The decision of the OHS Board threatens the "raw materials" of the history and culture of the entire Pacific Northwest. This issue is as important as the loss of opportunities and livelihoods during this economic downturn because it threatens the basic components of an engaged, democratic citizenry: access to information.
Here are my primary concerns:
** _Lack of Transparency_: The OHS Board opted to make its drastic decision in an anti-democratic, non-transparent fashion.
** _Lack of Respect for OHS Members and Staff_: The OHS Board ignored the collective expertise, experience, and passion of OHS members and staff.
** _Excessive Focus on Finances_: The OHS Board cites financial reasons for their decision; however, they did not attempt to appeal to their members or staff or look to other institutions for guidanced (such as the Autry National Center and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania).
** _Repitition of a Lamentable Pattern_: Iterations of the OHS Board have been making short-sighted decisions for many years, as evidenced by the dissolution of the oral history and folk life programs and the eradication of the entire Education Department.
I recently defended a graduate thesis on Willamette River pollution abatement efforts from 1926 to 1962. This project would not have been possible without the papers of David B. Charlton, a Portland bacteriologist actively involved in the issue. He donated his materials to the OHS precisely so that community members could help articulate a more complete story of the long, hard slog to creat a better world for future generations.
The decisions of the OHS Board show extreme disrespect to the thousands who have donated materials over the past 100+ years. These decisions also disrespect the staff and everyone with an interest in our state and region.
The Northwest History Network calls upon the governor to create a task force to develop a solution with the following elements:
1) Keep the collections intact;
2) Ensure the collections remain in Oregon;
3) Employ trained and dedicated professional staff to oversee trained and dedicated volunteers;
4) Have a transparent and democratic conversation about sustaining our collective history and culture.
James V. Hillegas, Historian
Board Member, Northwest History Network
posted 4 years, 1 month ago
view in context