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Upper Floor Housing Sparks Investment in Downtown Reedsport

July 13, 2018

The City of Reedsport has gone through many changes in the years since it was incorporated in 1919.  Originally a boardwalk town built on the banks of the Umpqua, then a crucial site of lumber transportation and processing, and now it is a place where one can enjoy a small town lifestyle in the bucolic setting of Oregon’s Coast Range.  While many things have changed in the past century, it has always been Reedsport’s Downtown that has embodied the heart of the City.  It was out of recognition of Downtown’s core importance that the Reedsport Main Street Program was created to utilize citizen volunteers to make Reedsport a more livable, sustainable, and effervescent place to live.

Down Town Reedsport

Historical Photograph of Downtown Reedsport with the Burdick Building (right)

In 2017 the Main Street Program had the opportunity to apply for the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant to rehabilitate the Burdick Building.  The Burdick Building in many ways exemplifies Reedsport’s heart and the changes the town has undertaken over the years.  It is located in the center of Downtown and bears the name of a historical resident.  It has also endured the ups and downs the economy and the wear and tear of the wet, coastal, weather.  To address this deterioration, Reedsport Main Street devised a plan to rehabilitate five upstairs apartments and bring the facilities up to a condition in which they could be rented.

Oregon Main Street awarded the Reedsport Main Street Program $100,000 to match $50,000 provided by the Program.  This rehabilitation project would serve several needs of the Reedsport community.  Bringing apartments into Downtown would increase the number of people who would shop in local stores, eat and drink at local restaurants, as well as create a safe and homey environment.  It would also provide affordable living in a housing market constricted by geography and economic conditions.  This need is critical in Reedsport since many employers could not find housing for workers and so had unfilled positions.  This meant less people making, and spending, less money in Reedsport.  Obviously, something had to be done.

Renovated kitchen Reedsport

A renovated kitchen including new appliances, floors, cabinets, and paint

Just over a year after the Reedsport Main Street Program was awarded the OMS Revitalization Grant we are happy to report that we have completed our project and are already reaping the rewards of our work.  Not only do we now have a stock of quality apartments in our Downtown ready to be filled by tenants, but there has also been a virtuous cycle of spending carried out by private owners.  Vacant store fronts have been filled, facades have been redone, and new businesses have been started since we received this grant.  While Reedsport Main Street cannot take credit for all of this positive change, many private owners have referenced this project, and the fact that we have a Main Street Program, as a reason they felt confident investing in Reedsport.

While our work on Main Street is never truly over, we are proud to have made substantial progress in our partnership with Oregon Main Street on raising local property values, encouraging new and current businesses, and creating a vibrant sense of place in Downtown Reedsport.  Reedsport has changed a lot since it was built on the banks of the Umpqua, and no doubt it will continue to adjust in the future, but when people come together with the common mission of making their town a better place, that change will be in a positive direction.

Written by: Emerson Hoagland, Reedsport Main Street Program

Results of Digital Collections Survey

July 2, 2018

In 2018, Oregon Heritage conducted a digital collections survey of heritage organizations in the state. Organizations with and without digital collections were encouraged to respond. Below is a summary of survey results. Background on the survey and more complete responses can be found on the Oregon Heritage website.

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Thanks to all the organizations who participated in the survey!

Oregon Students Researching Oregon

June 21, 2018

Each year Oregon Heritage Fellowships are awarded to successful applicants who are full time students of an Oregon university or college for researching, writing and presenting a topic related to history, geography, archaeology, cultural heritage, or historic preservation in Oregon.

Fellows 2018

Left to Right: Jenna Barganski (Oregon Women’s History Consortium Junior Fellow), Tia Cody (Oregon Heritage Fellow), Charlotte Helmer (Oregon Heritage Fellow)

Tia Cody and Charlotte Helmer were awarded the fellowships in 2018 for thoughtful inquiry of Oregon’s heritage. In April, the Fellows, along with the Oregon Women’s History Consortium Junior Fellow, presented their research at the Oregon Heritage Conference session titled, “Oregon Students Researching Oregon.”  Conference attendees had more questions for the students than time allowed. All three papers are now available for further reading. Please follow the links below to learn more!

Tia Cody, an Oregon Heritage Fellow and a graduate student in Archaeology at Portland State, completed a project titled, “LiDAR Predictive Modeling of Kalapuya Mound Sites in the Calapooia Watershed, Oregon.”

Charlotte Helmer, an Oregon Heritage Fellow and a graduate student in Historic Preservation at the University of Oregon, completed a project titled, “Wild Notions: Preserve and Protect Historic Resources in Oregon Wilderness.”

