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Recent News Items

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New Vanport Placemarking Project historical signs installed at the Vanport theater site!

Vanport Placemarking sharing booth at Rose Cup Races event, July 9-10, 2022!

Session featuring Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) at the 2022 Oregon Heritage Conference

Partner Event: 20-Year Columbia Slough Celebration on May 21st at Whitaker Ponds!

Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) featured in article on Portland State University website and May 5th panel discussion

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Previous News Items

Click on headlines to read further:

Double your impact to Oregon arts and culture nonprofits through the Oregon Cultural Tax Credit!

Vanport Placemarking Project Board Meetings held December 10, 2021 and March 25, 2022

Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) receives support from Kinsman Foundation, Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Heritage Commission, Nat. Historic Preservation Trust Fund

Designs for Environmental History and Women in the Workforce signs completed; Portland artist sidony o’neal to design People of Vanport sign

Vanport Placemarking Project tables at 2021 Rose Cup Races and Beaches events

New Story Collection – Life Along the Columbia: Stories from Behind the Levees


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Top, Tanya March, research director, and Corky Collier, Vanport Placemarking Project board member, stand beside new Vanport sign; above left, the crew from Ramsay signs installing a sign; above right, Christina Felix, project documentarian, stands beside another new Vanport marker.
Top, Tanya March, research director, and Corky Collier, VPP board member; above left, the crew from Ramsay signs installing a sign; above right, Christina Felix, project documentarian. Photos by Christina Felix.

New Vanport Placemarking Project historical signs installed at the former site of Vanport!

We’re excited to announce that we have now installed three double-sided historical signs at the former site of Vanport in north Portland. These signs provide information on Vanport’s history, the role of women in Vanport and the Kaiser shipyards, the natural habitat of the area, indigenous culture, local land-use history, the Flood of 1948, and more. 

Thanks to funding and support from the Oregon Cultural Trust, City of Portland, Oregon State Parks & Recreation Commission, Multnomah County Drainage District, Prosper Portland, TMT Development, and Ramsay Signs, these high-quality markers will share stories of this place with visitors to the Vanport theater site and the Portland International Raceway for decades to come.

We will be offering a tour of the Vanport theater site that features these new signs in early summer—stay tuned for our next email with sign-up information. The signs can also be viewed by calling ahead to the Portland International Raceway (503 823-7223) and planning a visit during weekday hours (map of sign locations here). If you would like to view the marker panels online, you can see them on our website here.

We’d like to especially thank the dozens of community members who provided feedback on the photos and text of these signs, as well as Terri Johnson, PIR Caretaker, who was an early advocate for the preservation of the Vanport theater foundation site.

Thank you for helping us honor the story of Vanport and its role in Oregon’s history. If you would like to support our future work, including an archaeological study of the Vanport theater site, the development of an audiobox to help share the stories of Vanport residents directly and accessibly, and further signage and art about the people of Vanport, we would greatly appreciate your donation.

Three people, staff from Ramsay Signs, a company founded 30 years before Vanport, install a VPP sign near the Vanport theater site. One person shovels dirt from a wheelbarrow while two others hold the new sign as they fit it into the ground.
Staff from Ramsay Signs, a company founded 30 years before Vanport, install a VPP sign near the Vanport theater site. Photo by Christina Felix.
Do you know someone who has memories to share about Vanport and the Vanport theater? If so, let us know! (info@vanportplaces.org) We are collecting stories about the Vanport theater as part of the Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (more info below).

A section of concrete emerges from the grass, with the grass snaking across the concrete and a woman standing behind the concrete, holding a measuring tape line which is strung out across the concrete slab. The concrete slab is the remains of the Vanport theater, which stood between 1942 and 1948 and was a hub for the Vanport community. The theater foundation is the only above-ground physical remains of Vanport.
Measurements are taken of the Vanport theater foundation, February 2022. Photo by Christina Felix.

