Oregon Historical Society Museum

Oregon Historical Society Museum
Established 1898
Location Portland, Oregon, United States
45°30′57″N 122°40′56″W / 45.515903°N 122.682186°W / 45.515903; -122.682186Coordinates: 45°30′57″N 122°40′56″W / 45.515903°N 122.682186°W / 45.515903; -122.682186
Type private: history
Visitor figures 44,000 (est. 2010)
Director George L. Vogt
Website ohs.org

The Oregon Historical Society Museum is a history museum housed at the Oregon History Center in downtown Portland, Oregon, United States. The museum was created in 1898 and house about 44,000 visitors annually.

It houses the Portland Penny that decided the city’s name.[1] This 1835 copper penny was flipped to decide between the names of Boston and Portland, with Portland as the winner.[2] The museum contains over 85,000 artifacts, and is accredited by the American Association of Museums.



The museum is operated by the Oregon Historical Society. It began at the turn of the 19th century with a small museum located at Portland City Hall in downtown Portland.[3] In 1917 the historical society and the museum moved to the Public Auditorium (later Civic Auditorium, then Keller Auditorium).[3]

In 1966 the museum relocated again to its current home on the South Park Blocks, at 1200 SW Park Avenue.[3][4] Part of the Oregon History Center is inside the former Sovereign Hotel that was built in 1923.[5] There is a large mural on this nine story building painted by Richard Haas that depicts the Lewis & Clark Expedition.[5] Other parts of the museum are in the three story 1230 SW Park Avenue building constructed in 1965.[6]

Oregon Historical Society seal

The museum's lobby was remodeled in 2002–2003 at a cost of $3.75 million.[7] Attendance in 2002 totaled 26,791 patrons for the museum.[8] For much of its history the historical society received funding from the state and from Multnomah County, but in 2003 that ended.[9] The 2007 legislature allocated $625,000 to the society, followed by $2.5 million in for 2009 to 2011.[10] The museum's attendance totaled about 44,000 visitors in 2010.[10]


The museum contains over 85,000 artifacts relating to the history of the region in its collections.[3] Artifacts include the famous Portland Penny used to decide the name of the city,[2] Captain Robert Gray's storage chest from aboard the Columbia Rediviva, a 10,000 year old sandal, memorabilia from the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition, Native American artifacts, a miniature vehicle collection, and many everyday items from jars to dresses.[11]


Figurehead on display in the museum

Permanent exhibits at the museum include: Oregon My Oregon; Battleship Oregon: Bulldog of the Navy; and Oregon Art.

Oregon My Oregon is a 7,000-square-foot (650 m2) display covering Oregon’s history from early settlement to current times. Significant items include a reproduction of a ship’ hull, a 1940s era mercantile store, an intact complete lunch counter from a diner, and a 9000 year old sandal.[12] This exhibit won a silver 2005 MUSE Award in the History and Culture category from the American Association of Museums for the lunch counter display entitled Modern Oregon Issues.[13]

Battleship Oregon: Bulldog of the Navy, examines the history of the historic ship that bore the state’s name. Made famous by it voyage to Cuba for the Spanish-American War in 1898, the display looks at the impact the ship had on history and the ship’s own history from construction through demise. The exhibit also talks about the captain and life on board the vessel.[14]

Oregon Art is an exhibit that has changing works of art. The exhibit attempts to educate visitors about Oregon artists from pre-statehood times to the present. Artists works include those from Joseph Drayton of the 1841 Wilkes Expedition to Oregon Country.

The museum also houses traveling exhibits such as one commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Expedition in 2005. In 2001, the center exhibited historic Native American trade blankets from the Dale Chihuly collection.[15] Additionally there are traveling exhibits containing historic photographs.[16]


The Oregon History Center also contains the society’s research library and historic photograph collection. Additionally, the museum store sells items such as books and history memorabilia.[17] The museum is accredited by the American Association of Museums.[18]

See also


  1. ^ City keeps lively pulse. The Oregonian, January 23, 2001.
  2. ^ a b Portland combines city life with views of the Cascades, The Star-Ledger, July 18, 2004
  3. ^ a b c d History. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  4. ^ Location Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved on 12 May, 2010.
  5. ^ a b Oregon History Center. Emporis. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  6. ^ 1230 SW Park Avenue. Emporis. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  7. ^ History in the making. The Oregonian, April 21, 2003.
  8. ^ Attendance figures. TravelOregon.com. Retrieved on June 1, 2007.
  9. ^ Historical society shrinks staff, The Oregonian, December 15, 2006.
  10. ^ a b Row, D.K. (July 14, 2011). "Oregon Historical Society reverses financial picture with $2.5 million from Legislature". The Oregonian. http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2011/07/oregon_historical_society_reverses_financial_picture_with_25_million_from_the_lottery_bond.html. Retrieved 16 July 2011. 
  11. ^ Artifacts. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  12. ^ Oregon My Oregon. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  13. ^ All About the 2005 Muse Award Winners: Educational/Interpretive - History and Culture. MUSE Awards. Retrieved on March 18, 2008.
  14. ^ The Battleship Oregon. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  15. ^ Chihuly Exhibition Schedule. Chihuly. Retrieved on March 18, 2008.
  16. ^ Exhibits. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  17. ^ Museum Store. Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved on February 29, 2008.
  18. ^ List of Accredited Museums. American Association of Museums. Retrieved December 13, 2007.

External links

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