Lewis and Clark

`Cargo' near home a real bonus

The use of disparate combinations of people and concepts is an elemental part of advertising. Sometimes they are oddly effective (think Mother Nature selling margarine) and sometimes they are off-putting.

Such is the case with a new radio ad featuring a chipper-and-smug Lewis and Clark touting an airline.

It's too bad that the airline has co-opted the identity of the leaders of the Corps of Discovery leaders in this way. It makes no sense; to the explorers, "bonus miles" meant any stretch of river without headwinds or mosquitoes.

In this case, the writers take it a step farther by having America's greatest pathfinders fret about airport security delays. The ad definitely breaches the Northwest Crass-age.

Yet this is hardly the first example of advertising that cheapens the Lewis and Clark names. In similar fashion, television ads from a certain Oregon coastal town show "Lewis and Clark" as bumpkins cavorting on the boardwalk and lugging shopping bags.

But it's time to take the explorers seriously. No more stupid jokes about smelly buckskins and miniature golf.

That's where the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center comes in. The museum (located just down the freeway this side of The Dalles) has received a $40,000 grant from the Collins Foundation for the center's upcoming exhibit "Cargo: the Supplies and Equipment of the Lewis and Clark Expedition."

Oregon Tourism Commission officials say the exhibit will be one of the three most important Lewis and Clark events during the forthcoming Lewis and Clark Bicentennial in 2003-05, along with programs at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland, and events in Astoria near where the Corps of Discovery completed its westward journey. The grant, used in conjunction with Oregon Heritage Commission and USDA Forest Service funds, will allow the center to phase in the project in 2003, a year earlier than planned, officials have said. The Collins grant will help provide a "children's explorer room," and the first installment in a seven-part exhibit on Lewis and Clark.

Meriweather Lewis began researching and organizing the expedition's supply needs as soon as he went to Philadelphia to learn botany, astral navigation, and other skills he would need in the unknown wilds. So anything that informs us today about the Corp of Discovery's prairie-crossing logistics is a welcome sign.

And, like licorice root was to Lewis and Clark, "Cargo" at a museum in our backyard is a real bonus.

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