Timber Culture

Dear Liza,

After leaving the Rose Garden, we took the park shuttle to the Discovery Museum, which proudly calls itself a “Center for Timber Culture”. This means it is a museum about forests, built and paid for by the lumber industry. Which is sort of like having a museum of Pig Culture run by the sausage industry.

There were many good parts of the museum. It was pretty, and very kid friendly.

It had beautiful examples of wood carving and furniture, including a magnificent table that had been featured in the “World’s Largest Log Cabin” at the 1905 Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition. The table had been removed for refinishing in the 1960s, and was safely out of the building when that huge wooden structure burned to the ground in 1964, in a fire that could be seen for thirty miles.

As a way of showing the many different kinds of forests around the world, there was an introductory movie and then a set of exhibits. Each exhibit focused on a region and the mode of transportation you would use to visit that region. To see the endless Russian Boreal forest, we sat in a mock- up of a Russian train and watched the forest zip by. For the tropical rain forest, we stood in a bucket that shook as it rose into the treetops.

I could see how small kids would be interested and entertained.

However….Fully half the second floor was taken up by exhibits about “harvesting” the forest. There were simulators where you could practice running the required heavy equipment, and a giant tree harvester parked right in the middle, its claw wrapped around a tree trunk. It felt violent.

I am a tree-hugging, nature-loving Old Hippie Grandma. To me, if you didn’t plant something, cutting it down isn’t harvesting, it’s stealing. Any film that starts “Clear cutting doesn’t look pretty, but…” has an agenda.

There were even out and out misstatements. “Trees only absorb CO2 from the air as long as they are growing. Once they are fully mature, they need to be cut down in order to continue.” That is NOT true, any more than saying humans only breathe until they grow up.

On the way out, we sat by a simulated waterfall and noticed something. There weren’t any field trips…even though it was a school day and late May is the height of field trip season. I couldn’t help but wonder if this museum of timber culture was too industry-oriented even for teachers desperate for a day out of the classroom.

The one part of the museum that made me really happy was a decade by decade display showing Smokey the Bear. I had a stuffed Smokey as a child, and grew up knowing that “Only I Could Prevent Forest Fires.”Love,

Grandma Judy

Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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