In recent years when the Lincoln County Historical Society made the news, it was usually calling attention to the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center – and rightly so. The restoration of the historic 30,000-square-foot building overlooking Yaquina Bay in Newport was an almost impossible dream made reality. But there is more to the Historical Society — including the Burrows House Museum and the Log Cabin Research Library — and new executive director Faith Kreskey has plans for enhancing and expanding it. COVID-19 is helping her get a good start.
“The Lincoln County Historical Society is the steward of the historical collection of tens of thousands of artifacts and photographs,” Kreskey said. “Right now, it’s closed to the public due to COVID. So, we’re using the downtime for collections management and care. I’ve been doing a lot of administrative work and behind-the-scenes work. It’s not very glamourous, but it’s important work. We’re inventorying and cataloging all of our collection. We’re building it up to be worthy of a great facility. Once we know exactly how amazing our collection is, we’ll lay out a new exhibit design and collection plan.”
Coming to the coast is almost like coming home for Kreskey, who grew up in Reedsport – about 70 miles south of Newport. She takes over for Steve Wyatt, who was at the helm of the Historical Society for eight years before retiring in March. Kreskey was most recently head of the Curatorial Department at the Lane County History Museum in Eugene, and has more than 10 years’ experience in the museum business.
Her small-town background is one of the attributes she brings to the job.
“To work in a small town, you need to know how they work, how dynamics, networking and relationship building work.” And say the wrong thing and you’ll be reminded of it for a long time, she noted, laughing.
A lifelong history buff, Kreskey’s goal is to explore the local history and share it with the community, digging up the old and odd stories that may have been largely lost over time.
“My focus is always on how our ties to place bring us together, and what we can learn from the lives and actions of those who came before us,” she said. “A big important thing for me is making history relevant and interesting to people, growing interest in younger people in history. I think it’s a really great time to be working in local history. People want to learn more. They’re really open to it. I like finding interesting topics, and reframing people’s understanding of history. Making the stories more personal is really important to making history seem real and applicable to people in their everyday lives.”
Kreskey believes Lincoln County’s history is unique compared to many other communities in Oregon in that a number of developments happened here – particularly in transportation, where sailing vessels gave way to steam powered ships; ferries to train lines. She’s also impressed with the local awareness of the Native American community and its cultural influence.
She plans to strengthen the historical society’s education component, currently a weak spot, she noted. That will include developing youth and children’s programs and encouraging school tours. And one day, though it won’t happen tomorrow, she’d like to digitize the entire collection.
“I don’t think people are aware of the vast collection we have. I’m hoping to be able to better use the collection. I’m working to make the tools to access it better and share it with the public. My goal is whenever people come to visit the museum and bring people in visiting from out of town, I always hope to have something new out.”