MUSEUM BLOG: Why does history matter at all?

Forgive me while I get up on my soap box for just a moment. Typically I stay far away from anything even remotely political in my blog. But I cannot stay quiet about this — here’s why:

For several months, we have been deep into the development and facilitation of our current exhibit “What If Heroes Were Not Welcome Home?” The displays are based on the recently published book by the same name, written by popular author Linda Tamura. The exhibit is on tour from the Oregon History Museum in Portland and will be at the Hood River history museum until Feb. 26.

There are several components to this interpretive exhibit, including updates and additions to our permanent displays on the Japanese-American experience in Hood River County, both before World War II and after. So, we’ve had months of reading, researching and planning to make the visitors’ experience to the museum as rich and meaningful as possible in relation to this topic and the overall topic of racial prejudice and discrimination.

So forgive me for a moment if I share a bit of my incredulity when I read an article recently about a store (not in Oregon) that posted a sign stating “if you voted for , your business is not welcome at _.”

Now, I am purposely leaving off the names that go in the blanks because this blog is not about any particular political party agenda or stand; it’s about humanity and our responsibility as members of the community of the world.

When I saw this come across Facebook, I was shocked. I almost couldn’t believe it, as it reminded me so much of the “NO _ WANTED” signs that hung in many local businesses and businesses across the state after World War II. It was the time when Japanese-American families that had been incarcerated tried to return to their homes — many of which were gone.

The article went on to say that a full-page ad had been purchased and published in the local newspaper to inform people of the new policy. All I can say is WOW.

Again, it reminded me of the full-page ad that was placed in the Hood River County Sun on Feb. 9, 1945. The banner at the top of the ad says “_ ARE NOT WANTED IN HOOD RIVER.” Signed by 475 residents of Hood River County, the ad goes on to state that “__ will find it difficult, if not impossible, ever to operate in Hood River again.”

So I ask again, why does history matter? Listening in as hundreds of visitors walk through this exhibit, I am struck by how many people read some of the text on the display panels and say “I had no idea this happened!” Or “How could people have done this to others just because of their ethnic background?”

History matters so that we can learn about issues such as the incarceration and treatment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s and hopefully not repeat it. I’m sure that museums and historical institutions across America would echo my sentiment and fill in the blanks to read “African Americans” or “Native Americans” or ?

Museums have an obligation and responsibility to preserve the stories of our communities. They should tell the good stories about moments of success and happiness, but also the sad stories that tell of racial tension and blatant discrimination. The museum experience should be presented with facts and invite the visitor to form their own reaction.

I am confident that guests to “What If Heroes Were Not Welcome Home?” are leaving our building with a new and deeper understanding of a largely ignored topic. I sincerely hope that as they encounter racism and discrimination in our community that they will remember what they saw here and be willing to stand up and say “enough!”

For the close to 200 people who attended our opening program on Jan. 12 where we honored citizens of Hood River County who had the guts and desire to stand up against the hundreds crying for the removal of Japanese Americans from Hood River County, I know that you get what I’m saying.

We must preserve these stories. We must display and share these stories. We must remember and talk about them, encourage others to be informed and pass them on to our children. We must not forget our history, so that we can avoid the mistakes made in previous generations. We must take a stand. That’s why history matters.

If you have not had a chance to visit the exhibit yet, please take time before it is gone to its next location.

That’s all for now. From my desk (soapbox) … Connie Nice.

Latest stories

Latest video:

Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

Log in to comment

News from our Community Partners