Curator Chats: Introducing “Our Unfinished Past: The Oregon Historical Society at 125”

October 4, 2022

By Megan Lallier-Barron

For over 125 years, the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) has preserved Oregon’s history through its collections, library, educational programs, exhibitions, and scholarship. As museum curator, Megan Lallier-Barron has spent the past year working to encapsulate OHS’s complex institutional history within an original exhibition, “Our Unfinished Past: The Oregon Historical Society at 125,” opening on January 13, 2023. In this photo, Lallier-Barron and registrar Kim Buergel browse OHS’s museum collection to select objects for display in this forthcoming exhibition. Photo by Evan Kierstead.

When I visit museums, I enjoy exploring exhibitions and discovering the creative ways that other museum professionals build immersive experiences. In history museums, that work involves investigating the past through the evidence we collect and preserve — the objects, photographs, documents, personal stories, and more. As a museum curator, the process excites me, especially as I begin new projects.

In 2023, the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) will commemorate its 125th anniversary with an original exhibition called Our Unfinished Past: The Oregon Historical Society at 125. Over the past year, I have been engrossed in our archives and collections, working to develop an exhibition that tells our story — a tall order for an institution whose mandate for over a century has been to collect and preserve Oregon’s history.

As we near this milestone anniversary and the opening of Our Unfinished Past on January 13, 2023, we invite you behind the scenes in the first in a series of “Curator Chats” that will highlight the people, events, and powerful stories that have shaped OHS for more than twelve decades.

Megan Lallier-Barron examines artworks that are stored at OHS’s offsite collections facility. Photo by Evan Kierstead.
Throughout the curation of this exhibition, Lallier-Barron has scoured OHS’s museum and research library collections to select objects, photographs, manuscripts, and more that highlight diverse voices from Oregon’s past and the many people who have entrusted their stories to OHS’s care. Here, Lallier-Barron examines artworks that are stored at OHS’s offsite collections facility. Photo by Evan Kierstead.

To understand our world, we must look to the historical record — the primary sources and the work people have done to make sense of them — to gain new insights about the people who came before us and how their actions shape our present. Our hope is that through this exhibition, and through this video series, you will have the opportunity to learn more about the Oregon Historical Society, and our vision to share an Oregon story that is meaningful to all Oregonians. 

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