Oregon Museums Need Your Help

By Erika Weisensee,

In what’s clearly a sign of the times, two Oregon museums recently made the news as the latest casualties of the economic crisis. First, the Oregon Historical Society announced staff cutbacks, citing fewer donations and fear of dwindling state funds. Then, the media reported that Oregon City’s landmark End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center will suspend operations this month. Two other Oregon City museums, the Museum of the Oregon Territory and the Stevens-Crawford House, will also close.

These are tough times for all non-profit organizations. The question for some is not only how but if they will survive. Non-profits deemed non-essential, like museums and arts organizations, are especially vulnerable.  Yes, museums need financial donations and volunteers, but they also need visitors.

For just a few dollars (about the same price as going to a movie), you can spend a few hours enjoying a mind-stretching activity. From McMinnville’s world-class aviation museum to the interactive exhibits at OMSI, Oregon is blessed with outstanding museums large and small.

Here are a few of my favorites:

OMSI (Portland, www.omsi.edu).
OMSI has so many exhibits you simply can’t see it all in one day. The hands-on interactive museum of science and industry has something for people of all ages. In addition to hundreds of interactive exhibits, highlights include an OMNIMAX Dome Theater, a planetarium, a toddler science park, a large café and a submarine. The art and science of Leonardo Da Vinci is featured in a traveling exhibit on display until May 3rd.

Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum (McMinnville, www.sprucegoose.com) Known by aviation enthusiasts as the home of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum boasts a large collection of aircraft and aviation artifacts. A brand-new space facility features a Titan II SLV Missile. The museum also has an IMAX 3D theater on site.

Oregon Historical Society (Portland, www.ohs.org) The Oregon Historical Society offers exhibits covering all aspects of our state’s history, from the Oregon Trail to the emergence of Oregon industries. An upcoming exhibit called “Oregon: Yours, Mine, Ours” will focus on the impact of the past 50 years. Current artistic exhibits include paintings of Columbia River Vistas by James Everett Stuart and Carleton Watkin’s Stereoviews (photographs) of the Columbia River Gorge.

The Columbia River Maritime Museum (Astoria, www.crmm.org) The oldest city west of the Rockies is home to a terrific maritime museum.  Shipwrecks, the Salmon industry, and the Coast Guard’s work at the treacherous Columbia River Bar are among the many exhibits. Technologically enhanced displays educate visitors in all things nautical.

Throughout the state, many other museums are working to preserve the art, culture and history of the communities they serve. If we don’t support them, we risk losing them.

###   Erika Weisensee is a writing mom. She lives in Milwaukie and teaches journalism classes at the University of Portland.

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