October 12, 2023
We must remember and share those stories of struggle and resilience so our country and world are not defined by hate and its darkest moments. Museums have that power—to uplift, educate, and inspire people to seek the truth, to give hope and wonder for a better future.
-Lynn Fuchigami Parks
Two long-time leaders of Portland museums were recognized for the significant impact they have made on both their institutions and the local community. Lynn Fuchigami Parks, Executive Director Emeritus of the Japanese American Museum of Oregon (JAMO), and Judy Margles, Director of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education (OJMCHE), were jointly awarded the Western Museum Association (WMA) Leadership Award on Oct. 6 at the association’s annual meeting, this year in Pasadena, CA.
Lorie Millward, WMA President; Lynn Fuchigami Parks; Judy Margles; and Jason Jones, Executive Director, WMA.
Lynn Fuchigami Parks served as the executive director of the Japanese American Museum of Oregon for 10 years. It was a dream of hers to open a permanent, modern facility for the museum during her tenure, ensuring that the organization would have a home in Portland’s historic Japantown in perpetuity. She was successful in that goal, raising $5 million within three years and overseeing the renovation of the new home for the museum, along with the updated permanent exhibition and collection storage facility.
Although she retired in 2021, Lynn continues to serve the institution as a consultant and builds upon her years of community leadership in many crucial Japanese American organizations. Her continued support and contributions help to preserve and protect the underrepresented history of Japanese Americans in Oregon and empower the next generation of leaders to use museums as a resource for social equality. Hanako Wakatsuki-Chong, current executive director of the Japanese American Museum of Oregon, describes her predecessor: “Lynn is an incredible leader worthy of this award. She has tirelessly advocated for this history to be told and, beyond the walls of the museum, that Japanese American historic sites be honored and preserved. She has created opportunities for many and cleared the path for the next generation of leaders succeeding her.”
OJMCHE Director Judy Margles, who is retiring at the end of 2023, has led the museum for 30 years—which, over the decades, included transitioning from a “museum without walls” to several Portland locations before the move in 2017 to the flagship location on the North Park Blocks. During those years, Judy also oversaw significant museum growth in education and outreach. In 2014, the museum merged with the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center, which enriched the museum in countless ways. As stewards of the Oregon Holocaust Memorial in Portland’s Washington Park, thousands of visitors now tour the Memorial. With a statewide education team in place, there are in-person and virtual resources on lessons from the Holocaust and the museum continues to be the only community repository for the Jewish experience in Oregon.
Under Judy’s leadership, the museum reopened in June 2023 after completing a successful fundraising campaign. Expanded galleries and a new core exhibition, Human Rights After the Holocaust, enhance OJMCHE’s power to accomplish its mission to teach the universal lessons of the Holocaust by including today’s experience of hate, racism, discrimination, and persecution. As Judy noted at the WMA conference, “We ask visitors the question, how do you turn hope into action? As I prepare to end my tenure as OJMCHE’s director, I urge all of all of us to create opportunities that testify to our hope so that we can all work together to create our better future.“
During the ceremony, Lynn reflected on the crucial relevance of museums today: “In this moment in time, as we see hate and racism being given a platform, as history and culture are being erased or censored, the work of our museums and institutions is more critical than ever before. The soul of our country continues to be tested; its memory tested. We must remember and share those stories of struggle and resilience so our country and world are not defined by hate and its darkest moments. Museums have that power—to uplift, educate, and inspire people to seek the truth, to give hope and wonder for a better future.”
The Western Museums Association Leadership Award recognizes and acknowledges exceptional individuals who have made a significant impact in their institution or community. The award is presented to individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to serving diverse communities, promoting social justice or challenging institutional structures. Both Lynn and Judy spearheaded efforts to bring their community museums to a wider audience and with it a greater understanding of the difficult histories that they tell. With the retirement of these two leaders, this award is a recognition of their many years of successful and devoted leadership in their respective communities, in Portland’s cultural landscape, and in the museum field.