Wrestling With History

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August 14, 2010 by David Gillaspie

Based on http://www.portlandtribune.com/news/story.php?story_id=128163962120281500

Steve Law’s article on the Oregon Historical Society’s financial problems generated an exchange that benefits the museum no matter how an added tax vote goes.  As the title of his article explains, voters may be asked for a tax levy

The key word is ‘may.’

In comment following the article Tim asks why OHS doesn’t have to gather 30,000 signatures?  Good question, Tim.  Maybe it’s because the tax levy already exists but hasn’t been used.

Bad Man calls OHS an ‘artsy’ organization.  The artsy organization is across the street, BM, it’s called the Portland Art Museum.  Will they benefit from the tax levy?

Trailblazer tom says Oregon history is presented in a tomb-like atmosphere.  OHS did a great exhibit on Trailblazer history designed by the excellent Skip Enge that should have gone straight to the Rose Garden so 20,000 people could connect the Blazers and OHS forty-one times a season.

Check my math, but that’s over 800,000 people a year who would have heard about OHS.

It didn’t happen.

The Oregonian printed a beautiful article on how to research your home’s history, but excluded OHS from the list of resources.  I called the Oregonian writer and asked why?

They said they placed calls to OHS and left messages about the article and received nothing in return.  It was an unfortunately missed opportunity. For those interested, the two companies are about a one minute walk across Broadway from each other on a red light.

Tbund, Jack, and George Vogt Exec Director get down to the essentials, the numbers.  Let’s agree right here that numbers matter.  If the numbers for running OHS were right, a tax wouldn’t matter.

Do you really want to know what the folks at OHS make?  I don’t think so.

What you want to know is if they will get paid if OHS shuts down.  If they don’t get paid, will they bring a law suit for back wages based on the notes and emails they’ve saved for just such an emergency that show in fact that they’ve been working twenty-eight hours a day, including vacation time?

Walt Nichols wins the Portland Tribune’s Best Comment Of The Week Award.  Walt, my name is David Gillaspie.  I’m an Oregonian.  I worked high school and college summers in the fish plants and saw mills around North Bend, Oregon.  I joined the Army from Oregon and did what they told me to do.  I’m a Portland State history grad after time at SOU and UofO.

I’ve lived in Philadelphia and New York.  Most important here, I worked at OHS for nineteen years.  19, not twenty.  After nineteen years I picked up my personal belongings from a security guard in the parking garage at 6:30 one morning.


Because I’m one of those people who got sideways with their supervisor over a museum collection issue.

At the time my job title was museum Collection Manager.  I wanted to know why my gear was left out in the rain during the move from NW 14th and Everret to the current storage location.

I accepted my fate, along with a check based on my years of service, and signed an agreement not to sue OHS. After nearly twenty years my golden parachute opened to about $6K after pulling in $14 an hour in my best year.

I’ve been called a bitter ex-employee, and treated like one by the faint hearts at OHS at the end.  It happens with people so out of touch they ride a once thriving regional museum into the ground and expect the general population to care.

All the questions asked in regard to Steve Law’s article on OHS are, in actual fact, a benefit to OHS.  How about a few unasked questions from a non-bitterman?

1. Do you know anyone who takes their dog to work?

2. Do you know any married couples who are listed near the top of the employee list of a successful company’s masthead?

3. Do you know anyone with job titles like those listed below who keep their job titles while their company circles the drain?

Executive Director.

Director Development & Marketing.

Director of Finance.

Director of Public Services.

If you want answers and transparency, make a call, write an email.  Schedule an appointment at ohs.org.

But be cordial and respectful.  If you want answers, go through the process. Eventually you’ll be in front of the right person, the one who feels your concern.

Register to vote and make your voice heard.

OHS will always be a shining light in a darkened history corner, a statement of meaning in an often overlooked section of America.

It is my Oregon.  It is yours, too.

Treat the Oregon Historical Society gently and you will reap the rewards past generations have enjoyed.

Love OHS for what it could be, and it will happen.

Vote one way or the other for the Oregon Historical Society, but vote.


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