideas of the era, Maria grew to be an activist for change in her adult years. She clerked for one change-focused newspaper in Finland, then became editor of another. Depending on the lens through which she was viewed, she was an activist, an agitator, a lecturer. Aligning herself with the Social Democratic Party, she became their most effective orator. She rode the wave of change she helped generate, being elected in the first suffrage-fueled  election as one of nineteen women to be seated in the Finnish Parliament, but, because she refused to march in step with the party in voting on issues, she was not put on the ballot for a second term.

Excluded from Parliament, Maria followed her late husband to the United States, which was also being swept by efforts for social change, with a variety of workers movements, ranging from unionist to socialist to communist, as well as groups focused on women’s issues and suffrage. Maria Raunio’s background blended with the social simmering of the times. She served first as a lecturer for the American-Finnish Socialist Organization, and later became active in workers’ issues, and finally became the editor of the first Finnish-American feminist paper being published in Astoria, a community with a heavy Finnish flavor.

Her goal had always been to earn enough to send for her five surviving children. After only about a year in the United States, she died in Astoria, under circumstances that have never been clarified. Was her death accidental?

A century later, Maria Raunio’s descendants came to Greenwood Cemetery to visit her grave. They shared that the grandfather withheld Maria’s many letters to her children, and told them that their mother had abandoned them. The descendants were shocked at the hammer and sickle on her gravestone, saying, “She was not a communist!”

The year 2020 marks the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Vote. For ideas on how to research suffrage and women’s history in your community, visit

The Difference a Word Makes

April 18, 2019

Written by: Oregon Heritage Commissioners Todd Kepple & Chelsea Rose

The change of a single word in a law on the books in Oregon will bring about a significant change for the Oregon Heritage Commission, a citizen panel that oversees efforts to preserve and promote the state’s rich history.

The change comes about after the Commission members were asked in 2017 to designate the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail as a statewide celebration. This is a typical duty of the Commission. Statute 358.595 gives the Oregon Commission the authority to coordinate statewide anniversaries, and in the past the Commission has declared a handful of celebrations including the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage in Oregon and the Sesquicentennial of the Treaty with the Tribes of Middle Oregon. But in discussing the request to designate the 175th anniversary of the Oregon Trail, the Heritage Commission quickly recognized a limitation in the language set out in statute.

Previous declarations of statewide anniversary celebrations.

Statue 358.595 specifically indicates the Commission coordinates statewide “celebrations.” The Heritage Commission makes a concerted effort to include all Oregon voices in the heritage efforts it supports, and commission members felt some aspects of the Trail’s history would not be cause for celebration among all residents of Oregon. The Commission determined that while the event is historically significant and worthy of recognition, the long-lasting impact the Oregon Trail has had on Tribes is an aspect of the event that cannot be deemed a celebration. Therefore, the Commission voted against declaring the anniversary a statewide celebration.

The discussion prompted the Commission to start a bigger picture conversation about this statute and administrative rule. The term “celebration” limited the Commission’s ability to recognize other significant heritage events and draw public attention and valuable educational opportunities to them, such as the 75th anniversary of Japanese Internment or anniversaries of the restoration of Oregon tribes. The Commission also wanted to recognize the impact of historic events on the collective history of Oregon people and to uphold the historical truth about that impact. To do this, the Commission worked with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to introduce a bill to change the language in statute 358.595(2f) from “celebration” to “commemoration.”

On March 27, 2019, House Bill 2081 was signed by Governor Brown and will become effective January 1, 2020. This bill modifies just one word. It changes the language related to the Oregon Heritage Commission’s coordination of statewide activities from “celebration” to “commemoration.” Yet the impact of that change is much greater. The Heritage Commission can now work with groups and causes across the state to address significant events in history that are important to understand and acknowledge, but not necessarily celebrate.

Interpreting “Interpretive”

April 3, 2019

Written by Marilyn Levy, Sheridan Museum of History

When the Sheridan Museum of History applied for the Oregon Museum Grant we were just completing a renovation project and moving into the new building. Our hope was that this grant would help us with set-up costs. We hired a museum consultant to get a better handle on how to proceed with this daunting task. As she spoke, you could watch the disapproving faces around the room. Her suggestions, like reducing the number of items in any one display, met with huge resistance. Not long before we were to have completed our grant requirements, we decided that we needed to have an appointment with Kuri Gill, grants and outreach coordinator to make certain that we understood what “interpretive” meant.

Well surprise- we were not even close to understanding “interpretation,” and we obviously had no clear understanding of what an “interpretive museum” was!

