Museum's future rooted in Gresham's past
For Mark Moore, taking over as director of the Gresham History Museum is a homecoming of sorts. On Saturdays, his mother used to bring him to the building when it served as a library and he'd spend the afternoons reading and looking over the new materials.
"I was a regular here. So it's really like coming home for me," he said.
Moore, 65, has strong roots in the area. He is in touch with Gresham's history, remembering many businesses, buildings and people now long gone.
Moore's parents owned a berry farm on Anderson Road, before the 30-acre farm was divided by the "new" freeway — Highway 26 — to Sandy. He attended the now-shuttered West Gresham Elementary School for a while. His mom was a teacher in the old Lynch School District, now Centennial School District. His dad was a driver for the former Mayflower Dairy in Portland.
After the farm was split by the freeway, the family moved to an 80-acre farm in Boring, growing berries briefly and then raising cattle.
"It was my job to feed the cows, 85 head, after school," he said.
Moore graduated from Sandy Union High School in 1973. Over the years, he worked in a series of jobs as a typesetter, banker and in hotels and the self-storage business.
Just prior to taking over as the director of the Gresham History Museum in March, Moore worked at several of the museums in the collective that makes up the Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks.
Moore has always been keenly interested in history and has collected a variety of historical artifacts and ephemera over his lifetime. He has more than 10,000 vintage postcards. He also runs his own historical website at pdxhistory.com.
For the current exhibits focusing on "Life in Gresham 100 Years Ago," Moore has loaned the museum memorabilia from the former Meier & Frank department store and classic radios, both from his private collection. He's been involved with the Northwest Vintage Radio Society for decades.
The museum has had a revolving door recently, with three directors in as many years. Evan Smiley led the museum for about a year, followed by Greta Smith Wisnewski, whose tenure lasted only a few months. Before Smiley, Matt Holland spent a little over two years leading the museum.
Jim Card, a member of the board of directors for the Gresham Historical Society, said the expectation is Moore will stay for a while since he has roots in the community.
"That is always the hope when you put time into training people," Card said.
Card said Moore "knows greater Gresham" and describes him as both down-to-earth and very knowledgeable.
"He's very patient. He doesn't get excited. He knows what's got to be done," Card said, calling historic downtown Gresham and Moore "a perfect match."
Moore sees his role as "beefing up the exhibits. And, I have just begun a lot of that," he said.
"I really want to delve into the founding of Gresham," he explained.
He also wants to present exhibits on the diversity of Gresham.
"I want to be more inclusive of all the people who make up our area," he said.
The southeastern entrance of the museum, by the back parking lot, has been used as a storage area and Moore would like to turn that into more exhibit space, focusing on Gresham's founders.
Like past directors, he wants to continue to catalogue the museum's treasures and increase society membership. He said the beautifully preserved building and the strong cadre of dedicated volunteers is a strength propelling the museum forward.
Founded in 1976, the Gresham Historical Society spent its first few years various in borrowed spaces. Thirteen years later, the group found a permanent home in the Gresham Carnegie Library, which was being vacated for a new library nearby.
The Carnegie Library, designed by Folger Johnson, was built in 1912. Folger designed the building in the English Tudor Revival style, with distinctive herringbone brickwork and leaded glass windows.
In 1989, the library moved a few blocks to away and the Historical Society moved in. The former library now houses more than 4,000 photos and thousands of artifacts.
Looking forward instead of back in history, Moore said "I think we (the museum) have a great future ahead of us."
If you go
What: The Gresham History Museum
Where: 410 N. Main Ave.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.
More: Visitors to the museum are asked to wear a face mask and practice social distancing.
Visit: greshamhistorical.org or the museum's Facebook page.
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