Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum 2019 Season Update

The significance of Kam Wah Chung continues to grow across the globe.  As you may recall for those of you who read the 2017 season’s Note from the Curator, we had almost 300 visitors during Oregon’s and Washington’s spring break in March and April.  We considered it a success, so we opened again for spring break for just one week this year to accommodate Oregon’s spring break.  Though we were not officially open for April, we did have school groups come through in April including Imbler and Prairie City High School, occasionally tourists stopped by for a tour as well.  In total, we had 324 visitors in April and the last week of March.

This past year, we partnered with the Grant County Historical Museum, Grant County Chamber of Commerce, the Ranch and Rodeo Museum, John Day /Canyon City Parks and Recreation, and Mabel’s Restaurant to provide the Kids Passport to Fun.  Kids would receive a card displaying all the partners.  Each participant having a passport would take it to one of the six partners and have it stamped.  Also, we setup tables at the Canyon City Community Center on Thursday and Friday with activities for kids.  It was so well received we already had our first meeting to plan for next year.

For 2018, we had 8,853 visitors.  Of these, 6,411 visitors participated in 1,182 guided tours conducted by staff and host volunteers.  The number of visitors this year was down from the 9,314 visitors we had in the eclipse year 2017, but only about 461 short.   This year’s numbers also indicate that visitation to Kam Wah Chung is increasing by 1,000 visitors per year, a trend over the last five years.  Looking at the numbers a different way,  72% of the total number of visitors participated on a guided tour.  This means that most of the 28% had to be turned away due to full tours, with a few visitors stating they did not have time to wait until the next available slot.  We are still on pace of about 1,000 more visitors every year.

With the help of hosts and Lauren Ettlin, our 2017 and 2018 seasonal ranger, we were able to scan a large batch of files in the archives over the last year.  As of October 2018, we have completed the scanning portion of the Translation Project!  This is a huge deal and very important to have this done.  By all accounts, we were able to finish the scanning almost three years ahead of the original schedule.  I also converted all the files into PDF format, the new long term archival standard.  The next step is to work on a platform (i.e. webpage, server, etc.) to allow translators to read and save the translations of the documents.  Oregon Parks and Recreation Department IT (Information Technologies) staff will be assisting us on this portion of the project, which may be a year or so out.  In the meantime, I am working on establishing an Excel index of the archives so researchers and staff can locate individual documents.

The 140th Anniversary Event occurred in June this year.  Since this was a Friends sponsored activity, I will not get into too much detail with this other than a dragon and tiger were also at the event.  A new 23 foot tall sign with eight foot tall figures of a dragon and tiger were installed just a couple days before the 140th event on the corner of Canton street and Main..  The design and painting of the figures were completed by art students at the high school.  The signs were the brainchild of the former Chamber of Commerce President Jerry Franklin.  IT was a project he led with numerous support individuals over the last three years.  We give a huge applause for his effort and hope to have the museum signs on the posts under the figures completed this year.

In 2017, you may recall we had five professors from universities in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Taiwan visit in August.  This year, Professor Zhonzhen Zhao and Dr. Eric Brand revisited in July accompanied by a film crew from China.  They were here for the last three days in July filming for a documentary to be aired in China about traditional Chinese medicine.  Also, Dr. Brand visited again in October with a Discovery Channel film crew.  They also spent three days here filming for a five part documentary series on Chinese medicine for airing in China and New Zealand, but hope to have a North American release date by the end of 2019.  While filming for the Discovery Channel, Dr. Brand noted that we have herbs and medicine in the collection that are no longer found in the wild, or are completely cultivated through horticulture.  He also came across a medical book owned by Doc Hay that may be an original copy of a book written by one of the founders of Chinese medicine, perhaps 300 to 500 years old!

Another event that just so happened to be going on at the same time as the Discovery Channel filming was an archaeological investigation.  This project involved subsurface imaging of the ground around the building, in the pool parking lot, the old four-plex property now owned by OPRD, and the park parking lot.  Part of the reason for this project is to determine where not to build or do ground disturbing activities, such as the proposed new interpretive center in the next few years.  It also will show what is still intact under the ground and will allow me to develop more interpretation of the Chinatown, maybe even delineate ghost foundations of structures, form a new interpretive trail once the city park is purchased by OPRD, and allow future archaeological digs that the public will be allowed to participate in.  The results show several building remains still intact under the ground, one of which may be the temple and a privy (outhouse)!  I am working with Southern Oregon University’s Chelsea Rose and Don Hann from the US Forest Service along with OPRD archaeologist Steve Jenevein to work out a week long field school to put in a couple test units in July.  So stay tuned for a public opportunity to do real archaeology here at Kam Wah Chung.

I have new exhibits for the visitor center!  This is the first overhaul of the exhibits since 2011.  The new exhibits have new artifacts and objects, more information, and they each tell a story.  This will allow a more pleasant experience for return visitors and allow for controlled permanent exhibition of the Kam Wah Chung Collection.  Come check out the new exhibits this year!

In May of 2019, Kam Wah Chung is planning on installing two new host sites for our interpretive hosts.  The idea is to allow hosts to stay on-site near Kam Wah Chung so they do not have to drive the extra 15 miles every day.  It will also provide a better option for emergencies involving staffing, for example a staff member calls in sick, hosts are there to fill in if needed.  With two sites, we will have the option of having two hosts per month instead of the one host in past years.  It provides better options for staffing the store, conducting tours, and helping with other projects as they come along.  The sites should be completed before June if all goes well.  The vacant lot with the white garage building which we own will be transformed into the new host sites.

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site will have new items for visitors this coming year.  Chuck Rukas donated $1,000 dollars in 2018 to the Friends Group to install new benches.  The new benches will be installed under the cherry tree at the interpretive signs.  This will allow visitors a place to set and rest while we conduct our outdoor portion of the tour before heading into the building.  Our existing bench at the interpretive center will be a memorial bench for volunteer and Friends Group honorees.  The Friends Group also authorized a purchase for a hydraulic monitor for the museum.  Isa Larkin wished to have her hydraulic monitor that was in her yard, which was given to her husband Bob Larkin by his aunt, to be on display here at Kam Wah Chung.  The monitor will be a center piece in a future outdoor exhibit explaining the Chinese mining history of the area at the site of the proposed new interpretive center.  I might even put it on display at the current visitor center in the meantime.

Here at Kam Wah Chung, research is ongoing with the collection.  This year, the University of Oklahoma will conduct DNA sampling of the bear paws to see if they are local or imported from outside the region.  It is part of a research project to determine the origins of animal extracts used in Chinese medicine.  We will inform the public of the findings once the results are in.

                  Thank you for your continued support!

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