Due to the disappointing defeat of the Heritage District Measure 15-164, the Board of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, a 70 year-old Oregon institution, is forced to reorganize its operations. In a letter to Society members, SOHS President Doug McGeary stated that, “While our partners of the Southern Oregon Heritage Association have promised to struggle on without a steady source of funding that a Heritage District would have guaranteed, Southern Oregon Historical Society (SOHS), is in a different situation.”
The SOHS Board has made a critical decision and is laying off the organization’s staff as of December 31, 2016. McGeary said “This is a very hard decision. We’re proud of how our staff has endured these past several hard years. The staff has been so professional, understanding and positive. They have continued to provide high-quality service and support to our community, and have stepped up in so many ways. We owe them a debt of gratitude; we wish them well.”
The Board avoided discussions of such drastic consequences of a failed vote during the campaign because the Board did not want to speculate about things that were not decided, nor appear to be threatening the voters and negatively impacting the campaign. The size, quality, and value of the collection the Society holds, and the programing it has developed during the years between 1946 and early 2000s, benefited from public funding. However, it is impossible to continue funding solely by membership, marginal rents and farming operations. Therefore, the SOHS must rerganize and forge a new path into the future.
The Board will continue its efforts to preserve, stabilize, and grow SOHS. And, without a steady source of funding, the society is seeking new and different methods to transition the organization into something that is actually self-sustaining.
While the Board cannot provide concrete operational answers right now, it will continue to assess what services the society can provide in the short term – such as Hanley Farm operations and volunteer staffing of the library. And the Board will continue reviewing long-term options relating to the Historical Society’s facilities, protecting its collections, and partnering with volunteers and other organizations.
The Board will pursue a process that will keep members informed and seek member participation, comments and thoughts as they continue to make hard choices in their efforts to provide a lasting future for the Southern Oregon Historical Society. McGeary added that, “Through clear communication, bold imagination, and working together we can come up with a new and different Society that fulfills its true mission to make history come alive and share our common heritage.”