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News Releases
OHS collections staff assess the Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt after conservation in December 2021. Oregon Historical Society photograph.
OHS collections staff assess the Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt after conservation in December 2021. Oregon Historical Society photograph.
Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt and First U.S. Flag Flown in Portland on View July 4th Weekend at the Oregon Historical Society (Photo) - 06/29/22

Portland, OR — On special exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society (OHS) for this weekend only are two unique objects from OHS’s museum collection. From July 1 through July 5, visitors will have the rare opportunity to view the Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt and what is believed to be the first U.S. flag raised in Portland after Oregon became a state.

The Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt was last on view at OHS in October 2020, in a special display developed in partnership with Portland Textile Month. Each square of the quilt, crafted from 1974 to 1976 in honor of the American Bicentennial, honors a Black individual or moment in history. Fifteen Black women from Portland sewed the quilt, who later donated it to OHS and entrusted it to the Society’s care. Less than a week after it had been put on public view, on October 11, 2020, vandals shattered windows in OHS’s pavilion and stole the quilt from its display. Police found it and returned it the next morning, stained and soaking wet from the rain. 

OHS collections staff immediately laid out the drenched textile on top of clean, cotton, undyed towels on a flat surface to stabilize this important piece of Oregon history. While the quilt fortunately had not suffered major structural damage (rips, areas of fabric loss, etc.), there was significant, red-colored staining either due to the red fabric bleeding from moisture or from contact from the red paint protestors had used. Once the quilt was dry and stabilized, collections staff sent it to Textile Conservation Workshop (TCW) to begin conservation of the quilt to work to restore it to its original condition. The process was time-consuming and costly and required the quilt to be disassembled — each quilt block removed from the backing, batting, and binding. TCW only used conservation-quality products and materials and took the time to sew along the original stitch lines with all the quilt blocks in their original locations, and the newly restored quilt that visitors will see this weekend is beautiful.

OHS is also thrilled to exhibit for the first time in nearly a decade what is believed to be the very first American flag raised in Portland after Oregon became a state. Ann Elizabeth Bills, who sewed the flag, and her husband, Cincinnati Bills, traveled from Indiana to Oregon in 1853. Mr. Bills started Portland’s first hauling business, which became the Oregon Transfer Company. In 1861, Mrs. Bills was asked to sew an American flag to celebrate Independence Day. The flag, which was last displayed at OHS in 2013, has been well-preserved by museum collections staff since it was first flown on 4th Avenue in Portland on July 4, 1861.  

For those unable to visit the museum in person, the Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt (OHS Museum, 77-57.1) and the Bills flag (OHS Museum, 61-133) are available to view on OHS’s Museum Collection Portal (museumcollection.ohs.org) — a public, online database highlighting the incredible objects in the museum’s care. OHS’s museum preserves over 75,000 objects that document the history of the region, which includes clothing and textiles, Native American belongings, artworks, vehicles, equipment, and everyday items. When the Portal launched in January 2022, in provided access to the records for over 10,000 of these objects, with new records being added regularly. 

The Oregon Historical Society’s museum hours this weekend are 10am to 5pm Friday and Saturday, 12pm to 5pm Sunday, and 10am to 5pm Tuesday (closed Monday in observance of the July 4 holiday). Admission to view these objects is free, while regular museum admission applies to visit OHS’s other current exhibitions.


About the Oregon Historical Society

For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms & website (www.ohs.org), educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view. 

Anja Jolin in 2020
Anja Jolin in 2020
Oregon Students Reach Finals Round, Win Notable Awards at Virtual National History Day(R) Contest (Photo) - 06/27/22

Portland, OR — The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) is proud to announce that 46 middle and high school students from across the state of Oregon participated in this year’s virtual National History Day® (NHD) contest, presenting individual or group projects in one of five categories: documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website. Four Oregon entries made it to the Finals Round and ranked among the top 10 in the nation, with two projects placing second and third in their categories. These high-quality entries advanced to compete against more than 2,700 students from across the country after placing first or second in the virtual Oregon History Day contest.

