July 22, 2011 by David Gillaspie
THEY SPENT THE MONEY, YOU SPEND THE TIME
If someone invested $2.5 million in what you do, would you take it?
Probably not if it came from a drug cartel or North Korea.
Just to be clear, neither Kim Jong-Il or El Chapo gave the Oregon Historical Society two and a half million; the Oregon state lottery did.
Will the leaders of OHS do something different with $2.5 million than the leaders of the Sinaloa Federation or the Pyongyang Gang would do?
Let’s say it together, “Yes, they will.”
Since it is an investment, I have a few ideas, but first let’s clear up a few perceptions about history.
Most of the time, history means reading books with pages so dry they crack and dissolve when you turn them. That’s old history. New history, or slanted history, comes at you from an angle of disbelief and creates more doubt than satisfaction.
Either way, you deal with books, and not everyone wants a history lesson on paper.
OHS is 3D history. You can walk around it, look under it, but you can’t touch it. Is that alone worth $2.5 million? Probably not, since the museum already has exhibits on their floor.
What makes history worth the money, along with the tax levy from Multnomah County?
Since the county and the state invested money in OHS, you can invest some time. If you’re a county resident, OHS is free; all you have to do is show up.
What returns do you get for your time spent? Start with an identity. Who do you want to be? At OHS you can be a pioneer or a race car builder; a farmer or an athlete. History gives you those choices, but instead of a soundbite of identity, you get the whole story.
History creates a context of our time. Learn the history secret: we aren’t the first people living here; time didn’t start the moment we arrived. Once that sinks in, you start to change.
Of course you’ll have to work a little for it, you’ll have to think.
The key to identity is historical thought, from “What happened” to “this is where everything changed.”
The Oregon History museum helps create those thoughts.
Would rival gangs shoot up each others’ neighborhoods if they had more historical thoughts? Would businessmen promote as many activities harmful to the environment if they had more?
Let’s find out.
Make OHS a hub of civic discussion at all levels. Welcome issues from around Portland, the state, and beyond. Make plans to visit and stay a while. After all, it sits in it’s choice location for that reason: once you get there you feel as if you’ve arrived someplace special.
Which isn’t to say anything against rodeo grounds.
Take your kid after they’ve been on a field trip to the museum. and let them tell you all about it.
Some say a school field trip to OHS is a wasted day. They are wrong.
Kids may not remember all they saw there, or what they heard, but they will remember how they felt, and you can’t buy that anywhere.
It’s your Oregon, our Oregon, our story. Get the best return on the money invested and compound your interest.
For reminders, spending time inside the Oregon Historical Society isn’t the same as going into an adjustable rate mortgage tied to the prime lending rate; in other words, you won’t drown or go upside down.
It’s not that kind of investment.