Resilience, Sustainability, and Connection

Jon Erlandson

Executive Director
Museum of Natural and Cultural History

2019 was a difficult year for me personally and professionally—a year of navigating major budget cuts at the museum, being diagnosed with and treated for cancer, and losing my 94 year-old mother in late December. As 2020 dawned, I was sure things could only get better. Then COVID-19 arrived and everything changed. I learned how to work remotely, how to teach online, to wear a mask and social distance, to Zoom until I could Zoom no more, to care for a toddler nearly full-time, and so much more.

Most of all, I learned about resilience, sustainability, and the deep human need for connection. People, families, businesses, and other institutions are struggling and suffering terribly because of a pandemic unlike any we have seen in a century. And yet, we are motivated to persevere, finding new ways to connect, work, learn, and look to the future with hope.

Museums and other cultural institutions around the world have been hard hit and many are not expected to survive the pandemic. We join the global community in grieving these significant losses. Against this backdrop, I feel extremely fortunate to report that the Museum of Natural and Cultural History will survive—and may emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever—thanks to its connections to ally institutions and to individuals like you. The stories in this edition of Fieldnotes speak to those connections and to the amazing adaptability of museum staff, volunteers, supporters, and partners. Even as the University of Oregon reduced the museum’s funding by 20 percent in recent years, donors have stepped up to help us exceed our goal in UO’s current fundraising campaign, expand our current endowments to more than $8 million, and support our efforts in myriad ways. Even as Oregon went into lockdown, our staff scientists continued to work in the field, in the lab, or in their home offices. The impact of that research is felt statewide, nationally, and internationally. Even as we closed our exhibit halls to protect visitors and staff, we pivoted successfully toward digital exhibits and virtual programs, and we sent more than 3,000 home activity kits to families and libraries around the state. Even in a raging pandemic, our collections continued to grow as significant archaeological, ethnographic, and paleontological specimens were donated or transferred to the museum. Finally, even while working remotely, we continued the important work of planning for the future of a strong and sustainable museum.

The Museum of Natural and Cultural History will survive—and may emerge from the pandemic stronger than ever—thanks to its connections to ally institutions and to individuals like you.

The past year has been incredibly challenging for all of us, but we have learned important lessons along the way. With COVID-19 vaccines on the near horizon, we can hope for a return to some semblance of normalcy—but we know we will never be the same. Through it all, we remain incredibly grateful for all your support.

Stay happy, healthy, connected, and resilient, my friends. I look forward to seeing you as soon as it’s safe to gather again.

All the best,


Archaeologists Jon Erlandson and Kristin Gill in the Channel Islands, looking out over the ocean. Photo by Mahan Kalpa Khalsa

Outstanding in their Fields

MNCH scientists earn top spots in new international ranking system. 

Read more.

Visitors in the Racing to Change exhibit, October 2019

Connecting Across our Diverse Oregon Stories

Gift from The Coeta and Donald Barker Foundation will fund new, inclusive history programming. 

Read more.

10,000 year-old sagebrush bark sandals from Oregon's Fort Rock Cave

Sandal Society Spotlight

Museum supporters cast their votes for fossils and folklife.

Read more.



Volunteers and staff in collections

Connecting through Collections


A museum archaeologist sifting through sediment at a field site in south-central Oregon

Protecting and Preserving Oregon Heritage


MNCH volunteer Barry Hughes pulls open a drawer of fossils in the Condon Collection

Adapting to Change


Museum staff member Collin packing up kids' science kits to go

Lessons We Learned
from the Pandemic