Washington County Museum changes name to Five Oaks Museum
It's a new year and now a new name for the Five Oaks Museum, formerly known as the Washington County Museum.
The independent nonprofit museum decided to change the name after staff decided it didn't represent the multicultural community and history of the Tualatin Valley, according to museum officials.
Molly Alloy, the museum's co-director, described the old name as "logistically kind of a stumbling block."
"For example, there's 39 other Washington counties in the country," Alloy pointed out. "So, when you talk about looking up something online or trying to have a presence on social media, we could run into trouble."
Five Oaks is also a historical site in the Tualatin Valley, north of Highway 26.
For hundreds of years, the tall oak trees at Five Oaks were tended by Native people of the area in the traditional ways that they cultivated landscape, Alloy said.
When European and American traders started coming to the area, they also noticed the prominence of the site. It then became a place with trading meetups.
In the late 1850s, the Atfalati and other Kalapuya peoples were forced to relocate to the Grand Ronde Reservation, about 60 miles to the southwest of the Five Oaks site. As the rate of settlement increased, Five Oaks became a place where settlers would hold their own celebrations.
"The first Fourth of July celebration in this area was at the Five Oaks site," Alloy said. "You have this one location, and these living things — these trees — that really kind of indicate the types of layered, multicultural, nuanced, complex and multifocal stories that we are excited to be sharing with the community."
The name change has its roots in discussions that began almost two years ago, in spring 2018.
Alloy said staff started having a real conversation of what was and wasn't working for the museum.
The name also signals other structural changes for the museum.
Aside from the name change, the museum has also made recent staffing changes. The organization added a learning coordinator and a person to expand the responsibilities of a curator role.
Alloy hopes to also incorporate the arts as a central part of what the museum does in addition to history.
"This area regionally has seen a loss of some important arts institutions," Alloy said. "We feel that art is this exciting vehicle through which historical storytelling can be more multifaceted and feel more current."
But the name change does not impact funding with the county, said Alloy. The organization receives some funding from the county, but it is not a county entity.
"The county (government) is really excited about the work we're doing and really supportive," Alloy said. "They understand that the community here is incredibly multicultural and very forward thinking. We've got people from all over the world, and we've got these innovative companies that are housed here at the same time that we have a strong indigenous presence."
The Five Oaks museum will re-open to the public under its new name on Wednesday, Jan. 8.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story used innacurate pronouns when describing the Five Oaks Museum co-director. Alloy's pronouns have been corrected.
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