Session featuring Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) at the 2022 Oregon Heritage Conference

The 2022 Oregon Heritage Conference is coming up on April 27-29! As detailed on the conference website, this virtual conference invites attendees to “explore ways in which heritage preservation empowers communities, uncovers untold stories, preserves history in the making, creatively engages audiences, and proves its value.” We are excited to share that the Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) will be featured in a session at the conference. Presenters David Ellis and Kristen Minor write this about the VAMP project in their session notes:

We will present a method to explore the relationship of the physical infrastructure to the social dynamics of the Vanport population, paying special attention to cultural norms. The Vanport Theater was an anchor that served the 40,000 residents of Vanport and drew non‐residents to the community. The effort will cover steps to record the physical remains of the theater as an archaeological resource and a report providing the social and community context for the theater site.

Learn more about and sign up for the conference here!


Community members enjoy a free canoe bimaran paddle on the Columbia Slough at Whitaker Ponds, hosted by the Columbia Slough Watershed Council.

Partner Event: 20-Year Columbia Slough Celebration on May 21st at Whitaker Ponds!

The Columbia Slough Watershed Council, another north Portland nonprofit and a partner in developing our Vanport natural habitat sign, is celebrating 20 years as a registered nonprofit! Join the Council on Saturday, May 21st, 2-6 pm at Whitaker Ponds Nature Park (park at NAYA, 5135 NE Columbia Blvd) for a free, family-friendly afternoon of celebration, community and adventure that will include paddling, birding, stewardship, outdoor education, food and drink, fellowship, and more! Details here.


PSU Anthropology students Shelby Larson (left) and Jenaya Wallace (right) study current and historical maps while standing on the concrete slab of the Vanport Theater foundation. This work is part of Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) research in February 2022.  Photo by Christina Felix.
PSU Anthropology students Shelby Larson (left) and Jenaya Wallace (right) study current and historical maps at the Vanport Theater site as part of Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) research in February 2022. Photo by Christina Felix.

Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) featured in article on Portland State University website and May 5th panel discussion

Portland State University features an article about the Vanport Archaelogical Memory Project (VAMP), a collaborative effort between the Vanport Placemarking Project, Portland State University cultural anthropology department, Willamette Cultural Research Associates, and archaeologists and historians in the community. Thanks to generous support from foundations, this project includes archival research, interviews with Vanport residents and their descendants, and archaeological work focused on the Vanport theater, whose foundation is the one above-ground remnant of Vanport visible today. Read the article here!

Vanport Placemarking Project and the VAMP project will also be featured in PSU’s Research Week in a conversation about telling stories of Vanport on Thursday, May 5th @ 4:00 pm. Learn more and join the conversation here.


Double your impact to Oregon arts and culture nonprofits through the Oregon Cultural Tax Credit!

This 100%-back credit works for any donations you’ve made to us, along with over 1,500 other arts and cultural nonprofits in Oregon, a list of which can be found here. Learn more about how this works in on the Oregon Cultural Trust website.


Vanport Placemarking Project Board Meeting held December 10, 2021 and March 25, 2022

In December 2021, our Board and Project Team gathered with partners and collaborators via Zoom to discuss current projects, the year’s accomplishments, and plans for the new year. Review the meeting agenda from our December 2021 meeting here. In March 2022, the Board and collaborators met again (pictured above) to discuss project progress and planning for the quarter.


Six people and a bicycle stand in front of wide building about two stories tall, with some advertisements for movies on the face of the building. This building is the historic Vanport Theater that stood on North Cottonwood St. in Vanport in the 1940's.
The Vanport Theater in 1944. Courtesy City of Portland Archives, A2001-025.813

Vanport Archaeological Memory Project (VAMP) receives support from Kinsman Foundation, Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Heritage Commission, Nat. Historic Preservation Trust Fund

The only physical remains of Vanport are pieces of the concrete slab that was the foundation for a 750-seat movie theater (pictured above). In July 2020, the National Park Service announced formal recognition of the historic significance of Portland’s African American experience on the National Register of Historic Places. The Multiple Property Designation includes Vanport as a significant African American site; however, no archaeological study has ever been done of the site. As a result, significant gaps exist in the historical understanding of the everyday life of the prior inhabitants, both during the Vanport era and before, when Indigenous peoples farmed the land for sustenance harvest and trade using the plentiful natural resources of the Columbia River for hundreds of years.