Interpretive label installed by Sea Reach, Ltd

Fortunately, Sea Reach, Ltd, is an interpretive sign and development company is located in Sheridan. We came home from our meeting and scheduled a meeting with them. We still had doubting volunteers with regard to what “interpretive” meant, to the extent they were willing to return the generous grant. Luckily, this very busy, nationally known company was able to help. They took on the project, which included signs on all venues, direction signs on the pillars, a wonderful mural behind our pioneer display, and an outside sign (compliments of Sea Reach). Amazingly, they were done by June 2018, our three month deadline.

Since doing all of this signage, we now have a self-guided brochure listing all the venues and where they are located so that the visitor can take their time and not be bothered unless they want to talk with volunteers.  There is not a volunteer at the Sheridan Museum of History that does not agree with our new understanding of the meaning of “interpretive.” I think the best way to describe how we view the concept is that we provide our visitors with the tools necessary for them to understand what they are looking at.  They are able to read signs and other additions that give them the opportunity to make up their own minds about “the way it was” and what they are looking at.  Ultimately this stimulates a variety of questions.  You can’t beat that!

Thanks to the Museum Grant from the Parks and Rec Department we have a much more enjoyable and educational place for our visitors and volunteers. To say that we had a steep learning curve would be an understatement, but thanks to Kuri and staff; and Sea Reach, Ltd, we were able to understand and embrace the meaning of “interpretive” and get it done.

Heritage Conference vs. Summit

March 20, 2019

As we prepare for our 2nd annual Oregon Heritage Summit, some may be wondering where the Heritage Conference went. Fear not! We are fully engaged in planning the 2020 Heritage Conference that will be held in Corvallis. Two years ago Oregon Heritage made the decision to rotate between a conference and a summit as a way to engage the heritage community differently. The second anniversary of the Summit is a great time to revisit the goals of both events and get ready for this year’s Summit theme, “the Culture of Board Engagement.”

2017 Heritage Summit, Chehalem Cultural Center

The idea for the Summit was born when Oregon Heritage Staff recognized the capacity challenge of putting on a comprehensive conference that brings together all heritage disciplines for a full three days of speakers, sessions, workshops, meetings, and receptions. We pride ourselves in a conference that works closely with the host community to reflect the authenticity of the place and highlight local projects, successes, challenges, and issues. Conference content covers a variety of theories, techniques and experiences used by practitioners working to preserve and develop Oregon’s history. To do that well and maintain the quality of our other programs, staff saw an opportunity- the Heritage Summit!

On alternate years to the Conference, the Summit still brings together the diverse heritage groups we value, but does so with one focused topic and keeps everyone in the same room for cross-disciplinary learning. The Summit allows us to delve deeply into an issue related to best practices for the heritage community and compare resources and experiences across disciplines.

Tower Theater, Bend. Site of the 2018 Heritage Conference Plenary Session

What the two events have in common? Both the Heritage Conference and Summit value geographic diversity by moving around the state each year. Both bring a variety of disciplines together and support preservation and development efforts by holding events in downtown venues. Both events highlight the people, projects and organizations doing great heritage work in the state with the Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards and research presentations by the Oregon Heritage Fellows. Both are educational and fun!

Oregon Heritage Conference

  • Takes place in the even numbered years
  • Three day event
  • Includes workshops, sessions, and trainings

Oregon Heritage Summit

  • Takes place in the odd numbered years
  • One day event
  • Focused on a topic of best practice

We look forward to seeing you at the 2019 Summit in Medford, the 2020 Conference in Corvallis, and rotating summits and conferences to follow!

Transom Window Exposure & Restoration Kickoff – Downtown Lebanon, Oregon

March 8, 2019

Written by Wyatt King, Duck Buddies LLC & Lebanon Downtown Association

My family dreamt up the idea of restoring of our downtown Lebanon property a few years back after discovering the original 1910 glass work behind the plywood boards put up generations ago. We didn’t know it was a prismatic glass transom window, or what all this would entail, but we figured it would be a challenge and cost a chunk of change. Now, because of the help of our partners, that dream is a reality. If your project is like ours, you can make it a reality by building partnerships, focusing on community, and having fun.

Before and after photos of transom window exposure project.

Lebanon, like many smaller communities, is one where involved people tend to know each other through overlapping groups or causes. These community connections are directly responsible for our beautifully restored transom. At the end of a meeting with our City Manager, Gary Marks, he mentioned his difficulty in getting any downtown properties to take advantage of Lebanon’s new Downtown Revitalization Program which covered the interest on loans for approved downtown projects. Seeing an opportunity to help our town and improve our property, we asked if the transom project was a good fit. It was! Within a month or so, we had the general plan in place (with bids) and an almost interest free loan.

