Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum 2020 Season Update

Greetings to all the Friends of Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum!  The 2020 season was not a good year for visitors; I wonder why!  With the restrictions that the COVID-19 pandemic forced upon us, we had to close for the entire 2020 season.  Counting the visitors we had in January 2020, we had 20 visitors total.  With this shut down, including a staffing shortage for Oregon State Parks, I helped fill in at Clyde Holliday State Park for the summer.  Very little work was done at Kam Wah Chung during that time.  We were closed for spring break in 2020 and 2021.

Photo of visitors from January 2020, a student group from Tracker Earth out of Portland.

Kam Wah Chung did have several note worthy happenings over the course of 2020.  If you recall from last years letter, we were to install VR googles to offer a unique experience.  Shortly before the film crew was to arrive and film for the VR, the project got postponed because of the shutdown.  We were unable to provide a full VR experience, but I did use a 360-degree camera to film a tour that I posted on YouTube with a link to the new Friends website.  Another major event was with our partners at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine. (OCOM).  Through a grant, they were able to form a new website to post Doc Hay’s formulas with translations.  Check out the site at https://kwc.ocom.edu.  Thus, we have translated about 10% of the formulas at this time.

This spring of 2021, two other events took place.  Oregon State Parks provided $20,000 to start a feasibility study for a new visitor center.  Working with Pinnacle Architecture out of Bend, OR, they will help lay the foundation for a preliminary design.  Representatives visited Kam Wah Chung in late February to gather measurements and my ideas of what I think the visitor center should have and how it should look.  They are still drafting the design at the time of this writing.  Hopefully, this will lead to more formal work in the coming months.  At the same time, Parks management gave the approval to move forward with the Virtual Reality Project.  I am currently working with Visiting Media that has a contract with Oregon State Parks to produce a VR experience of Kam Wah Chung.  It will serve as a general VR experience to the public, a Junior Ranger version tailored for kids, and a blank version that we can conduct virtual tours with.  It should be going live by May 1, 2021.  Keep checking for updates on the Friends website.

The layout map and exterior ideas are mine alone. These will likely change as we go forward, but wanted to give you and idea of what we are thinking.

The biggest question on peoples’ minds is our we going to be open for 2021?  The answer is yes, with limited services.  Until the state lifts all the restrictions, we will not be able to conduct tours of the historic building because of the historic nature and size of the building.  Hopefully, that will change later in the year, but for the start, no physical tours of Kam Wah Chung. However, because of the new VR project, we will be doing virtual tours.  We are in the process of installing a carport shade shelter on the north side of the visitor center that will allow 10 people to sit and view a guide VR tour at six foot spacing.  We will have the area roped off and signed with staff and volunteers helping to control the flow of visitors.  We are going to project the VR version of the building tour on a 120-inch screen.  We will close tours as needed, either for an hour or a day depending on weather, increased restrictions, and staff availability.  As far as the visitor center being open, that is still in the discussion phase.  Preliminary thinking seems to be curtaining off the exhibit area and allowing a limited \number of visitors to come in and use the restroom.  At the time of this writing, I am trying to convince management to allow the gift shop to open, and we will take appropriate steps to assure compliance with current COVID State Park guidelines.  At this time, we plan on opening May 1 with normal hours of 9-5pm, Monday through Sunday.  Scheduling may change based on restrictions and staffing.

In spite of the restrictions and closures, I still had several people call about doing research.  High school students, professional researchers, and other institutions are calling to conduct research using our collection.  I am still working on making the archives searchable for all research, which is going to take awhile to complete.  I am doing a presentation for the Deschutes Public Library in Bend, and collaborating with the Portland Chinatown Museum to do a series on the Chinese Experience in the Northwest with a multitude of other Chinese researchers, partners, and experts.  Keep checking the website for updates on the series that began late March, 2021.

We still have a ways to go before we are back to normal operations, but we are heading that direction.  We have a bright future ahead with our new VR experience, continued expansion of research capabilities, and finally planning for a new visitor center!  If you can, stop by for virtual guided tour on site, or if you cannot travel, check out the website for the upcoming VR Experience. I hope to see you in person real soon.

Thank you for your continued support!

Don Merritt

Museum Curator,

Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site

One thought on “Kam Wah Chung & Co. Museum 2020 Season Update”

  • Sharon and I had a wonderful time on the tour and talking with all the volunteers on Sunday July 11, 2021. KWC has been on our list for many years and really overwhelmed us with its importance and “vision” into the past in such a remarkable way. Well done! (going to “surf” around the website and become Members of the “Friends”)

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