We commemorate National Women’s History Month 2017 with a series that profiles remarkable women who work for Historical Research Associates (HRA). Project Historian Morgen Young specializes in exhibit development, interpretative planning, digital history, and oral history. She has curated dozens of exhibits and historical displays for a variety of clients, receiving national recognition. She is a two-time winner of the National Council on Public History’s Excellence in Consulting Award, receiving the award in 2012 for Oregon Health & Science University’s permanent exhibit “The History of Diversity in the Health Sciences” and in 2016 for the traveling exhibit, “Uprooted: Japanese American Farm Labor Camps During World War II.”
HRA: Before working at HRA, what was the most unusual or interesting job you’ve ever had?
Morgen: I was the Cultural Research Coordinator for an Alaska Native Corporation in Anchorage. I oversaw an oral history program that focused on the subsistence traditions of an Alaska Native village in Prince William Sound. That project included recording memories as well as recipes and through that, I was able to try many traditional foods. That job convinced me to go to grad school and pursue public history as a profession. And I didn’t realize it at the time, but that was my first experience working as a consulting historian and it really laid out my career path.
HRA: What was your dream job as a kid and why?
Morgen: I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was obsessed with the water and animals, but didn’t really know what being a marine biologist entailed. I entered college as a biology major, but with dismal grades my first semester, I switched to history.
HRA: How has HRA helped you in your career development?
Morgen: I am still relevantly new at HRA; I won’t hit a year until August 2017. During my first six months here, I have grown as a public historian and as a consultant. Consulting work is what I want to do for the rest of my career. Transitioning from owning a small business to working for a larger firm has greatly helped expand my knowledge of both history and the business-side of history work.
HRA: What woman inspires you and why?
Morgen: There are too many to name. I am inspired by so many – the women in my family, women I’ve worked with in the past and am working with now, women I’ve met through various projects, and women I’ve studied throughout history. At the moment, though, I am continuously inspired by sisters Aya Fujii and Taka Mizote. I met them through my work on Uprooted, a traveling exhibit. They, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, were incarcerated during World War II by the U.S. government and their family volunteered to provide critical farm labor in eastern Oregon. After interviewing them in 2013 for the project, we have become family. I have gained so much from their wisdom, generosity, and friendship.
HRA: If you could interview one woman (dead or alive) who would it be?
Morgen: Dorothea Lange or Marion Post Wolcott. One of my main research interests is Farm Security Administration photography. Between 1935 and 1944, the agency oversaw the largest federal documentary photography project in U.S. history. And Lange and Wolcott were two of the staff photographers. I’d love to ask them questions their work across the country, their impressions of the different cultures and individuals they met, and their experiences working for the FSA.
HRA: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see cast as you?
Morgen: I have no idea. I have plenty of actresses whose work I admire, but I can’t think of one who looks like me, if that’s supposed to be one of the main determining factors.
HRA: What project at HRA has been your greatest success, and why?
Morgen: I am particularly proud of my work on Uprooted. I served as the project director and oversaw the development of a traveling exhibit and its companion elements, including an oral history program, two documentary films, a comprehensive website, and lesson plans. The exhibit is currently traveling across the country and was most recently shown in Los Angeles and Philadelphia. Related to Women’s History Month, I am also proud of my work for Portland State University’s Center for Women’s Leadership. I curated digital exhibits for the center that highlighted collections from the Oregon Political Leadership Archive.