Jenna Barganski, the 2017 Oregon Women History Consortium’s Junior Fellow and graduate student in History at Portland State University completed research titled, “Giving the Noose the Slip: An Analysis of Female Murders in Oregon, 1850-1950.”

More information about the Oregon Heritage Fellowship is available on the Oregon Heritage website. The 2019 applications and guideline will be posted in August.

Publicity: Oh the places it might lead!

June 5, 2018

Publicize!  Get the word out about your work because it can lead to places you never thought you’d go.  For the Cottage Grove Museum, publicity around a Heritage All-Star Grant led us to places we would never have dared plan or dreamed possible.

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Installation of Marion Wright’s coat at the National Geographic Museum

The museum used the grant to help upgrade the exhibit of an artifact that belonged to Titanic survivor and Cottage Grove resident Marion Wright Woolcott.  Known as “The Titanic Coat” or  “The Lucky Coat,” it is the coat Marion wore when she was rescued from the Titanic.  Her destination was Cottage Grove, where she lived with her husband Arthur on a farm west of town for the rest of her life.   For over 30 years the museum has quietly exhibited the coat, which has been sought out by only the most intrepid Titanic fans.

The Eugene Register Guard got word of the grant and approached the museum about doing a story about the grant.  We happily agreed.  Shortly after the story ran, the museum’s board chair received a call from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley California, asking if they could borrow the coat for their upcoming exhibit, Titanic at the Reagan.  Staff at the Reagan Library had read The Register Guard article!

The Cottage Grove Museum is a small museum run by volunteers and had never loaned anything from its collection.  After gathering advice from museum professionals we agreed to the loan in exchange for items that would be key to upgrading our exhibit.  The agreement required us to get an insurance value for the coat, so we asked an appraiser from the Antiques Roadshow to help us out.  That’s when we found out just how valuable the coat was.  We also had a textile conservator do a condition report – another first for the coat.

The coat remained on exhibit at the Reagan Museum for 10 months and was seen by nearly 300,000 visitors.  In the meantime, the Cottage Grove Museum received a Heritage Grant from the State Historic Preservation Office to help fund the rest of the exhibit upgrade.

Then, a few months before the coat was due to return, another unexpected twist developed: the Reagan Library exhibit was to be incorporated into an upcoming exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington, D.C.  Would the Cottage Grove Museum consider loaning the coat to National Geographic for that exhibit?  The answer was yes!  The coat is now at the National Geographic Museum through January 2019 where it is part of the exhibit Titanic: The Untold Story.

Publicity around our small grant set in motion a series of events that exposed the coat to far more people than we ever thought possible and equally important, made it possible for the Cottage Grove Museum to upgrade the exhibit.  

So go ahead, publicize your work.  You’ll be surprised where it could lead!

Written by: Cathy Bellavita, Cottage Grove Museum Volunteer

New Heritage Bulletin: Researching Historically Marginalized Communities

May 29, 2018
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Kam Wah Chung was a Chinese-owned grocery, dry goods store and clinic in John Day.

Historically marginalized communities are groups who have been relegated to the lower or peripheral edge of society. Many groups were (and some continue to be) denied full participation in mainstream cultural, social, political, and economic activities. Marginalized communities can include people of color, women, LGBTQ+, low-income individuals, prisoners, the disabled, senior citizens, and many more. Many of these communities were ignored or misrepresented in traditional historical sources.

HB34 Researching Historically Marganized Communities_Page_1_optMuseums today are seeking to expand their audiences and better serve their increasingly diverse communities. Efforts to highlight the comprehensive histories of any given community can seem challenging, as it is sometimes difficult to find information about underrepresented populations that were typically left undocumented in traditional historical resources.

Heritage Bulletin 34 provides research tips and guidelines on how to expand your research to be more inclusive in an effort to better reflect the diversity of experiences in your community.

This Heritage Bulletin was written by Amy Drake, museum consultant, and Chelsea Rose, historical archaeologist at Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology, with shared ideas that arose from a panel at the 2016 Heritage Conference. In addition to the authors, panelists included Gwen Carr of the Oregon Black Pioneers association, and Briece Edwards, archaeologist with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde contributed ideas.

Heritage Bulletin 34 includes the following concrete research tips:

  • Consider the Big Picture
  • Think Critically
  • Think Visually
  • Engage
  • Listen
  • Interpret

When researching historically marginalized communities remember, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

Additional Heritage Bulletins that offer technical assistance for historic cemetery work, the National Register of Historic Place, general organization support, and collections care are available on the Oregon Heritage Website.