We worked with the Lebanon Downtown Association (LDA) regarding Oregon’s Diamonds in the Rough grant. They agreed the transom project was a great fit and began helping us go after it. Thanks to LDA connections, we were soon in touch with Sheri, Kuri, and Joy from the State, who were wonderfully accessible and helpful- we never had a question go unanswered and every email was full of great points. Between the LDA and these wonderful ladies, we were able to get a finely tuned grant application rounded out by letters of support from community partners. Their help allowed us to have fun, working in puns on the grant (or the T.W.E.R.K. acronym for our project, Transom Window Exposure & Restoration Kickoff ). Our partners helped us every step of the way, and without them, our Transoms would still be boarded up. Thank you to our amazing partners!

Historic images of downtown Lebanon over time.

Does your heritage organization have a board handbook?

February 28, 2019

In our 2018 Survey of Digital Heritage Collections in Oregon, we asked survey takers what written plans and policies their organization has in place. Of the 178 organizations that responded to the survey, only 70 (that’s roughly 39%) affirmed that they have a board handbook.

Why have a board handbook?

Board handbooks are important tools for new and existing board members to quickly access legal, planning, operational, and personnel policies and documents for your organization. Handbooks can, and should be used to orient new board members to the organization, but they are also a useful reference tool for existing board members. Placing essential charters and documents in one place allows your organization to clearly explain where you’ve been and where you’re headed. This makes it much easier to set board member expectations and can be referred back to for quality control and to answer logistical questions that come up. Ultimately, a board handbook provides board members information upfront so they can make solid decisions moving forward.

What should be in a board handbook? (While contents may vary among organizations, here are some suggestions of what to include. )

  • Organization Mission Statement
  • List of Board Members- Names, addresses, short biographies
  • Board Member Job Description
  • By-laws
  • Organizational Chart
  • Committee List- with assignments of all board and staff members
  • Strategic Plan- including goals, objectives and committee work plans
  • Operating Policies of the Board
  • Confidentiality Statement
  • Conflict of Interest Statement
  • Short History of the Organization
  • Minutes- from the last year
  • Staff Job Descriptions- presented in brief outline form
  • List of Programs- with descriptive data
  • Budget
  • Audited Financial Statements- for the previous year
  • Marketing & Promotion Materials
  • Sources of Funding
  • Glossary of Terms

Board members need to know what their job is and how they can be most effective in doing that job, and a board handbook is one tool for nonprofit organizations to provide a solid orientation to board members. Join us for the 2019 Heritage Summit to dig deeply into the theory and practice behind great boards.

Conserving Artifacts at Benton County Historical Society

February 13, 2019

Benton County Historical Society is building a new, state-of-the-art museum in downtown Corvallis, Oregon.  The Corvallis Museum provides four galleries for exhibiting objects from the Society’s collection of over 100,000 artifacts.  Many of the artifacts need to be cleaned, stabilized and given supportive mounts before they can be moved from protective storage to public exhibitions. Thanks to generous matching Oregon Heritage Grant, BCHS was able to hire object conservator Tom Fuller to prepare artifacts for the first exhibitions in the Corvallis Museum.

Compact storage units house museum artifacts in a climate controlled storage facility.

Our primary concern is whether the artifacts are stable enough to endure the rigor of exhibition. Travel, handling, gravity and exposure to ultra-violet light can degrade an artifact. Occasionally Mr. Fuller has recommended that we don’t use a particular artifact in an exhibition due to condition issues. Other times he has been able to mitigate circumstances to allow the artifacts to be used. Sometimes, the objects simply needed a skilled cleaning.

Oregon Governor Douglas McKay’s western saddle is gleaming and ready for public exhibition thanks to Fuller’s meticulous care. This hand-tooled saddle with engraved silver work was made by Ed Bohlin, “saddle maker to the stars”, like Hollywood cowboys Roy Rogers and the Lone Ranger.  Douglas McKay was an Oregon State University alumnus with a passion for the American West.

One of the more visually dramatic objects that Fuller conserved is the Zumwalt family trunk which came to Oregon via the Applegate Trail in 1846. While crossing the Cascade Range, the party was forced to leave this hide-covered trunk and other baggage behind.  Fortunately, it was still there when they returned for it in the spring of 1847. After 170 years in Oregon, the trunk received some long-overdue attention from a professional conservator.

Zumwalt family trunk before conservation.
Zumwalt family trunk after conservation.

This week Fuller is working wood grain auger with hand-carved paddles that Rowland Chambers carved for his water-powered grist mill on the Luckiamute River in Kings Valley in 1853.  Early pioneers planted wheat and built grist mills for grinding flour. The auger or screw conveyor moved grain continuously from one part of the mill to another.

We hope you’ll come see Fuller’s beautiful work when the Corvallis Museum construction and installation is complete, hopefully in autumn 2019.

