[Heritage] Students Honored for Saving Historic Items from Floods

Heritage Info heritage.info at state.or.us
Fri Feb 17 09:44:39 PST 2012

When floods threatened two Willamette Valley museums last month,
students from Western Oregon University and Willamette University
responded to emergency calls and helped save important items in their
collections.  For their effort, Heritage Programs of the Oregon Parks
and Recreation Department has given the students and the service
programs that alerted them Heritage Stewardship Recognition

“These museums are stewards of the cultural heritage of their
communities. In a time of crisis, these busy students dropped their
regular activities to rush and help save hundreds of significant
cultural artifacts,” said Roger Roper, the leader of OPRD’s Heritage
Programs. “We want to recognize them for their work on behalf of
current and future generations of Willamette Valley residents.”

Staff at Salem’s Willamette Heritage Center arrived on Jan. 19 to
find its mill race full with rushing water. Based on the forecast for
the day and the damage sustained during the 1996 flood they took
preventative measures and began moving historic objects to higher
ground. Since time was of the essence, they decided to round up

Amy Vandegrift, the director of development and volunteers at the
center, contacted the Community Service Learning program of Willamette
University to gather additional people. In less than two hours students,
alerted to the emergency by emails and text messages, had arrived and
were at work. 

Vandegrift was moved by the turnout. “They were so helpful and
incredibly responsive to our need. Exceptionally generous!,” she

At the Independence Heritage Museum, staff were surprised to arrive to
a flooded basement, having had no record of such flooding in the past.
Museum director Peggy Smith began re-organizing the collections. Quickly
deciding she needed help, Smith contacted Roben Jack, curator of the
Jensen Arctic Museum, who suggested a call to WOU. 

Before Smith was off the phone with information desk staff at WOU’s
Werner University Center, they had sent a tweet about the emergency and
the volunteers had begun to arrive. The students, primarily football
players and members of the Wolves Helping Others student club, slogged
through the water and saved every item in the basement.

 “Their service was invaluable,” said Smith, “When I was their
age I didn’t do anything like this. It is nice to see that sort of

The Heritage Stewardship Recognition program was initiated by Heritage
Programs of the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to raise the
profile of Oregonians who go the extra mile in protecting the state’s
heritage. The certificates went to the Community Services Learning
program, Megan Neish, Jordan Wildish, Meara Gordanier, Megan Nanry,
Meredith Miller, Matthew Bateman, and Shanel Parette at Willamette

At Western Oregon University, the certificates went to the Werner
University Center’s Information Desk, the Wolves Helping Others club,
the WOU football program, Rebecca Eldred, Marcus Cuellar, Trent
Gallegas, Summer Swonski, Stacy Potter, Daniel Aumua, Sean Fujinaga,
Brad Hall, Emily Bridges, Pristene Delegato, Spencer Bell, Hannah Seely,
Justin Cassens, Chris Ekstedt, Jessica Sandalo, Robert Elmer, Chelsea
Beecroft, Katie Williams, and Brian Plasker.

“The flood is an important reminder for all museums, libraries,
archives and heritage sites about the need to have plans for responding
to emergencies,” said Kyle Jansson, coordinator of the Oregon Heritage
Commission. “Not all will discover a potential disaster early and have
strong, caring students nearby to prevent major losses.”

For more information visit www.oregonheritage.org or contact Kuri Gill
at Kuri.Gill at state.or.us and (503) 986-0685.

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