Sunday, October 14, 2012

Oregon Historical Society on a Dark and Stormy Night

On Friday night October 12th, the 50th anniversary of the Columbus Day Storm, the Oregon Historical Society hosted a reception for their members to preview their new exhibit: The Mightiest Wind, The 1962 Columbus Day Storm. This storm is noted to be one of the worst natural disasters of all time for Oregon. Last year there was a request for articles about personal experiences that occurred during the storm from OHS in the Oregonian newspaper, so I decided to share an article that was posted on this blog. It can be found under the label Columbus Day Storm. On Tuesday they sent an odd email as sort of an invitation to attend the event and it said I could bring guests. After calling OHS to confirm that yes, this was an invitation; I called some friends to see if they were interested in attending. Valerie was willing to accompany me on the dark and stormy night. Driving into Portland was not too bad; we even found a parking spot on the street corner where the building is located. Returning home it was rainy, breezy and so dark that one needed to be very alert to see the lines on the road.

The reception was a unique experience for me and it was enthraling to observe the people attending. They provided light refreshments Oregon style: cheeses, meats, crackers, bread, fried vegetables, and drinks. The event was held from 5:30 to 8 p.m., with a short program at 6 pm. For the program they recognized employees who took part in putting together the exhibit; had a local television newscaster take part; a musical group performed the song, "The Mightiest Wind"; and then a few people shared their stories. As they released the group to explore the exhibit, as well as others in the building, we looked for people that we knew. We ran into Art and Pat, fellow local genealogists. After a short visit we took off to explore the exhibits.

On the third floor we enjoyed the exhibit, Oregon My Oregon, which tells the story of Oregon from its earliest inhabitants to early settlements and industries. It is an amazing collection of artifacts from throughout the history of this area. Parts are very interactive for the younger visitors, while other parts are enjoyed in video format. Then downstairs on the second floor is the exhibit, Oregon Voices, which covers events from 1950 to current day topics. There are interactive touch screens that encourage personal participation.

Adjacent to this is the display area for The Mightiest Wind, The 1962 Columbus Day Storm. The exhibit provides a very vivid experience of the events of that day. Being only eight at the time there were many things I was unaware of. In the little theatre area and at other points there was footage shown of the event and the days after as the residents of this area cleaned up from the huge mess left in the wake of the most incredible windstorm. It was odd to sit there on a Friday night, as it occurred on a Friday night exactly fifty years earlier, and realize that this is a huge piece of our family history. This exhibit opened to the public today and will end on January 6, 2013. If you live in this area a visit to the OHS would surely be warranted.

Before leaving we went downstairs on the first floor to view a display about the Dairy Industry. From there we wandered to a display of Naval and Military Artifacts, with a huge ships wheel. The final room was dedicated to Tom McCall and has some very interesting items including his personal desk. There are so many things to see and do in this wonderful facility. A few years ago they were close to shutting their doors, but with a county vote the people came on board to support to maintain this keeper of the history of our state. They would love to have you become a member and Multnomah County residents receive discounts.

My first visit there, in 1994, I spent most of my time in the Davies Family Research Center. If you have Oregon ancestors you should check out their online catalog and plan a day just to work in this great facility.
Their hours are Tuesday 1 pm -5 pm and Wednesday - Saturday 10 am -5 pm.
The OHS hours vary so check online at their website:

Hannah Allen, their onsite genealogist, will be speaking at the Milwaukie Family History Fair on November 10, 2012 in Gladstone, Oregon. For registration see:

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