Preserving the Taylor’s Fountain Building

May 8, 2018
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Before & After Photos of the Rehabilitation of the Taylor’s Drug and Fountain Building

The Taylor’s Drug & Fountain Building sits in the heart of downtown Independence where it has been the center of the community for over 100 years. In the 1900s it was the place people would trade and barter for goods.  In the 1980s it was the place to go to for a milkshake and burger.

When Taylor’s closed after 60 years in business, local resident Bodie Bemrose purchased the building and fully rehabilitated it. Rather than proceeding with a basic restoration job, Bodie closely researched the history of the building to bring back its original features.  His attention to detail recently earned him a Heritage Excellence Award.


Bodie Bemrose & Daughters

In honor of Preservation Month we asked Bodie to reflect on what the Taylor’s Building means to him and the community. He responded, “Every great American town has (or should have) an iconic corner building – the “hub” of the community. The Taylor’s Fountain Building was that building for all of us growing up in Independence, Oregon. I lived out in the country south of town, and the first stop in town after riding my bike 10 miles was Taylor’s. My mission was to buy comic books. I was always tempted to buy a milkshake or candy instead, but I always chose the comic books. The image of old-timers sitting at the counter on the old stools, laughing and telling stories still plays out in my mind. The sound of the old bell every time a customer came in still rings in my head. Good times and memories in this old building.”

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F.S. Wilson Dry Goods Store Circa 1899

Bodie’s research into the history of the building also spiked his curiosity about the people who used the building in the early 1900s. “How I wish I could hear the stories from those who spent time inside the building long before Taylor’s, when they parked their horse-and-buggy next to the building instead of a car. Historic photos of girls in long dresses, riding their horses in front of the building says a lot – this building was worth saving for them and their heritage.”

Advocating as a 501c3

April 25, 2018

Pages from IRS rules-staying exempt

Attendees of the “How to Tell the Right People about Your Important Work” session of the 2018 Oregon Heritage Conference learned tools for building advocacy into their daily work tasks and considered ideas for how to access and engage their local, state and federal officials. It was impressive to see that many organizations are already engaging with their officials through activities such as inviting local officials to their events, sending hand written notes of thanks to their legislators, and even sitting down for coffee with them.

An important question was posed during that conference session: Legally, how much is a 501c3 organization allowed to advocate? What is permitted and what is prohibited? 

The full answer to this question can be found in the IRS rules-staying exempt. Christine Drazan, executive director of the Cultural Advocacy Coalition, shared this more general response.

In broad terms:

501c3 Organizations Can:

  • Educate elected officials on issues of concern to the arts, culture, and heritage community.
  • Arrange meetings with legislators to learn their views on these issues.
  • Invite them to organizational meetings and events and send them literature on issues.

501c3 Organizations Cannot:

  • Endorse or oppose candidates for public office.
  • Collect or distribute funds for political campaigns.
  • Use your facilities for political fundraising (although you can rent out your facility to candidates at the market rate).
  • Engage in legislative activities past a “certain limit” (the IRS has a lobbying limit for organizations—see attachment for details).

More information about cultural advocacy can be found through the Cultural Advocacy Coalition, a 501(c)4 non-partisan advocacy group formed to lobby policymakers in Salem to ensure that all Oregonians have the opportunity to access arts and culture in their communities.

Chinese Shrine at Salem Pioneer Cemetery

March 29, 2018

chinese-shrine-remains-closeup_web_1600x1067_colorIn November 2017, a Chinese Shrine was uncovered within Salem’s Pioneer Cemetery. A project team quickly formed to work on excavation, wanting to learn more about the shrine and its connection to Salem’s active Chinatown that existed from the 1800s through the mid 1920s. The team includes representatives from Willamette University, the Chinese Benevolent Association, the Friends of the Salem Pioneer Cemetery, the State Historic Preservation Office, and others.


Kimberli Fitzgerald, historic planner at the City of Salem, describes the excavation process at the November 8, 2017 Open House

After conducting research, the team believes the Shrine was constructed in order to provide the Chinese a place to leave offerings for their family members, as well as for those who had died and did not have any family in the area. Many Chinese who came to Salem were sojourners, here to work temporarily. The inscription on the Shrine’s marble tablet has been translated to mean “To the Tomb of an Unknown Friend.”



qingming-festival-offering_web_1600x1067_color_optOn Thursday, April 5, 2018, at 10:00 a.m. Salem residents and visitors are invited to experience a Chinese Blessing of the Shrine by the Buddhist Priest from Salem’s Mia Chung Temple in honor of the Chinese Qingming Festival. This day is set aside to clean and sweep the graves of Chinese ancestors and pay them homage. The event will take place at the Pioneer Cemetery. More information and parking details can be found here. This opportunity is part of the Salem Cemetery Chinese Shrine Project, which is working to preserve this remnant of the Chinese American’s presence in Salem.