Written by: Mark Tolonen, Curator of Exhibitions at Benton County Historical Society

Iron Fences Repair & Maintenance Plan at Salem Pioneer Cemetery

January 30, 2019

The Oregon Commission on Historic Cemeteries awarded a 2017 match-fund grant of $1,300 to the City of Salem Public Works Department for professional assessment of five historic cast-iron and two wrought-iron burial plot fences in Salem Pioneer Cemetery.  The cemetery, a property of seventeen acres founded by Chemeketa Lodge No. 1, Independent Order of Odd Fellows in 1854, is a City landmark enrolled in the National Register of Historic Places.  It came under public ownership in 1986.  The grant allowed the City to engage an architectural conservator to prepare guidelines for repair and ongoing maintenance of the historic fences in accordance with the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation.      

The burial plot of the James I. Thompson family is enclosed by a common double-rail cast-iron “gas pipe” fencing having decorative railing sleeves at mid-section. Posts are mounted on a cut stone curb.

Historical architect Robert Dortignacq, A.I.A., of Portland, analyzed and proposed corrective treatment for each enclosure and contacted nine American foundries and iron companies experienced in restoration of architectural iron.  It was decided to produce the 22-page planning document as a resource, rather than a library-shelf report, so that it could be broadly available and updated as needed to guide cemetery stewards in putting work out to bid or placing certain work in the hands of experienced personnel supported by volunteers.  Cost estimates for rehabilitating each enclosure were incorporated also.

The Metal Craft Repair, Treatment and Maintenance Plan for Salem Pioneer Cemetery distills essential guidance for treatment of architectural iron work published by the National Park Service, Chicora Foundation, and Association for Gravestone Studies.  Plan drawings and photographs are included to illustrate the scale and provide general views of each enclosure as well as close-up details of such problems as gates separated from railings and posts that have lost their anchorage in masonry foundations.

The original Oregon manufacturer of the DeVol plot fence is no longer in operation. Cast-iron panels manufactured from the same historic pattern were located at the Lawler Machine & Foundary Co.

The consultant’s contact with foundries across the country showed that, occasionally, ironwork cast from historic patterns is still available through a supplier.  In Salem Pioneer Cemetery, panel sections were needed to fill gaps in one highly decorated cast-iron fence in the cemetery dating from the 1880s.  The consultant found matching panels were still in stock through the Lawler Machine & Foundry Co. in Birmingham, Alabama.  Custom casting required to authentically replicate missing ornamental features no longer in supply can add up to considerable expense.  Among his contacts, the consultant could not find a ready-made source for foliated and clasped-hands pipe rail section sleeves for commonplace gas-pipe fences.  Such ornaments often are found rusted-through and broken away in whole or in part.  Wrought iron is treated differently, but the fundamental rule in maintaining cast-iron fences in good repair is to keep all elements protected from exposure to water and air by careful preparation, protective coatings of primer and paint, and reapplying paint on a sound surface on a timely, recurring basis. 

Note:  Although Mr. Dortignacq’s Metal Craft Repair, Treatment and Maintenance Plan Project was completed on April 20, 2018, qualified personnel were not available to begin putting the plan into practice in the 2018 field season.  Implementation is expected to begin in March, 2019 under the joint supervision of the City’s contractor of record and an experienced metal craftsman as sub-contractor.

Written by: Elisabeth Potter, Friends of Pioneer Cemetery

Building Community Support

January 16, 2019

When the City of Canby re-instituted its Heritage and Landmark Commission after a decade of inactivity, commission members quickly realized that building community support for historic preservation was their greatest challenge. As a result, the group decided to make community outreach and involvement a significant element of all of their heritage initiatives.

Recognizing that heritage programming often attracts a limited portion of the community, HLC members looked for ways to reach a broader segment. The commission began with students. Collaborating with Canby’s Lee Elementary School, they included student council members as speakers at the induction of the Philander Lee Oak Tree into the Oregon Heritage Tree Program. When the nomination of the community’s 1937 City Hall required a public hearing, Commissioner Tony Crawford worked with teachers to create an opportunity for students to participate. Fourth graders wrote essays in support of the nomination and read them as part of the public testimony segment of the public hearing. The inclusion of students has the added benefit of attracting parents, grandparents, teachers and others to heritage events, many of whom might not otherwise attend.   

Another challenge for the commission was engaging Canby’s relatively large (22%) Latinx population. In 2017, the group decided that the first step involved eliminating the language barrier. They voted to produce all brochures and interpretive signage in English and Spanish to better connect with that group. With their 2018 project, Building a Better Community: The Canby Women’s Heritage – the first in Oregon dedicated to the accomplishments of women, they took that one step further. A city-wide student essay contest invited submissions in English and Spanish. The featured speakers at the public event, which was headlined by former Governor Barbara Roberts, included the reading of an essay in Spanish by a Canby student in which she recognized the sacrifices her mother made to ensure the success of her family.

Written by Carol Palmer, Canby Heritage and Landmark Commissioner