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Oregon Heritage Reflects on 2020

January 8, 2021

To say this has been an unprecedented year would be an understatement. Typically in our end of year message we would summarize the highlights, include several statistics and numbers, and celebrate all the heritage efforts accomplished this year by all of you. In short, it would be a message filled with positivity and cheer. To not acknowledge the challenges we have all faced this year personally and professionally would be remiss of us. While positivity may seem in short supply these days, we cannot express how much we admire each and every one of you for how you are weathering the storms that have come rolling through 2020 and will continue into 2021. This year made it so clear to us the value of heritage resources and the importance of a statewide heritage network to support each other during these turbulent times.

Upon reflection of the past year, Oregon Heritage staff has learned a lot about responding to emergencies and the importance of preparation, how to navigate the fine line of celebrating wins while respecting those that have lost so much, and how to continue serving all of you the best we can while managing working from home, layoffs, and travel restrictions that forced us to move our technical assistance online.

With that said, here are some of our observations, resources, responses, pivots and steps forward for preservation efforts in Oregon from 2020:

Disaster Response & Recovery

  • Commiserating during an ongoing crisis is an important step in dealing with the crisis. This was made clear during the 5 COVID-19 commiseration calls we initiated to help folks not feel alone when managing their organization during the crisis. Topics included event pivots such as Preservation Month events in May, reopening, inclusivity, and the value of heritage organizations.
  • Oregon Heritage and our partners, including the Oregon Cultural Trust, Nonprofit Association of Oregon, Oregon Community Foundation, Cultural Advocacy Coalition, State Library, State Archives, and more, came together to ensure heritage organizations received support throughout COVID-19 & wildfire response.
  • SHPO coordinated with FEMA, State agencies and tribes in response to the wildfires.
  • We developed a COVID-19 resource page and a wildfire response and recovery page that combined have been accessed over 1700 times. While the reason these pages were developed are disheartening, the fact that these resources will exist for the future will help us respond faster and better. And we kicked off our Oregon Heritage Bulletin Resilience Series.
  • Last year we launched a pilot project in Cottage Grove that wrapped up this year and resulted in a guidebook and videos for Community Disaster Resilience Planning for Heritage Resources. While we knew when we initiated the project a year ago that it would be important, we did not realize how quickly it would become important in the face of the wildfires this year.

Value of Heritage

Main Street

  • initiated weekly calls to help support each other and the ongoing pandemic crisis they were seeing in their downtowns. In addition, OMS partnered with Washington Main Street to schedule periodic, topical conversations between local executive directors in our respective states.
  • pivoted during the holidays to adhere to social distancing guidelines.

Preservation & Documentation

  • The Oregon Heritage Commission released the 2020-2025 Oregon Heritage Plan as a call to action, deviating from traditional plans. It outlines 4 goals that are important to the Commission and asks organizations to join us in working towards them.
  • The Oregon SHPO added 3,163 properties to the inventory of archeological and historic resources, and submitted 14 nominations to the National Parks Service for listing in the National Register of Historic of Historic Places, including the Portland African American Multiple Properties Document, a tool that will help list more properties within that context, and the Darcelle XV property, a site significant for it’s for its role in gaining acceptance for drag and gay rights (see recently listed nominations here).
  • We made steps forward on working on a Depression Era Multiple Properties Document project in addition to receiving a grant from the National Park Service to work on a statewide African American Multiple Properties Document project.
  • Reviewed 44 preservation projects, added 12 properties to the state tax program, reviewed 19 submissions for the federal tax program.
  • With improved tracking for our covenant and Special Assessment programs, we monitored 14 agreements.
  • Working with partners and the public to address National Register rules and the Special Assessment program.
  • We moved a promising partnership forward with the State Library of Oregon and the Washington State Library as we look towards solutions for digitizing collections for Oregon heritage organizations and getting them online.
  • 206 archaeological permits for conducting archaeological investigations in Oregon issued by SHPO archaeologists.

Review & Compliance

  • The SHPO review and compliance team received 2,636 submittals to review for the effects of undertakings on cultural resources. The Oregon SHPO provides assistance to agencies whose projects are subject to state and federal historic preservation laws.
  • Sent 2,451 responses to inquiries from federal and state agencies and private organizations and individuals regarding compliance with federal and state laws.

Some of the things we are looking forward to in the new year include the 2021 Oregon Heritage Virtual Summit on Collaboration and Oregon Main Street Conference in Klamath Falls, awarding the 2021 Oregon Heritage Excellence Awards and the 2021 Excellence in Downtown Revitalization Awards, seeking and receiving nominations for the National Register of Historic Resources that support our priorities laid out in our Preservation Plan, and finding creative and impactful ways to assist organizations and reminding them of the value they provide to their communities.

While we understand that challenges will continue on into 2021, please know that we will continue to do our best to help you navigate these challenges.

Thank you for all that you do and please stay strong.

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