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Given to-do list, Commission accomplished much during its first 20 years

January 7, 2016
Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski presented a certificate of appreciation to former Heritage Commission chair Barbara Sidway at the 2004 Oregon Heritage Conference in Ashland.

Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski presented a certificate of appreciation to former Heritage Commission chair Barbara Sidway at the 2004 Oregon Heritage Conference in Ashland.

by Kyle Jansson, coordinator, Oregon Heritage Commission

While my new 2016 calendars make special mention of Valentines Day and Labor Day, they don’t give recognition to this week being the 20th anniversary of the first meeting of the Oregon Heritage Commission.

The 1995 Legislature followed up on a task force recommendation to create the commission, but it wasn’t until after commissioners had been appointed that it first met on Jan. 10, 1996. The commission was given a long to-do list that included:
1. Create an Oregon Heritage Plan.
2. Increase efficiencies and avoid duplication among heritage interest groups.
3. Coordinate an inventory of publicly owned cultural properties.
4. Work with the state’s tourism agency to encourage tourism activities related to heritage resources.

The commission’s first action was to elect Daniel Robertson, the director of the Douglas County Museum, as its first chair. (He later became a Douglas County commissioner.) Two commissioners volunteered to help the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, which houses the commission, interview candidates for a half-time staff coordinator’s position.

The Oregon Tourism Commission turned the state’s museum grant program over to the Heritage Commission in 1997. Two years later, using funds that became available when voters approved Ballot Measure 66, the Commission hired a full-time coordinator, launched the Heritage Grants Program, and hosted its first conference.

Today, the Commission operates nearly 20 different programs, including the Oregon Heritage Tradition, the Heritage MentorCorps, and the Heritage Excellence Awards. These programs provide funding, training, and marketing for the approximately 1,000 cultural heritage organizations in the state.

Anniversaries are often a good time to reflect on the past and peer into the future. So the 2016 Heritage Conference will tackle the topic in a variety of ways using the theme of “16 going on 20, 50 and 100: Reflecting on the Past, Capitolizing on the Present and Building the Future.” The conference will take place May 4-6 so mark your calendars now.

How have you benefited from the Heritage Commission programs?

Kyle Jansson attended his first Heritage Commission meeting in October 1996. He has been its coordinator since 2002.

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