OHS Statement on October 11, 2020 Building Vandalism

OHS Members, Friends, and Supporters—

As many of you have likely seen, last night the Oregon Historical Society’s downtown facility suffered extensive vandalism.

The glass doors surrounding our entrance and plaza were smashed, and a small portion of the mural on the Sovereign Hotel building has been covered in paint. While our building is going to take time to repair, I am grateful that this destruction occurred at an hour where staff and visitors were away from the building and that no one was hurt. For everyone who has called, emailed, or sent us messages of support, we can't thank you enough for your kindness during this difficult time.

We are deeply saddened and hurt by the destruction of property. However, while windows can be replaced, our greatest concern has been for the Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt, which was taken from its display in our pavilion last night. Each square of the quilt, crafted in the mid-1970s, honors a Black individual or moment in history, and was sewn by 15 Black women from Portland, who donated it to OHS and entrusted it to our care. We were relieved this morning to learn that police recovered the quilt a few blocks from OHS. The quilt will remain off public display for the time being as our collections team assess any care needs.

We understand the significance and importance of the messages fueling the protests that have been taking place in our city and across the nation these past few months, as evidenced by much of our work during recent years. In 2019, we opened our new cornerstone exhibition, Experience Oregon, in collaboration with many community partners, including the nine federally recognized Tribes in Oregon, and the result demonstrates our commitment to telling honest Oregon history — the good, the bad, and the ugly. We dedicated the Winter 2019 issue of our journal, the Oregon Historical Quarterly, to the subject of “White Supremacy & Resistance,” and in the Summer 2020 issue, we published articles specifically related to OHS’ history as related to Indigenous leaders and belongings.

As we clean up broken glass, scrub paint, and make plans to ensure safety in our building, we also, as always, welcome critique of our work. We would be grateful to have constructive feedback from all those who are willing and able to aid OHS in fulfilling our vision of an Oregon story that is meaningful to all Oregonians.

Since last night, we have seen new memberships and donations made online to support our work and the clean-up effort — but none have affected me as much as a gift from our neighbor, Oscar. In a note that accompanied a $1 donation, Oscar wrote: “Hello, I’m homeless so I don’t have much to give you, just some of my bottle collecting money. But I saw your windows got broken and wanted to help. You once gave me a free tour before the pandemic, so this is a thank you.” In my time as Executive Director, I have seen OHS receive truly incredible gifts — but this one has touched my heart tremendously.

Thank you again for your friendship, your compassion, and your support.

In community,

Kerry Tymchuk
Executive Director