Longtime NHD participant Anja Jolin, a senior at St. Mary’s Academy, placed second in the nation for her senior paper, “Delegitimizing Diplomacy: The Berlin West Africa Conference.” Having competed in NHD since 8th grade, this paper is the capstone of an incredibly impressive career in the contest, with previous projects winning the national affiliate awards for Oregon and placing as high as 8th in the nation. Jolin has used her NHD projects to explore a wide variety of topics over the years, including South Africa’s transition to democracy, policewomen breaking barriers in Portland, and the legal impacts of the Berhanu v. Metzger trial. 

For her 2022 paper, Jolin found that “primary sources from the African perspective were particularly difficult to find because of limited written documentation from this time period and the destruction of historical artifacts that occurred under European colonial systems.” She therefore “relied on primary source quotes and excerpts contained within secondary sources” and was able to successfully make the “historical argument . . . that under the guise of diplomacy, European leaders at the Berlin Conference established rules for the occupation of Africa that ignored the rights and interests of Africans. The resulting partition of Africa into European-controlled colonies left a legacy of economic and political instability that persists to this day.”

Sunset High School freshman Jasper Gu’s senior individual exhibit, The Orphan Drug Act: How Debate and Diplomacy Improved Healthcare for Orphan Disease Patientsplaced third in the nation after having previously finished second at this year’s Oregon History Day contest. Gu’s exhibit was exceptional in that he interviewed Henry Waxman, the congressman credited with creating the Orphan Drug Act who was the chair of the Health and Environment Subcommittee at the time (1983). Gu first competed in History Day as a middle school student with his exhibit Rosalind Franklin: The Discovery of DNA’s Structure and the Impact on Women in STEM. Judges remarked that they learned a lot from his 2022 National History Day project and that he used a “great application of data to illustrate [the] points being made.” 

Three additional entries also earned special awards for their excellent work. McKenzie Rose of Echo School was honored by the National Museum of American History for the second consecutive year by having her senior individual exhibit, The Debatable Trent Affair: How Strategic Diplomacy Prevented War, included in the Smithsonian Learning Lab’s virtual showcase. One student project is nominated by the state coordinator for this honor, and Rose’s project stood out thanks to her thorough research and excellent design. Her exhibit was also honored with the United States Naval and Maritime History: Preserve, Promote, and Celebrate Award for Oregon this year.

The ACCESS Academy team of Alexa Buckley, Franka Gronke, Hazel Miranda Zellnik, Jolee Ray, and Fiona Snyder and Helix School’s MayaBella Texior earned the Outstanding Affiliate Award at the junior and senior level respectively. Both projects placed among the top ten in the nation and were created by students who were participating in History Day for the first time. In the award-winning junior group performance, The 1912 Oregon Suffrage Vote: How Tactics Make and Break Debates, the students argued that a major factor in the success of the Oregon suffrage movement was the mass advertising campaigns deployed to promote the movement. One judge at the national contest noted of Texidor’s senior individual documentary, EXCOMM: The Internal Debates of Kennedy's Secret Council, “that this documentary was your first attempt at video-making is astonishing to me. I sincerely hope it won’t be your last.” Judges also commended Texidor for focusing her project on EXCOMM, rather than the larger Cuban Missile Crisis. 

“Each year, we are inspired by students’ History Day projects, which continue to show us that there are no limits to the questions we can ask of the past and the insights we can gain from exploring those questions,” said Eliza E. Canty-Jones, OHS Chief Program Officer.

OHS is proud of the hard work and countless hours these students and their teachers spent on these projects and wish to congratulate them along with all the students who participated in the Oregon History Day program this year. A big thank you to the Oregon volunteer judges as well for their excellent input, which helped students improve their projects ahead of their national debut. OHS is eager to see what students create for next year’s contest around the theme “Frontiers in History: People, Places, Ideas.”

About Oregon History Day:

Oregon History Day, part of National History Day®, is a renowned, evidence-based middle and high school program. Facilitated by the Oregon Historical Society, this culturally responsive program invites students to interpret a historical event that connects to the annual theme by creating a website, paper, performance, exhibit, or documentary.

Oregon History Day is a highly adaptable program. Students can select their own topic to research, or teachers can choose a broad category to guide their students’ projects. With the assistance of educators, librarians, and online resources, students analyze primary and secondary sources to develop and support their thesis. Creating an Oregon History Day project is immensely rewarding for students, many of whom participate over consecutive years. Oregon History Day meets the state standards in multiple subjects and can support the teaching of standards related to Ethnic Studies, Tribal History / Shared History, and Holocaust and Genocide education.

