Moving Forward in the World of COVID-19 and Beyond

Re-imagining the Museum Re-opening

On November 12th, 2020, Five Oaks Museum opened a new exhibition, DISplace, by curators Lehuauakea and Kanani Miyamoto. For months, as that opening was in the works, the Five Oaks team imagined it as the re-opening of the museum space as well. As the date drew near, though, what had been imagined wrapped around the contours of reality, taking new shape. 


The building that holds the materials that make up Five Oaks Museum is located on Portland Community College’s Rock Creek Campus. In order to protect the thousands of lives they touch, PCC have asked that no campus building open to the public until they deem it safe for the entire network. Five Oaks Museum shares their commitment to public health and will honor that request; our building will not be accessible to the public until March of 2021 at the earliest.


Luckily, Five Oaks Museum is more than a building. We are a group of people – five staff and nine board members, a growing roster of Guest Curators, and innumerable loved ones and collaborators. We are a way of doing things – listening to community needs, de-centering authority, interrogating systems of power, embracing creativity, standing firmly in humane values. We are a 65 year old history organization who can think in deep time. We are artists who can see evolving futures. 


Washington County Museum was reborn as Five Oaks Museum on January 1st, 2020, and spent just 10 weeks with a physical site open to the public before COVID-19 measures shifted us all. We had reformed our museum as a platform for the community, an agile responder to the needs of those we serve, and a history organization dedicated to the future. The future came sooner than expected. We’ve now spent months using remote and socially distanced modes of work, and become an institution fully in relationship with the historic cultural moment that surrounds us.


So, on November 12th, we opened. Not our building – yet – but our work, our minds, our hearts. We are shifting from reacting to change, to being present in the world as it is right now; we are finding a path forward that is receptive, optimistic, and extraordinary. Thank you for taking this journey with us.


This crisis is global and vast, but it hits at the most intimate scale of all – individual human bodies. Our first and most urgent responsibility right now is to participate fully in collective measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19. For that reason, Five Oaks Museum will remain closed to public visitation for as long as is needed to support public health. We remain a gathering place in innovative ways from our Instagram takeovers to Museum at (Our Place) and a trusted source of learning and look forward to the day that we can welcome you, in body, into the museum once more.


Many people are turning to the natural world as refuge and guide right now. Kalapuyan peoples, and other local tribal cultures, developed expertise over millennia in tandem with this land. Having already survived devastating exposure to disease, in addition to other colonial harms, Native cultures today remain strong and dynamic. Native history is important to know. We digitized our exhibition, This IS Kalapuyan Land, so that essential content remains available from a distance.


The museum has built our new identity with a commitment to the well-being of our workers at the center of all we do. We are continuing full pay and benefits for all staff including contractors and confirmed gigs; if difficult decisions are ahead of us, they will be approached with the needs of the most vulnerable as the first consideration.


You are the holders of the truth, which we recognize as a living, changing thing. We are collecting your stories through an open call so that this moment can be seen from many perspectives and captured for its historic significance.


Five Oaks Museum is here for the entire community and does not support xenophobia now, or ever. We are working to uplift all those in our networks as we share the struggle of isolation by adding more digital content to our website, creating free learning tools out of our field trip curriculum, and making video learning experiences for older adults. Look to our Instagram and Facebook feeds for art, history, and culture experts delivering week-long takeovers starting in April. All new and ongoing memberships purchased prior to November 12, 2020 will be extended eight months, the duration of the museum’s closure, so that you can enjoy remote content now and don’t miss a day of benefits.