Schmidt and Woody -Save the Oregon Cultural Trust

An archive can be a dirty place, especially when your collection comes from people who work the earth.

Archivists at the Oregon Wine History Archive at Linfield College deal with dust every day. Our goal is to document all aspects of the Oregon wine industry and preserve historical materials from all regions of the state, whether they are from winery or vineyard owners, growers, researchers, marketers or sellers.

Although the wine archive is less than two years old, it is already home to some of the biggest names in Oregon pinot noir, including Adelsheim, Amity, Erath, Eyrie, Ponzi, Sokol Blosser and WillaKenzie. It houses collections from the Oregon Wine Board and the ¡Salud! health care program for seasonal vineyard employees and their families. We have collected photographs, maps, oral histories, wine labels, magazines, newspapers, letters and, of course, bottles of wine (none of which have been consumed, we might add).

Linfield’s relationship with the Oregon wine industry dates back to 1987 when the college agreed to host the International Pinot Noir Celebration. It was a bold move for a Baptist college and has yielded a mutually fruitful relationship for more than 25 years. Most recently, this cooperation led to the creation of the Oregon Wine History Project, from which the Oregon Wine History Archive evolved.

The documents and memorabilia showcase the colorful, sometimes quirky history of what was once an upstart industry. Early growers in this region planted grapes against the advice of experts, with what one called “more guts than brains.” One grower lived in a lumberjack’s shack with his family; another built his first winery with a leftover chicken-house roof. They lost crops to shoulder-high weeds, and one who unadvisedly planted grapes in August frantically bought garden hoses in an attempt to save them.

What eventually emerged was a close-knit community of hardy idealists. Yamhill County wine pioneers helped initiate the national movement toward green agriculture and established Oregon as North America’s home for pinot noir. It’s a story worth preserving.

However, many of the irreplaceable artifacts and historical documents from wineries and vineyards are dingy and dusty, and in all stages of disintegration. It’s our job to make sure they survive intact.

The Oregon Cultural Trust has greatly aided this process. Its grant supports Linfield students who spend hours painstakingly cleaning materials before they can be stored in the archives. Student technicians sort and organize materials, digitize highlights and develop searching aids, so researchers and other interested people can find their way around the collection.

As much as we love digging into a fresh batch of materials and getting our hands dirty, the ultimate reward is seeing the fruits of our labor: well-preserved physical and digital collections that provide an important historical foundation. The public is welcome to view the archive, either by making an appointment or visiting www.linfield.edu/archives.

Now, the Oregon Wine History Archive is extending its outreach to other areas of the state, including wineries in southern Oregon. Our ultimate goal is to comprehensively document one of the state’s most vital industries, one that began as a courageous experiment and now helps define our culture and shape our economy.

We would like to thank the cultural trust for its support of this burgeoning archive. This year, the trust’s unique tax credit program is up for reauthorization, and there are no guarantees it will pass. Legislators will soon vote whether to renew the credit that serves as a lifeline for arts, heritage, humanities and education groups in Yamhill County and across the state.

The credit provides a powerful incentive to give. It allows donors to match a gift to their favorite cultural organization with a donation to the cultural trust, receive a tax deduction for their gift, and also claim the entire cultural trust contribution as a tax credit on their Oregon tax returns. How often can you save money by doing good?

Although the cultural trust tax credit is one of the smallest in the state, it offers one of the highest returns on investment. The Oregon Cultural Trust program has been vital to our archival efforts and many others. We encourage people to call and write their legislators to show their support.

If the program is renewed, our students can keep getting their hands dirty, we can preserve the stories that belong to all of us, and one of our state’s most valuable nonprofit organizations can continue to nurture hundreds of cultural organizations in our county and beyond.

Guest writer Rachael Cristine Woody graduated from Pacific University in history and went on to graduate school at Simmons College in Boston. She spent four years as archivist for the Smithsonian Institution before she was hired at Linfield in 2011, where she serves as director of archives and special collections. She enjoys the Oregon outdoors, singing opera and reading.

Guest writer Rich Schmidt graduated from Willamette University, where he worked for 10 years in management of its Hatfield Library before being hired at Linfield College in 2011. As director of Resource Sharing at Linfield, he shares materials with libraries all over the world and assists with the archives. He lives in Salem and enjoys sports, movies and good food.

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