Portland has been an interesting place to be lately, to say the least. For Kerry Tymchuk, the Executive Director of the Oregon Historical Society, Sunday night’s riots proved disheartening.
The museum on Park Avenue was attacked, windows were broken, flares were tossed in and an item was removed. The piece that was taken was an “Afro-American Heritage Bicentennial Commemorative Quilt,” according to a post by the OHS.
When found, the quilt was dirty, wet and torn in some places. The museum hopes it can be repaired and displayed once again. Despite that, though, Tymchuk considers the damage minor, considering what could have happened.
“We were lucky,” Tymchuk told Willamette Week. “The whole place could have gone up in flames.”
Tymchuk was disappointed that they were vandalized, given that they don’t sugar-coat the questionable parts of the state’s past.
“I feel some sadness that we were targeted, given the leadership we’ve shown in telling the true story of Oregon’s history, the good, bad and the ugly,” he said.
“Discussion, education and learning will help us move forward.”
“There’s a process in place for removing statutes. There are discussions going on across the county about that. But incidents and vandalism like we saw last night don’t advance the movement, they harm it,” he added.
He’s not the only one who is frustrated by the sad irony in the attack.
“It is sickening to me to see the destruction that occurred in Portland overnight,” Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said.
“For more than a century, the Oregon Historical Society, its staff of researchers, educators and volunteers have documented, preserved and shared Oregon’s history.”
“They have put a spotlight on white supremacy, racism, civil rights and social inequality. They have elevated the voices and stories of marginalized and under-served communities in Oregon.”
The OHS will rebuild, but on Monday after the dust settled, Tymchuk discovered a heartwarming spark of humanity amidst the chaos.
A handwritten note on a paper napkin, along with a single dollar bill, was placed at the front desk.
“Hello, I’m homeless, so I don’t have much to give you,” the note read, “just some of my bottle collecting money. But I saw your windows got broken and I wanted to help. You once gave me a free tour before the pandemic, so this is a thank you!”
The note was simply signed by “Oscar,” someone who clearly saw the damage and felt compelled to extend what generosity he could. And that generosity was deeply appreciated by Tymchuk and others — not for its monetary value, but for what it meant.
“We’ve been fortunate to receive many generous donations to OHS over the years — some upwards to a million or more dollars,” Tymchuk admitted, according to KOIN.
“No donation means more to me and to the society than this dollar donation from Oscar.”
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