Historical Society director exits at end of August

After two years forging a new direction for the Southern Oregon Historical Society, executive director Allison Weiss is stepping down.

Weiss, 44, said her reasons for leaving include the inability of her husband to find a permanent post as an elementary school teacher in the area and wanting to be closer to her family on the East Coast.

Weiss will stay through the end of August while she trains an interim director, whose name hasn't been released yet.

SOHS will conduct a nationwide search for a new executive director, a position that currently pays $50,000 a year.

Weiss cited her main accomplishments as steering SOHS through overwhelming budget problems while trying to focus its efforts on its substantial collection of artifacts rather than on historical buildings in Jacksonville.

"The Historical Society isn't the buildings," Weiss said. "The Historical Society is the collection."

Weiss helped reopen the research library in Medford with an almost all-volunteer staff as SOHS consolidated its efforts into the JCPenney building. She also helped create a traveling exhibit program to help engage the community in the importance of preserving history.

"I want to commend Allison for her intelligence, her intuition, her professional expertise and her dedication," said Dick Thierolf, SOHS board president.

Weiss developed a better working relationship with Jackson County, which gave SOHS a $200,000 loan against the future sale of the U.S. Hotel.

In previous years, the county and SOHS were often at odds.

"I think she has left us with a legacy of a good relationship with Jackson County," Thierolf said.

Weiss took over SOHS during a time when the entire staff was laid off and all properties were shut down during a period of reorganization.

The History Center in Medford leases out some of its space to the Kid Time Discovery Experience. Seeds of Change, a national organic seed company, leases Hanley Farm, which SOHS also owns.

Four county-owned properties, which SOHS leases, are now being managed by the newly formed Jacksonville Heritage Society. The Jacksonville buildings include the courthouse complex, the Catholic Rectory, the Beekman House and Beekman Bank.

Weiss said that when she took over as executive director too much energy was devoted to running the Jacksonville buildings.

With the emphasis on the research library and reopening Hanley Farm on a regular basis, she thinks SOHS is on the road to achieving financial stability.

Weiss said she doesn't have a job lined up yet in Washington, D.C., where her husband will be working.

However, she said there are many museums and other cultural organizations in the immediate area.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.

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