Here at the ODNP, we’re always thrilled to hear about or see how Oregon’s historic newspapers are being used. The weekend of March 14, 2014 marked one of these instances right here in our hometown of Eugene, where a Lane County Historical Museum exhibit titled, “Women of the Gold Rush West” debuted to hundreds of community members in the lobby of the Hult Center, in conjunction with the Eugene Opera’s performance of Puccini’s “The Girl of the Golden West.”
The exhibit, which included women’s clothing from the 1850s, an antique saloon sign, a gold dust bag, and other items that would typically have been found in a Gold Rush Era saloon, was created and coordinated by Dorothy Bayern, a graduate student in the University of Oregon’s Folklore program, as part of her terminal project for her Master’s degree.
Dorothy’s research focuses on “clothing traditions, and in particular how clothing in museum settings helps people connect to other cultures and historical periods,” so fittingly, the exhibit included an interactive “dress up” station, where people could don bonnets, cowboy hats, and other period clothing items and props, and then have their picture taken in front of a country backdrop. Of course, our favorite part of the display was a replica of the November 4, 1848 issue of the Oregon Free Press, printed from our Historic Oregon Newspapers website! The Oregon Free Press was published in Oregon City from April to November of 1848, at which point the paper was forced to suspend due to the outflow of subscribers to the gold mines of California. (Read more about the history of the Free Press here.)
Nestled next to a Wells Fargo driver’s cap from the 1850s, the newspaper was a great fit for the exhibit! Dorothy explains, “Oregon and California were both on the American frontier in the 1850s. Many Americans left Oregon for the famous California Gold Rush, but Oregon had gold rushes too, which is why Lane County Historical Museum has artifacts like the gold dust bag on display, and mining equipment currently on display at the museum. This newspaper was the perfect final touch to connect the opera’s depiction of gold rush life to local history in Oregon.”
This excellent exhibit is now available for viewing at the Lane County Historical Museum through the end of March, so go check it out if you can! Many thanks to Dorothy Bayern and the Lane County Historical Museum for including this unique Oregon newspaper in the exhibit! Very well done!