"Last year, when they reviewed our grant, they asked if we were telling a complete story about Asahel Bush, and at that time, they wanted us to address some of the problematic statements he had made," [Director Ross Sutherland] said. "Over the last year, we have been working to understand the issues surrounding museums and white privilege and instructional racism, and other similar issues."....It is a little concerning, however, that there's a pivot here, from the "problematic statements" of Asahel Bush to "stories of marginalized Salem community members."
In its grant proposal, the Bush House team proposed to tell the stories of marginalized Salem community members.
"The idea was: What if museums in Salem had developed around sites that were related to traditionally underrepresented Oregonians? From that idea, we thought we could take these histories and then flesh them out and find out where they actually happened in town," Sutherland said.
Retrieving the second is important of course, but Asahel Bush himself provided a significant part of the actual mechanism of marginalization, and his agency in that should not be minimized. He had a newspaper, he was an important banker and investor, and exercised a great deal of power here.
|Asahel Bush to Matthew Deady,|
on the Waldo-Bogel Wedding and Rev. Obed Dickinson,
cited in "Obed Dickinson and the 'Negro Question' in Salem"
Oregon Historical Quarterly, Spring 1991
|Changing out Deady Hall, front page Register-Guard|
(Update, June 26th)
As for community stories, Oregon Black Pioneers are already working on the stories of Black Salemites, and maybe Bush House does not need to lead but instead should take a supporting position on that part of the project. The part that Bush House needs to lead on is the history of Asahel Bush and a self-aware critique of it.
Hopefully the project Bush House is undertaking will be a positive step in that direction. This will be very interesting to follow.