There are items in the building that predate Lung On and Doc Hay’s arrival in 1887. The wall clock, for instance, dates to 1878, and some of the hand tools in the stock room date to the 1860s. The building, itself an artifact of sorts, dates to about 1865.
All of our artifacts are in our Past Perfect database. The database includes work starting in 1969 when Jeffery Barlow first started cataloging the artifacts in Kam Wah Chung. Jeffery Barlow (1942-2016) was an Asian and Asian-American history professor at the University of California, the University of Oregon, and Lewis and Clark College. He and his wife Christine Richardson, English and history teacher at Newberg High School, co-authored the book China Doctor of John Day and they also led the Kam Wah Chung Inventory Project. Their initial project of inventorying the Kam Wah Chung led to our current system of using Past Perfect. All the artifacts are cataloged, numbered, and photographed. At some point in the future, we have plans to allow limited access of the database for researchers and general public online. Currently, we allow limited access to the Past Perfect database to researchers onsite at the interpretive center. Enjoy viewing a few select items below. [ADD Photos and descriptions here]
The artifact collection is continually monitored on a monthly basis. Monitoring allows us to track any change in environmental or physical conditions to items within the building or the curation facility so we can take appropriate action to correct negative impacts for the long term preservation of the collection. Also, all the artifacts, particularly in the historic building, are individually dusted and shelves vacuumed, since dust is actually slightly acidic in nature. Any paper products, such as bottle labels or wall paper are periodically inspected and repaired if necessary. We also occasionally hire professional conservators to repair and condition items as needed.
Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site does have a loan program. Oregon State Parks has loaned a few artifacts to several other museums for their exhibits in house or for traveling exhibits. We currently have artifacts loaned to the Wells Fargo Museum in Portland, OR, and recently loaned a variety of artifacts to the Museum of Chinese in America in New York. Fortunately, we received those items back before their collections were damaged in a fire in January, 2020. Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site does still accept items for the collections, but there are strict guidelines for acceptance. First, they must relate to Kam Wah Chung or significant value to Chinese history in the region. Then, the item is deeded over to the State of Oregon so the state has sole ownership. It is rare that Kam Wah Chung accepts new items into the collection, but several pieces have been accepted in recent years. These items included artifacts that came from Kam Wah Chung either when Lung On or Doc lived there or when Rose Wah broke into the building to sell some items in the 1960s. Donors of the artifacts felt these items should return home to Kam Wah Chung.
If you would like to conduct research of the artifact collection, please contact Kam Wah Chung State Heritage Site at 541-575-2800 and ask for the museum curator at least three weeks before you wish to start the research. Appointments are necessary due to staffing and volunteer scheduling. Weekend onsite research is extremely limited and, in many cases, not feasible. Researchers are allowed to view the database onsite. The database is not available online at this time, but we have plans of adding it in the future. The best time of year to conduct research at Kam Wah Chung is November through April.