Educators are encouraged to contact the Oregon Historical Society by emailing history.day@ohs.org if they are interested in bringing this program to their classroom. For more information on National History Day®, visit www.nhd.org.


About the Oregon Historical Society

For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms & website (www.ohs.org), educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view. 

The Oregon Trunk Railroad bridge spanning the Crooked River Canyon in the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint. OHS Research Library, Org. Lot. 78, box 3, folder 2, 001.
The Oregon Trunk Railroad bridge spanning the Crooked River Canyon in the Peter Skene Ogden State Scenic Viewpoint. OHS Research Library, Org. Lot. 78, box 3, folder 2, 001.
Celebrate State Parks Day by Visiting the Oregon Historical Society's Oregon State Parks Centennial Exhibitions (Photo) - 05/31/22

**Media Availability: Photographer Peter Marbach and OHS Boyle Family Executive Director Kerry Tymchuk will be available for press interviews at the Oregon Historical Society on Thursday, June 2, at 11am.

Portland, OR — Each year on the first Saturday in June, folks across the country celebrate State Parks Day, an opportunity to the honor nation’s beautiful natural spaces preserved for adventure and recreation. This year, the Oregon State Parks system celebrates its centennial, a legacy dating back to 1922 when Oregon Trail pioneer Sarah Helmick and her son donated the 5.46 acres of land near Monmouth, Oregon, that would become Oregon’s first state park, Sarah Helmick State Recreation Site.

Over the course of 100 years, the Oregon State Park system has grown to include 254 properties across Oregon providing rest and recreational opportunities for over 42 million visitors annually. Encompassing tiny waysides, the entire ocean shoreline, and massive tracts of forestland, rivers, and canyons, Oregon state parks are among the most visited and most popular in the United States. 

To celebrate this historic anniversary, the Oregon Historical Society has created two original exhibitions to provide visitors with a past and present view of Oregon’s state parks. For A Century of Wonder: 100 Years of Oregon State Parks, OHS commissioned photographer Peter Marbach to document the beauty and geographic diversity of these spaces, some quiet and some bustling with visitors. 

From Vista House in the Columbia River Gorge to the crashing waves at Shore Acres State Park to climbers ascending a wall at Smith Rock State Park, this exhibition highlights numerous ways that the Oregon State Parks system has preserved natural and historic sites for Oregonians and visitors to appreciate for many years to come. The 60 images Marbach captured for this project, a portion of which are on display in this exhibition, will become a part of the Oregon Historical Society’s permanent collection, furthering future understanding of the past by documenting the present.

Marbach traveled the state for two years to document the raw beauty in these natural spaces, which proved challenging during a period marred by a global pandemic, extreme weather, and wildfires, all causing park closures. In his artist statement, Marbach noted how this project taught him incredible resilience and focus, and through his photographs, he hopes that “this exhibit inspires people to seek out the gifts of joy, beauty, and healing that time spent in these treasured parks always provides.”

In an adjacent gallery, visitors can see A Walk in the Park: Historic Photographs of Oregon State Parks, featuring a selection of prints from OHS’s research library collections. The Oregon Historical Society’s research library holds the largest collection of archival and published materials relating to the history of Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, and OHS’s collections serve as a foundation for visitors to research and reflect on our state and regional history. Using these historic photos as a foil to Marbach’s contemporary works, A Walk in the Park is a reminder of the importance of these natural spaces to Oregon’s long, rich history. 

These exhibitions are both on view now through October 16, 2022. The Oregon Historical Society’s museum and store is open seven days a week, Monday – Saturday from 10am – 5pm and Sunday from 12pm – 5pm. Admission is $10, with discounts for students, seniors, teachers, and youth. Admission is free every day for OHS members and Multnomah County residents.


About the Oregon Historical Society

For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society has served as the state’s collective memory, preserving a vast collection of artifacts, photographs, maps, manuscript materials, books, films, and oral histories. Our research library, museum, digital platforms & website (ohs.org), educational programming, and historical journal make Oregon’s history open and accessible to all. We exist because history is powerful, and because a history as deep and rich as Oregon’s cannot be contained within a single story or point of view.