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    'Living History Day' denotes a new chapter for the Oregon Military Museum

    'Living History Day' denotes a new chapter for the Oregon Military Museum

    Photo By John Hughel | Veterans, visitors and history buffs spend time touring the Historic Park during...... read more read more



    Story by John Hughel 

    Oregon National Guard Public Affairs Office

    CLACKAMAS, Ore. – Veterans, visitors, and history buffs took advantage of an unseasonably warm afternoon to attend the Oregon Military Museum’s “Living History Day,” experiencing firsthand a collection of historical reenactments, dynamic displays, and interactive engagements on May 20, 2023.

    “With today being Armed Forces Day, we also wanted to show Living History Day as a representation of what we are becoming,” said Katrina O’Brien, Director of Programs Services for the Oregon Military Museum. “We’ve brought together a range of reenactments and organizations that show the depth and breadth of Oregon’s military history – as well as engaging present-day military units continuing on Oregon’s military legacy.”

    The Oregon Military Museum (OMM) has been closed for over 15 years but during this time, work has continued, including renovations to its new home, the former Clackamas Armory. OMM plans to fully open its doors and unveil a suite of new exhibits in 2024.

    The 13,000-square-foot main exhibit gallery, located in the building’s former Drill Floor, will feature a timeline of Oregon history. Visitors will travel through regional and global events highlighted by the Oregonians and artifacts that were there. The Weapons Gallery will showcase a selection from OMM’s renowned firearms collection, one of the largest publicly available small arms collections west of the Mississippi River. There will also be a temporary gallery with rotating exhibits.

    In addition to displays and programming featuring members of all branches of service, the Museum also houses The Thomas E. Withycombe Library, a research library with over 30,000 military-related publications, a photo collection, archives, and multimedia, where people can do research on-site.

    “Over the course of the next few years, we hope to have our collections catalog available to the public online, making the collections and the stories and histories they hold accessible alongside our exhibits, which can only hold a finite number of objects and stories at any one time,” O’Brien said, explaining a multi-use approach once the museum is opened. “We hope to engage more field trips to the museum, connecting those of all ages to Oregon’s history through exhibits and programming, while continuing to connect additional outreach to our veteran communities and other groups.”

    There were several reenactment groups set up for Living History Day, representing the Vietnam War era, all the way back to the American Civil War. Visitors were also able to tour a traveling exhibit featuring former U.S. Senator and Governor Mark O. Hatfield. The exhibit, “The Call of Public Service: The Life and Legacy of Mark O. Hatfield,” is on display at OMM through September 30, 2023.

    “In addition to the traveling exhibit, we have two historic buildings original to Camp Withycombe that are open to the public for the summer months,” said Kathleen Sligar, Museum Director, and Curator. “One of these buildings highlights the history of logistics in Oregon, while the other showcases a collection of Japanese and American artillery pieces from the American Civil War to WWII. When we open fully to the public next year, there will also be three dedicated gallery spaces, as well as the Hall of Valor, honoring Oregon’s Medal of Honor recipients.”

    Sligar said that admission to the Oregon Military Museum, its Historic Park, and all programming is free to the public. With many touring the Quartermaster Storehouse and the Battery ‘A’ Field Artillery Horse Barn, she was happy to see such a good turnout of visitors.

    “Having people here is exciting, and seeing the grounds become a living, breathing space is so amazing,” she said, as people toured the Historic Park, filled with tabling heritage and military-related organizations from around the region, which included several historic vehicles as well as the Museum’s own permanent outdoor display of armored tanks.

    “We’ve been so busy getting the ‘insides ready’ [for the grand opening], so it’s great to see how engaged people are today. It is reinvigorating and reminds me of why I do what I do,” Sligar said.

    A key to events like Living History Day is the volunteers – nearly a dozen Historic Park Attendants were on hand to give insights and stories behind many of the exhibits.

    “We’re in the best position we’ve ever been,” said Mark Stevens, a museum volunteer and retired Oregon National Guardsman who first began to help the Oregon National Guard with the military museum in 1975. “This museum was somewhat of an afterthought by the Oregon Military Department, and for many years its existence was in doubt because funding and staffing was a problem.”

    Reflecting back to the early days of the Museum, Stevens said that it all transpired with the 3670th Maintenance Company under the command of Capt. Terry Aitken. “He basically started with a broom closet off the drill floor [at the Clackamas Armory, now Camp Withycombe] and had an interest in military history and was collecting interesting stuff from a variety of places.”

    By 1986, Stevens had left the Marine Corps Reserve and enlisted in the Oregon National Guard, where he joined the Museum Detachment, a position he would hold until he retired in 2011.

    “We traveled all over the Western States. It’s where we found the Japanese tank in Fallon, Nevada…the Sherman tank came from Gowen Field in Idaho…many of the cannons came from Fort Douglas (Utah)," Stevens said, recalling the places where many historic vehicles in the Oregon Military Museum were discovered. “Through Terry’s foresight, he was able to acquire these items, which are nearly impossible to get today.”

    In many ways, it’s been the volunteers and retired detachment members that have kept the Museum’s collection of items growing and the interest in the project alive throughout the past four decades.

    “Our volunteers are the ambassadors of the Museum,” O'Brien said. “They are here to help and assist our visitors, but they also play a vital role in the care and accessibility of our collections. From restoration to digitization, our volunteers enable the Museum to honor, educate, and preserve – which are the cornerstones of our mission – and provide essential services to the Museum’s growth.”

    OMM has three volunteer groups; Visitor Services (including Historic Park Attendants), Restoration Shop, and Collections and Archives, and is always looking for more volunteers to help in these essential areas.

    “This Museum is a hidden gem, it’s really going to be a resource and treasure for the State of Oregon,” Sligar said. “Oregonians and other visitors alike will walk away with a new sense of pride and understanding for our Armed Forces, as well as be humbled by the actions and sacrifices made by so many. There is much to discover here, truly something for everyone.”

    For more information about the Oregon Military Museum, volunteering, and more, visit or follow the Museum on Facebook and Twitter.



    Date Taken: 05.24.2023
    Date Posted: 05.25.2023 22:40
    Story ID: 445633
    Location: CLACKAMAS, OR, US 

    Web Views: 59
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