Willie Richardson, president of the Oregon Black Pioneers, speaks about the group's research at their Salem office in October 2019. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

Oregonians will soon be able to access a new museum about the state’s Black history from the comfort of their own homes. 

Last week, the state’s Cultural Trust granted Salem-based Oregon Black Pioneers $17,000 to develop the Oregon Online African American Museum, the first effort to digitize a vast collection of information about the state’s African-American residents. 

“We are so impressed with this organization and what they continue to do and what they’re aspiring to do,” said Aili Schreiner, the trust’s manager. She said the project scored well with reviewers because of its aim to make a historical resource accessible to all Oregonians, not just those who can visit museums in person. 

“We are thrilled to receive this award from Oregon Cultural Trust as it brings us one step closer to pursuing a new virtual museum to showcase the rich history of African Americans in Oregon,” executive director Zachary Stocks said in an email. 

Founded in 1993, the nonprofit has developed museum exhibits, but never created a virtual exhibit or collection of their research, which documents a Black presence in nearly every county in Oregon. 

The museum will be developed over the next year, according to the Black Pioneers grant application, with a goal of serving both researchers and the general public. 

The museum will include online exhibits, oral histories and a searchable research database, as well as links to Oregon’s database of historical properties with a connection to African-American history. 

“Historians will be invited to contribute original research highlighting items in our searchable database, an uncommon option in online exhibits, which will help visitors discover and understand the relevance of the material,” Black Pioneers leaders wrote in their application to the Cultural Trust. 

The grant is about one quarter of the project’s budget, according to the application. To date, the Black Pioneers have raised over half the cost through donations and volunteer hours. 

“We’re just incredibly thrilled to be in a position to support the work of this project and the organization,” Schreiner said. 

Learn more about Oregon Black Pioneers at https://oregonblackpioneers.org/.

 

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Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.