Umpqua Discovery Center

The first settlers along the mouth of Oregon’s Umpqua River arrived as reluctant, but
fortunate, survivors of an 1850s’ shipwreck of the Bostonian, a vessel owned by a Boston
merchant. The survivors used much of the salvaged cargo to establish a town nine miles up
the Umpqua River. They named the town Gardiner, after the Bostonian’s owner. In Reedsport,
the Umpqua Discovery Center’s cultural history exhibits, “Tidewaters & Time,” tell the
unique history of the town, where daily life revolved around whether the tide was coming in
or going out. Realistic murals and displays (created by local artist Peggy O’Neil of WOW
Arts & Exhibits) bring alive life in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Motion sensors in
the displays activate appropriate sounds and narratives, such as when entering the exhibit
of the indigenous Kuuich people, where a mural of a typical tribal village is accompanied
by village sounds, and rushing water rumbles where a man fishes with a spear. From the
inside of a rustic cabin looking out a window, a motion detector triggers a scene of a man
named Henderson. He then joins another man, Waggoner, as they walk and describe a
historical journey on the importance of logging along the Oregon coast. “Both men are
third-generation local loggers,” Portia Harris, the museum director tells me. In other
displays you hear the distinctive creaking of a wooden sailing ship, the cries of sea
gulls, a ship’s whistle and the clang of a paddle wheeler’s bell. Opened in September 2005,
a new $1.5-million wing features the natural history of the region, and follows a path
through 16 interpretive zones, from sea level to the peaks of the Coast Range, illustrating
the complexity and interdependence of the ecosystem. National Umpqua Discovery Center,
(541) 271-4816, umpquadiscoverycenter.com.

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