Two organizations receive stewardship awards from MNCH

Wildflower field

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History has announced the winners of its annual Oregon Stewardship Award, recognizing two organizations, The Immigrant Story and OregonFlora, with the statewide honor.

Launched in 2018 by the museum’s advisory council, the $1,000 award recognizes an individual or organization for involving the community in an environmental or cultural heritage project, one that aligns with the museum's mission to inspire stewardship of the region’s collective past, present and future. This year, donor support enabled the museum to expand the program and offer two awards.

“We saw dozens of nominations this year, each one a testament to how deeply Oregonians care about our ecosystems and cultures,” said Ann Craig, public programs director at the museum. “We are delighted to be able to recognize two outstanding winners this year.”

The Immigrant Story documents and shares experiences of people arriving in the state as immigrants, using a variety of media and storytelling techniques to help amplify newcomers’ voices, dispel myths and build empathy across Oregon communities. Made up of volunteer journalists, photographers, podcasters, web developers and designers, the organization creates public exhibitions, like the yearlong ‘There is a Land Over the Ocean’ that appeared last year at Portland International Airport, and provides storytelling lesson plans to schools and educators around the state.

“We believe stories told today become history tomorrow,” said photographer Sankar Raman of The Immigrant Story. “Our goal is to combat historical erasure by bringing marginalized voices to public spaces, recording and archiving them for the future. We believe these stories of finding home here in Oregon are as much a part of Oregon history as the stories from the Oregon Trail.”

Based at Oregon State University, OregonFlora is a comprehensive resource for learning about the nearly 5,000 species of trees, grasses, ferns and wildflowers present in our ecologically diverse state. The organization presents detailed botanical information through its three-volume “Flora of Oregon” book series, a wildflower identification app and website.

By sharing these tools with the public, from K-12 students to backyard landscapers to federal forest managers, OregonFlora helps Oregonians improve their environment, mitigate adverse human effects and plan for a healthier future.

“Plants define the human experience; they help feed, clothe and house us. They also develop our sense of place,” said OregonFlora director Linda Hardison. “To get to know the species that create the habitats and landscapes we live in brings a better understanding and a sense of belonging to where we call home.”

The competitive award program, which annually draws nominations from around the state, also named four finalists this year. The NATIVES Indian Education Program Parent Committee, which is part of the Eugene School District’s Indian Education Program, was recognized for its ongoing work of installing public Indigenous art at district schools, while Portland State University archaeologist Virginia Butler was recognized for her work coordinating the Archaeology Roadshow, a free annual event promoting stewardship of Oregon’s heritage.

The Friends of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earned a finalist spot for its Bird Scouts youth program, and the city of Philomath for its Inclusivity Resolution, a project focused on learning about race and addressing racism in state and local history.

In addition to the cash prizes, The Immigrant Story and OregonFlora will be recognized on the Oregon Heroes display panel in the museum’s Explore Oregon exhibition hall.

By Kristin Strommer, University Communications