StoryCorps to visit UO science and culture museum this week

Museum of Natural and Cultural History courtyard

The UO's Museum of Natural and Cultural History is partnering with the Emmy Award-winning oral history organization StoryCorps to document the experiences of Oregonians involved in social and environmental justice movements. 

The museum’s project, titled Oregon Stories: Speaking of Justice, will bring StoryCorps to campus this week to record conversations between 15 participant pairs who will discuss their work in civil rights, climate stewardship, indigenous cultural justice, educational equity and more.

“Oregonians are change-makers,” said museum executive director Jon Erlandson. “From civil and indigenous rights to cultural and environmental stewardship, Oregonians have been at the forefront of movements toward justice, helping transform our world through scholarship, artistic expression, education, advocacy and action. We are proud to partner with StoryCorps to document such stories and formally add them to the national record.”

StoryCorps’ UO visit is an outgrowth of the museum’s 2018 win of a National Medal for Museum and Library Services, awarded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services following nominations by U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, both Oregon Democrats.

With support from the institute, StoryCorps travels to medal-winning libraries and museums to record stories of their programs and communities.

The StoryCorps model involves recording unscripted conversations between people who know each other well in order to capture and share stories of Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs. The largest oral history project of its kind, StoryCorps broadcasts weekly on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition, shares audio clips on its podcast and permanently archives its recordings at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

The 2018 medal recognized the museum’s service to Oregon communities, with special focus on its educational outreach program. Since its inception, the program has reached schools and libraries in nearly every county of Oregon, emphasizing rural communities with limited access to science museums. 

“Oregon’s rural students face significant barriers to success in STEM fields,” said Ann Craig, public programs director at the museum. “One of the barriers is limited access to the informal learning experiences science museums offer. Our outreach program is designed to address that barrier and the related opportunity gap that exists between Oregon’s rural and urban students.”

Among the scheduled participants are Jason Younker, enrolled member of the Coquille Indian Tribe and UO assistant vice president and advisor to the president on sovereignty and government-to-government relations; Charles Dalton, former director of the Eugene/Springfield National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Lane County Commissioner Joe Berney; Sarah Stednitz and Emily Sales, outreach co-chairs of UO Women in Graduate Science; former UO Many Nations Longhouse steward and Klamath tribal member Gordon Bettles; and rural educational equity champion Stephanie Carnahan, who directs the college readiness program Oregon GEAR UP.

Recordings will take place at the museum on April 27, 28 and 29.

“Since its founding, the museum has served as a home for Oregon’s deep history, collaborating with Native American tribes, researchers, artists and others to gather, preserve and share our stories,” Erlandson said. “We are delighted to continue the tradition and honor these diverse storytellers through the StoryCorps project.”

—by Kristin Strommer, Museum of Natural and Cultural History