By Bob Hicks
It’s not often we call attention to a front-page newspaper story — after all, it’s right there on the front page; how could you miss it? — but today we’re doing just that. If you haven’t looked at it yet, please read Still Stuck in the Past, D.K. Row’s front-page story in today’s Oregonian about the continuing woes at the Oregon Historical Society in spite of the five-year levy that Multnomah County voters recently passed to help bail the place out.
This is no hatchet job. D.K.’s story is well-balanced and gives a good insight into the complex issues that have been hurting the society and its museum for years. In a way, OHS offers a disconcerting peek into the future of all sorts of public institutions, from schools to police and street departments, if the tax-revolt and “privatization” bandwagons continue unchecked. If you starve an institution long enough, it starts to make blunders and lose track of what it is and what it’s supposed to be doing.
Certainly the state’s now-you-see-it-but-mostly-you-don’t approach to funding has been a huge contributor to the historical society’s troubles. But the place has also had structural, managerial problems for years, to a certain extent since its glory days under its legendary leader Tom Vaughan.