Additionally, several headstones with Chinese characters were found in the backyard of a resident living to the north of the Pioneer Cemetery. These stones have been graciously returned to the cemetery. They can be viewed, along with several artifacts from the Shrine and a brief history of Salem’s Chinese as part of the Willamette Heritage Center’s exhibit Arrival: Stories of Migration, Immigration and Journeys in the Mid-Willamette Valley. This exhibit will be open through April 27, 2018.

If you are interested in attending the next Chinese Shrine Advisory Committee meeting, or have any Chinese artifacts, headstones or other information about Salem’s Chinese and would be willing to share, please contact Kimberli Fitzgerald at or 503 540-2397.

Telling the Pioneer Story by Including Untold Stories

March 23, 2018

By Mandy Cole, Linn County Historical Museum and Gwen Carr, Oregon Black Pioneers

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The lantern symbol is used throughout the exhibit hall at Linn County Museum to alert visitors to recently added interpretation about African American history in the area.

For many years at the Linn County Historical Museum (LCHM) in Brownsville, Oregon, we have told the story of westward expansion and Oregon Trail migrations exclusively from the Euro-American experience. In spite of the fact that historical documentation shows that many pioneers were non-Euro-Americans, the traditional approach portrays the tale through the eyes of the culture dominant at the time.  With grants from the Oregon Heritage Commission and the Linn County Historical Museum Trust and a partnership with the Oregon Black Pioneers, the LCHM began researching the presence of African Americans in Linn County starting around 1850. Fascinating stories of African Americans settling in the Linn County area emerged, such as; Cora Cox and Amanda and Ben Johnson arrived as slaves, entering a region that was hostile to Black People and openly discouraged them from living in Oregon;  Minor Jackson set up a barbershop in Brownsville and was a well-known respected business man;   Rufus and Bessie Hale were local legends in downtown Albany.


Mandy Cole points to African American stories that are woven into the exhibit hall at Linn County Museum.

With research in hand, how to portray these untold stories became our challenge.  As we discussed our desire to have this history become a permanent part of the museum, we talked about a variety of options, including an African American section.  However, we agreed that these stories were woven into Linn County’s fabric and local community chronicles and should, therefore, be incorporated into the existing museum model. Encountering the Museum’s displays now became a visitor experience that reinforced the true story of Linn County’s early settlement.


Close-up of new interpretation.

Partnering with the Oregon Black Pioneers inspired every aspect of the project from the research phase to writing the narratives to selecting the stories to exhibit design. Reactions from Museum visitors to learning the personal histories and struggles of Linn County’s Black Pioneers have ranged from astonishment (“This isn’t how I learned it in school”) to shock at the disparity between the traditional knowledge and the truth.

Learn more about this project and other interpretive projects that are incorporating previously excluded voices at the “Incorporate Absent Voices in Your Place Interpretation” session at the 2018 Oregon Heritage Conference.

Oregon Women and the Right to Vote: Their History and Legacy

March 14, 2018

Written by: Jan Dilg, Oregon Women’s History Consortium

march-20-event-flyer-photos_opt-e1520977577935.jpgFounded in 2010, the mission of the Oregon Women’s History Consortium (OWHC) is to provide leadership to support research and education related to the history of women in Oregon. We have created several projects to address our mission. In 2012, the OWHC led the statewide centennial celebration “A Century of Action: Oregon Women Vote, 1912-2012.” Using physical and digital exhibits, mock town hall debates, an extensive informational website, public programs and Votes for Women sashes and buttons, and with support from an Oregon Heritage Grant, the OWHC brought Oregon woman suffrage history to Oregonian across the state. Since 2015 we have offered research fellowships for scholars pursuing new subjects in Oregon women’s history. Our website features the work of our two recipients. Melissa Cornelius Lang researched Black women activists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and Jenna Barganski explored women murderers and Oregon’s judicial system from 1850-1950.

The year 2020 will be the 100th anniversary of adding the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution ensuring women’s voting rights, and so we are focusing our efforts on Oregon’s role in the campaign and ratification process. Our Oregon 2020 Kickoff event is slated for March 20, 2018 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at the Oregon State Capitol Building in Salem, Oregon. Featured speakers are the Hon. Barbara Roberts and Republican Leader in the Oregon State Senate Jackie Winters, along with other honored guests. Western Oregon University students working with Professor Kimberly Jensen will share the stories of diverse women in Oregon in this period and Oregon women’s role in the ratification process, part of their work for an online exhibit featured on our OWHC website.

For questions and more information email and visit