When I was planning a trip to Oregon in January, a friend kindly Googled sights in the area I might enjoy. An End of the Oregon Trail Museum was listed. When my cousin Dave and I went to tour the exhibits, we found the museum had been closed for two years. A small visitors’ center was still open, but its operator told us the museum had run out of funding. When Dave asked what had happened to all the exhibits, she replied, “Oh, they are still there, but we have no money to keep it open.”
We both felt that was a shame, but I did not give the matter a lot of thought. Dave’s brother John told us in another conversation that only 6 percent of the population of the state of Oregon were born there. Perhaps that could account for the lack of interest in the state’s history.
However, when Tampa’s senior citizen group was planning an outing this month, I attempted to call the Adobe House Museum in Hillsboro and learned it had been closed for over a year. A large percentage of the citizens of this area share the heritage it represented. What gives?
Is it possible that historical museums are simply on their way out? As a lifelong history buff, I am perturbed by that possibility. Someone has said that those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. To put the idea another way, if we do not know where we came from, how can we know where we are going?
Nobody really explained to me why the Adobe House closed. Was there so little interest that it did not seem worthwhile to keep it going? Was it from a lack of funding? Was it impossible to find a curator? Hillsboro has a historical society, which was always been quite active. Has that changed?
I do not intend this column to be critical of Hillsboro or the historical society, when I do not know the problems they are dealing with. I just hope some way can be found to reopen the museum. The Hillsboro community has a rich cultural heritage, which is worth preserving and passing on to the next generation. I am probably not even well informed enough to suggest solutions, but that never keeps me from raising questions. If funding is limited, could volunteer docents be found?
It seems to me that Hillsboro should be large enough to support a historical museum. After all, the Mennonite Heritage Museum in Goessel is a much larger facility in a much smaller community. Marion has a historical museum, although it is only open in the summer months. Peabody has a very fine little museum. I have always thought of Hillsboro as being at least as aware of its heritage as any of the surrounding towns.
I think it is particularly important for children and young people to have access to a museum in order to understand how our community came to be what it is. They need to know how their grandparents and great-grandparents lived and how they built this country in spite of hardships and difficulties.
Who will get the ball rolling to reopen the Adobe House? I will be eager to find out.