REEDSPORT — One thing that can be said of the current COVID-19 pandemic shutdown — it's given people a chance to spruce up their yards, businesses and homes. 

Such was the case on Saturday, May 9, at the Umpqua Discovery Center Natural & Cultural History Museum, when Director Diane Novak organized a work party to weed around the facility in preparation for when it will be able to reopen. 

Volunteers spent the day digging up weeds and pulling overgrown brush at the center. The volunteers included Jack and Sherry Paul, Bill Knerr, Becki Kaufmann, Debbie Hakki, Rajena Andrews, Gail and Doug Adamson and Novak.

Novak said she was pleased with the turnout and appreciated the hard work by the volunteers. At day's end, a flatbed trailer was piled high with weeds and brush to be taken away. 

In addition, some large trees were cut around the center recently, so Novak took advantage of two of the stumps and placed wood carvings on them. 

"I Remember, I Remember" ongoing

Inside the center, Novak has been able to add to an exhibit that has been ongoing since the Umpqua Discover Center first opened in 1993. The exhibit, called "I Remember, I Remember," are video recordings of longtime local residents, who tell stories of what they remember about Reedsport and the surrounding areas.

South Coast musician and owner of Inner Sanctum Studios, Vinnie Cavarra, has helped immensely with the project, Novak said. 

The center started with eight profiles of local residents with their stories, and only a vocal recording along with a photo. Cavarra was able to help with videos of the residents, which truly captures their personalities better than just a vocal history. 

"We started putting it in place last year," Novak said. "It was a slow process." 

The process involves interviewing the residents individually, either at their homes, or the center or some other place where they are comfortable. The person being featured is first given a list of possible questions to help jog their memories before they are interviewed. Then the whole interview, which can be as long as the person wants to talk, is edited down to six or seven minutes for the exhibit. 

The entire video is given to the person interviewed so the family can have that remembrance for years to come. 

"Vinnie has been a huge help," Novak said. "The neat thing about it is we give them time (beforehand) to think of stories of growing up in the area, and then we just let them talk and we record." 

The project continues and many of the people intitally interviewed have since passed away. Cavarra figured out a way to make those first audio-only recordings incorporate a slide show of the speaker. 

One of the recent video recordings added was of Earl Plagmann, who turned 98 on May 24. Plagmann, who was a barber in Gardiner for many years, coincidentally is also featured in an exhibit at the center, with a full-size model of him in a barber shop cutting his grandson's hair. 

The "I Remember, I Remember" exhibit now features 35 oral histories from area residents. The project has been supported by a grant from Three Rivers Casino.

"We look forward to the day we can open and everyone can enjoy these wonderful stories," Novak wrote on a Facebook post. 

"It's still unknown at this point when we'll open," Novak said, adding that she will announce it as soon as she has any new information. 

The Riverfront Rhythms Concert Series, held at the Umpqua Discovery Center, has been canceled for 2020.

The Umpqua Discovery Center is located at 409 Riverfront Way in Reedsport. For more information, leave a message at 541-271-4816 or visit the website at umpquadiscoverycenter.com or their Facebook page.  

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