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Museum exhibit shows the fight for farmworkers' rights in Lane County

A portion of an exhibit at the Lane County History Museum. Written items in the display are not legible in the photo.
Nathan Wilk
A section of the exhibit. The Lane County History museum will host a reopening celebration this Saturday, following months of changes to its displays.

A new exhibit at The Lane County History Museum explores the fight for farmworkers' rights.

The latest in the “Who is Lane County” series tells the stories of migrant farmworkers and the labor movement. It uses historical writings, archival footage and testimony from living activists.

Michael Samano, who oversees Ethnic Studies at Lane Community College, helped create the display. He said starting in the 1960s, many young workers began attending universities and becoming politically involved.

“Let's say you're a farmworker who ends up at Lane Community College or the University of Oregon. You're going to bring a whole different kind of worldview to understand this material,” said Samano. “There's a drive and a passion to these issues, because they clearly knew what was at stake.”

The exhibit features a letter from national labor leader Cesar Chavez, praising the efforts of student activists at LCC.

Also included is the story of Eugene Friends of the Farmworkers. They led boycotts against Safeway and University of Oregon Dining in the 1970s, pressuring those businesses not to buy non-union produce.

Labor activist Nancy Bray supplied materials from her time in EFFW. She said these stories matter today, because workers' rights issues are ongoing.

“These are people who are still out there, picking all the crops that we eat,” Bray said. “We hope our exhibit can help people remember to be aware of farmworkers and the work that they do for all of us.”

“Who is Lane County” is part of an effort by museum staff to diversify the perspectives on display.

“We did not write any of these stories alone,” said Jennifer Yeh, the museum’s Co-Executive Director. “We brought community members in who had a story they wanted to tell, and then we gave them support to be able to tell that story in their own words.”

On Saturday, Sept. 23, the museum will host an event to celebrate its new displays and artifacts, featuring a mariachi band, booths and kids activities.

The event begins at 2 PM and ends at 8 PM. Admission to the Lane County History Museum is free.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.