Patrick Harris is honored by the Oregon California Trail Association for more than 30 years of preservation efforts at the Old Aurora Colony

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Patrick Harris, right, receives his award July 23. The Oregon California Trail Association has presented a Distinguished Service Award to Patrick Harris, curator of the Old Aurora Colony Museum.

Harris received the award July 23 at the association’s 31st annual conference in Clackamas. The OCTA is the nation’s largest and most influential organization dedicated to preserving and protecting overland emigrant trails and the emigrant experience.

The OCTA honored him for his more than 30 years of efforts preserving the history of the Old Aurora Colony. He has helped identify, document and preserve the artifacts and memorabilia and hundreds of family histories related to Oregon City and the French Prairie of the North Willamette Valley.

Harris discovered the old colony as a Portland State University graduate school intern in the 1970s. After earning his master’s degree, he served as the museum director from 1983 to 1996.

From 1997 to 2006, he saved as executive director of the Museum of the Oregon Territory. He returned as curator of the Old Aurora Colony Museum in 2006.

Since then, he has expanded the museum collection, created the outreach program and expanded database for descendants of the original colony families.

He also recruited an assistant curator and secured grants for exhibits and educational programs, including living history program for fourth-grade students at the historic Stauffer-Will Farm.

The museum was founded and operated by the Aurora Colony Historical Society, celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2013.

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