maddie betsy

Maddie Dickerson Moore, left, new director at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum; and past director Betsy Millard — now volunteer collections manager — pause while preparing a new exhibit opening Oct. 7.

Millennials — those born between 1981-96 — are coming into their own as we Boomers slow down and pass the baton. Some of us may not be ready yet to sit in rockers on our front porches and pick our teeth, but it’s definitely time to hand the reins to the generation we’ve watched since they were kids. (GenXers were squeezed in there between our two generations, but I want to focus on this new crop of leaders.)

It’s time to give millennials their day in the sun, perhaps with just a tiny bit of coaching on the side. Look, we’re boomers — we’re not just going to “go gentle into that good night.”

Last week I wrote about two friends of mine, urban millennials Cha Cha and Shazaad, doing great things in that big city up north; this week I want to focus on our own Madeline “Maddie” Dickerson Moore, daughter of Peninsulites Mike and Lynn Dickerson. Maddie’s been a mover and shaker as long as I can remember. I’ve written before about having a close-in view of her this last decade and a half as she made her way through high school and college graduation and then chose — lucky us! — to return to her roots.

Maddie and husband Jacob, another Peninsula gem, understand and hold dear the neighbor-helping-neighbor values of our rural community, the natural beauty, and pace of life. They also understand the difficulties inherent in the country — the economic, healthcare, and political challenges; the well-rooted “this is how we’ve always done it” attitude that must be overcome to address the issues of these changing times.

As Maddie says, “I’ve always known I wanted to live back on the Peninsula — even in high school. I love the sense of community here. The strength in rural communities is pretty incredible. But you have to make the conscious effort to live here.” She and others in her generation are definitely up to the task.

Get to work!

Just to review, Maddie was born in Seattle but arrived on the Peninsula at four years old and graduated from Ilwaco High School in 2007. At the University of Oregon she undertook two majors — journalism and cinema studies. She’s done everything from creating a film festival for her high school senior project, to interning at and writing for the Chinook Observer, to starting her own business, the Pink Poppy Bakery. Recently she’s been media and marketing manager in the hospitality field. She’s director of the Ocean Beach Hospital Board and has been on the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum (CPHM) board since 2014. In short, she’s a doer.

Masked up at the museum, Maddie and I spoke last week about her recent appointment as executive director there. As CPHM board member she was part of the search committee to replace Betsy Millard, who is stepping into a volunteer position as collections manager. “We’d written up the job description and after a meeting when I asked a couple pointed questions, Betsy said, ‘Are you interested?’ and I realized I was.”

It seemed a natural choice for an immanently qualified and long-time booster of the museum. On the job since Sept. 1, Maddie already has her plate full. “We won’t be holding the 6 X 6 auction this year. It has such a great party atmosphere we decided it would be impossible to capture that online, although that is our main annual fund-raising event — it usually brings in around $25,000. We also canceled the Cranberrian Fair. But Betsy has done such an incredible job of making and keeping the museum financially stable that we’ll be able to weather the storm this year. This is grant season though, so finances have been top of my mind.”

Patrick James McGowan

Patrick James McGowan, among first salmon packers on the Columbia River, was photographed with a family child in 1912.

Great news for us locals and visiting tourists is that the museum will be open starting Oct. 7, Wednesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. And, even better, it will be free through the end of the year. Betsy was busy putting up the new show while we talked: it will be top hits from the CPHM Facebook photo postings that have been wildly popular on social media since the museum closed.

The exhibit features 20 or so of the most popular photos and accompanying stories from the archive including “Lucille Wilson and the Beginnings of the Ark” and “Patrick James McGowan.” Twenty people at a time will be allowed into the exhibit, masks required. There is plenty of space in the exhibit hall to take your time with each photo/story and stay socially distanced.

Serving the community

One of Maddie’s goals and, in fact, one of the reasons she was chosen, is to broaden the reach of the museum to younger people in the community. “One of my priorities is to bring more families and kids into the museum. I have personal experience with that as I’m a mom with a 3-year-old. I’d like to create more family programming, maybe a preschool story hour, or every few weeks have a specialized program for kids.”

“There are quite a few millennials who have moved into our community and I think with the global pandemic and environmental issues that’s only going to increase. Now that many people can work remotely, there may be a mass exodus from expensive urban areas.” (This trend is already apparent. Because of the West Coast fires and the extreme prices of real estate elsewhere, we are seeing a huge increase in local home purchases.)

She continues, “I’d like to focus on collecting more oral histories — from our older community members, of course, but also from the new crowd doing new things. And I’d like to focus on the stories of people maybe we’ve forgotten, stories that have not been told. What about the Peninsula’s LGBTQ community, for instance, or our Hispanic families? The civil rights activists, or people in the trans movement? It’s hard to have conversations like those around here. But their stories are just as relevant.”

“We’re going through a tumultuous period in our history right now. I think people are ready for change — it’s a time for new ideas so there’s less resistance to change. It’s lovely to be a part of this transition at the museum because Betsy has been such a wonderful caretaker. And one of the reasons I decided to take the job is that she will be around to coach me.”

Annus horribilis

“This museum is incredible and we want to make sure it continues to be part of our resilient rural community. We need to care for our past — who we were, who we are, and who we want to be — and still maintain relevance. Not that I think caring for our collection isn’t relevant in itself, but you need to continue proving to each generation that you still matter. That we’re not just a building full of old dusty stuff.”

It’s good to be reminded that this “now” we’re all living through will, sooner than we think, become history. These pandemic journals and diaries we’re all writing…? Those will be of critical interest to the generations of people who follow us, just as now we’re going back to read about how folks made it through the flu pandemic of 1918.

This year of 2020 — our national annus horribilis — will no doubt go down in infamy: covid pandemic, economic collapse, vast fires and hurricanes, profound political divisions, racial unrest, and now a president with the virus is all rubbing us raw in our little piece of paradise. But with Maddie at the museum helm — and Betsy to steady her hand — we’ve got dedicated experts on the local tiller of history.

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