Oregon has a rich history filled with diverse stories from cultures that thrived here for centuries and others that came over the Oregon Trail. These tales are told and retold at numerous heritage sites, museums and interpretive centers to help keep the past alive. Bethany Nemec with The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive & Visitor Center in Oregon City is one of the people who dedicates her days to bringing those stories to life.
History comes alive
Bethany truly is a modern pioneer, and "not just because I wear the clothes" she joked, while dressed in period garb between tours. Bethany is a trained educator and a lover of history. Her family actually crossed the Trail in 1853; it's their story that inspired her to make a career out of keeping history relevant.
George Washington Gibson, pioneer and ancestor of modern pioneer Bethany Nemec.
"What gets me motivated every morning to wake up and get dressed like this is that history is a really interesting topic that I want to help more people be excited about. It's not just dates and names to memorize, it's stories about people that had real experiences that can be really inspiring today and help us connect to who we are."
The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is just one of the locations throughout our area where history is brought to life. You can take a look at the other great museums and heritage locations, or craft a tour using our free Mt. Hood Territory Heritage Trail app. You'll be guided to more than two dozen sites throughout the region, each with a unique audio story about the location and how it became a significant part of the area's lore. There are even walking, cycling and driving options that guide you along a path of historical discovery, as well as showing you nearby attractions and restaurants.
Family fun experiences
As someone who is a trained educator, Bethany knows the importance, and difficulty, of capturing and keeping someone's attention. Especially kids. So she and the rest of the team have created a museum with exhibits that aren't just meant to be looked at, but experienced.
"Kids often need some hands-on activities and quirky facts to really engage them. We offer candle dipping, butter making and a lot of the things that were chores back then, but kids today find as really fun activities. They can load a wagon, actually dress up in pioneer clothes, and that plays a big role in helping kids connect to that history and learning that we're not all that different today."
The End of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center is just one of several spots in The Territory where kids can engage in hands-on learning. The Museum of the Oregon Territory has an augmented reality exhibit that keeps kids (and their parents) engaged. They also have an exhibit that helps kids recreate the first long-distance power transmission from Willamette Falls to Portland. Another popular option is the Philip Foster Farm, with enough to see and do to fill an entire day of fun. This farm dates back to the Barlow Road section of the Oregon Trail itself, and served as the final supply stop for weary travelers ready to start the final leg of their journey. Today it's a living piece of history, with much of the original farm still as it was well over 100 years ago. Experience another piece of local history with a ride aboard the Canby Ferry, one of the last operating ferries on the Willamette River.
It's important that our history is remembered. The work of people like Bethany and so many others has ensured that future generations will add their voices to the stories that are told about Mt. Hood Territory.
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