The VAMP project will provide invaluable information about historically underrepresented communities and their experience and use of the Vanport site. Additionally, it will lay the groundwork for individual historical site designation for Vanport on the National Register of Historic Places. It will also coordinate with our work in creating an Augmented Reality app to provide an archaeological history of the buildings of Vanport. We are delighted to be working on this project with Kristen Minor (Chair, Historic Landmarks Commission), Dave Ellis (Willamette Cultural Resource Associates), and graduate students from the Portland State University School of Anthropology. We thank the Kinsman Foundation, Oregon Cultural Trust, Oregon Heritage Commission, and Natural Historic Preservation Trust Fund for supporting the project.


Images of four signs that the Vanport Placemarking Project has designed are displayed in a collage. The sign titles are: Women, War, & Work, Vanport: The Miracle City, A Transforming Floodplain, and Lands Shaped by Water and Wartime.
The four Vanport marker panels that will be installed this winter at the Portland International Raceway.

Designs for Environmental History and Women in the Workforce signs completed; Portland artist sidony o’neal to design People of Vanport sign

The historic site of Vanport will soon feature some new educational signs! Thanks to support from the Oregon Cultural Trust, the City of Portland, the Multnomah County Drainage District, Ramsay Signs, and other groups, we have completed the designs for two new double-sided signs that will be placed at the historic Vanport theater foundation, near the Portland International Raceway in north Portland. And, we are in the planning phases of a new sign focused on the people of Vanport, which will be designed by Portland interdisciplinary artist sidony o’neal. We’re excited to be sharing more of Vanport’s history with community members both present and future!


A person visits the Vanport Placemarking Project booth at the Beaches Classic Car Cruise-In event at the Portland International Raceway. The booth includes a blue table with a variety of papers, buttons, and informational signs, as well as prints of archival photographs of Vanport. Behind the booth, many people can be seen milling about at the event.
Vanport Placemarking Project staff share information about Vanport at their booth at the Beaches event at PIR.

Vanport Placemarking Project tables at 2021 Rose Cup Races and Beaches events

Vanport Placemarking Project co-hosted an informational booth with the Columbia Slough Watershed Council, Multnomah County Drainage District, and Portland Bureau of Environmental Services at the 60th annual Rose Cup Races, July 9-11, 2021. At the booth, we distributed information about Vanport and shared a demo of our Augmented Reality app, which shows Vanport buildings overlaid on the present landscape of the Portland International Raceway. Friends of Portland International Raceway (PIR) also provided a full page about Vanport in their printed and online program. The event was attended by about 3,000 people.

We also conducted outreach this year at the Beaches Classic Car Cruise-In event, an event held during the summer months on the grounds of the Portland International Raceway. We were provided a booth to inform attendees about our project and Vanport, and met many people who have ties to Vanport history. About 1,000 people attended the event the day we were there.


Six people stand in front of a tree, smiling. Above them, a quote reads: "We are thinking about how we can reduce flood risk while also being in tune with our environment and our community, and maybe learning how to live with a certain amount of risk as well."
Community members share perspectives from life in the Columbia South Shore floodplain. Courtesy MCDD.

New Story Collection – Life Along the Columbia: Stories from Behind the Levees

While it’s been more than 70 years since floodwaters surged over Vanport and inundated homes and businesses across the south shore of the Columbia, flood risk in north Portland is by no means a thing of the past. Today, development in north Portland—include on the former site of Vanport—is protected by a system of levees carefully designed and maintained by the Multnomah County Drainage District (MCDD).

These levees control water levels, channel flows through waterways like the Columbia Slough, and help keep events like the Flood of 1948 from recurring. But they also shape life for a diverse community of people who live, work, and recreate in the Columbia Slough floodplain. This fall, MCDD is coordinating with FEMA Region 10 to share some of these people’s stories in a collection called Life Along the Columbia: Stories from Behind the Levees (English) or Historias De La Vida A Lo Largo Del Río Columbia (Spanish). The collection was recorded during the Annual Columbia Slough Watershed Council’s Regatta in August 2019 and features 8 stories, told in a mix of English and Spanish. Check them out here!