Brett Fuller points to a picture of the "town that fell into the sea." (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
Over the years, Gary Halvorson has amassed a catalog of more than 60,000 photos taken during his travels across Oregon as a senior archivist.
His job requires him to visit each of the state’s 36 counties, camping in a two-man tent and inventorying historical records. When he’s not working, he takes photos of “anything that catches my eye.”
Photography is Halvorson’s pastime, but some of his images from the last decade will adorn the walls at the Oregon State Archives on 800 Summer St. N.E. as part of the Rust, Rot and Ruin exhibit, which opens this Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
[ Help build Salem Reporter and local news - SUBSCRIBE ]
Brett Fuller, a reference archivist at the Oregon State Archives said the exhibit started with Halvorson’s images: photos of abandoned barns and lonesome highways.
“It kind of went from the idea of we’ve got some ghost towns,” Fuller said. “That was when we decided that ghost towns themselves are only so interesting. What we really want to show is what created these towns as viable towns at some point and what suddenly made them unviable. And that was where a lot of our research went.”
Fuller said a lot of ghost towns have the same story.
“Some people showed up, they tried to make a life for themselves, something outside their control kind of shifted that for one reason or another and then it depopulates slowly,” he said.
Panels describe was logging was like in the 19th century. (Saphara Harrell/Salem Reporter)
The exhibit -- which was five months in the making -- focuses on Oregon’s ghost towns in terms of science, industry and technology.
Fuller pointed to gold dredging in Sumpter as one example of industry. The area became a gold mining boomtown in the early 1900s. After a devastating fire in 1917, many people moved on from the east Oregon town.
Bu the impact, Fuller said, can still be seen from space where dredging lines weave across the landscape.
Across the state, Bayocean was a town destroyed by man-induced coastal erosion after a jetty was built. It’s known as the town that fell into the sea. The population grew to 2,000 by 1914, but a few decades later residents had cleared out.
Fuller said one of the takeaways from the exhibit is that “Nothing lasts forever, and everything comes at a cost. Many of these towns were on top of the world before they disappeared.”
When the ghost town exhibit is over, Halvorson said he plans to make a web exhibit.
Have a tip? Contact reporter Saphara Harrell at 503-549-6250, firstname.lastname@example.org or @daisysaphara.