(Mis)representations of History: Displays of Difficult History in Oregon Community Museums
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In Oregon, the vast majority of community museums are history museums focusing on local history. According to the Oregon Museums Association, of the 58 museums registered with them, 52 of those museums are focused on local and regional history. These museums have largely focused on pioneer history and display how white Europeans settled the land. While this is one aspect of Oregon history, many Oregon community museums fail to display difficult histories, or history that recalls trauma, oppression and/or violence. With current museology focusing on the diversification of exhibits through the inclusion of difficult histories, there is an apparent disconnect between this research and actual practice in Oregon museums. In this research project, I critically analyze visual representations at eleven (11) Oregon community history museums through site observations, document analysis and with three (3) of the museums, through interviews of curators and/or museum directors. I argue that as important sites of history and community outreach, these museums miss opportunities to educate the public and include minorities that have largely been left out of the Oregon narrative.