‘Experience Oregon’ launches on state’s 160th birthday, showcasing ‘good, bad and ugly’ of region’s history



‘Experience Oregon’ launches on state’s 160th birthday, showcasing ‘good, bad and ugly’ of region’s history

“Oregon was on the edge. Would rock ’n’ roll save it?”

The question -- offered up in a cartoon video game that recreates 1970’s Vortex I, the one-of-a-kind, state-sponsored, anti-war rock festival -- is one of the cheekier ones posed in the Oregon Historical Society’s new, $4-million “Experience Oregon” exhibit.

The ambitious, 7,000-square-foot permanent installation opens Thursday, Oregon’s 160th birthday. It replaces the beloved “Oregon, My Oregon” exhibit, which had a 14-year run at the museum before closing last year.

“Oregon, My Oregon” ably served its purpose, said OHS executive director Kerry Tymchuk, but “it was tired.” He added, with a smile: “You may have noticed that technology has improved in the past 15 years. ‘Oregon, My Oregon’ had no interactive [component].”

The new “Experience Oregon,” on the other hand, embraces high-tech, with kid-friendly games about not only Oregon’s version of Woodstock but also such little-known historical personages as African-American rodeo star George Fletcher and intrepid 19th-century Native American explorer Marie Dorion.

Be aware: These are not interactive toys for Oregonians who want only happy history for their children. In the Fletcher game, a player can help the talented cowboy win the Pendleton Round-Up -- only to discover that, even though Fletcher ends up with the highest score, he is forced to accept second place. So it went for Fletcher in 1911, when he was widely viewed as the best rider in the bucking finals but the judge wasn’t willing to award the top prize to a black man.

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