Perhaps the best part is the look at the Temperance movement, its relation to early feminism, and an ironic underscore on women's suffrage's first act: Prohibition. As soon as women got the vote, they banned alcohol. We would not want to go back to denying anyone the vote, but at the same time, the expansion of suffrage here didn't necessarily result in winning policy. In this centennial of women's suffrage, it's great to see some of the ambiguity and ambivalence discussed.
If there's a problem with History on Tap, it is that it sometimes looks like a beer collection in search of a curator. There's too much collectible stuff presented as "artifact," and not enough theme and thesis on the significance and context of the collectible. In particular, the relation of beer and hops to Salem's politics, economy, and culture isn't always explored as it could.
Much of the time there's a glorious excess, a positively Victorian treatment of wall and space.
|Sam Adolph's Tomb|
|Sam Adolph House|
As important and visible Salem landmarks, Mahonia Hall and the Livesley Building would have made for a great center to the show - but if they were mentioned in any detail, we missed them.
The show we would have liked to see would start with the the buildings, the visible and enduring big physical artifacts, even infrastrucure, funded by hops and beer fortunes, and then work its way down to the beer collectibles, the brewiana. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)
For us the show is a little upside down, and in this and other parts it feels underfermented and underdeveloped.
Instead, we get more Portland history - too much on brewing statewide and not enough on the history of Salem and Marion County. Sometimes it looks like materials were developed elsewhere at a different museum.
In the end is it worth a visit? Absolutely! But is it all that it could be? Well, it could do with a good bit more depth and analysis of local significance.
We give it a half-full pint.
Have you been? What did you think?
*At the same time, this illustrates a problem with the concept of "heritage." So often the word heritage implies a myth of origins and not sober history, warts-and-all. We worry sometimes that the "Willamette Heritage Center" will have a new focus on local boosterism and that we will lose the focus of "Mission Mill" and the "Marion County Historical Society" on actual history. The bit on women's suffrage and the Temperance movement is a good counter to the sometimes gauzy celebration of "the ballot" in 1912, and we hope there is more of this to come!