Oregon Historical Society

Oregon Historical Society

Seal of the Oregon Historical Society
Formation 1898
Type Historical society
Headquarters Portland, Oregon
Location Oregon
Website ohs.org

The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) is an organization that encourages and promotes the study and understanding of the history of the Oregon Country, within the broader context of U.S. history. Incorporated in 1898, the Society collects, preserves, and makes available materials of historical character and interest, and collaborates with other groups and individuals with similar aims. The society operates the Oregon History Center that includes the Oregon Historical Society Museum in downtown Portland.



The Society was organized on December 17, 1898, in Portland at the Portland Library Building.[1] The first president was Harvey W. Scott, with memberships totaling 370 in the first year.[1] Shortly after its formation, the Society opened its first office and museum in Portland City Hall and began the development of a regional research library and a collection of historical artifacts. In 1900 the first issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly was printed as the official publication of the organization.[1] In 1917, the Society moved into Portland’s Public Auditorium (now Keller Auditorium) and, in 1966, moved to its current location.[2]

Tom Vaughan stepped down from his 35-year presidency in 1990.[3] Chet Orloff, who had left OHS in 1987 for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society in Pasadena, California, was considered by The Oregonian to be heir-apparent, but Bill Tramposch was brought in from Williamsburg, Virginia.[4][3] Staff members staged a "coup" at the society, and Orloff returned to Portland in 1991, being appointed deputy director on January 1, 1992 after the staff turmoil and mismanagement, which had led to the resignation of nearly 30 staff members and Tramposch.[5][6][7][8] Orloff remained in position for ten years, retiring at the end of 2000.[8]

Dr. George L. Vogt was appointed as the eighth Executive Director of OHS in November 2006. Dr. Vogt is a former president of the American Association for State and Local History.[citation needed] In July 2007, the Oregon Historical Society was awarded a $2.8 million biennial appropriation from the State of Oregon, though the organization is not a state entity.[9] The $2.8 million given by the state over the two years equals 30% of the annual operating budget.[citation needed]


The Society's museum, archives and research library contains approximately 8.5 million feet of film and videotape, over 2.5 million photographs, 85,000 artifacts, 30,000 books, 25,000 maps, 16,000 rolls of microfilm, 12,000 feet (3,700 m) of documents, and oral history preserved in more than 8,400 hours of recordings covering over 2,100 interviews. The society has one of the largest collections of historic photographs in the United States.[10]

OHS has published the Oregon Historical Quarterly continuously since 1900. Since 1929, the Oregon Historical Society Press has published over 150 books on Oregon history, politics, culture, and biographies, including Oregon Geographic Names. As of 2009, the press has suspended operations.[11] University of Washington Press is handling all distribution of OHS Press books still in print.[11] Publication of the Oregon Historical Quarterly will continue.[11]

The OHS Museum Store is located in the lobby of the National Register of Historic Places-designated Sovereign Hotel.[12] The building was added to the register in 1981.[13]

Sovereign Hotel where OHS Store is located.


Noting that the four successive presidents after Harvey Scott were attorneys, historian E. Kimbark MacColl stated:

young Portland lawyers at the turn of the [20th] century ... rose to civic prominence, ... became actively involved in the Oregon Historical Society, and ... were instrumental in fabricating an "Oregon Story" that was heavily laden with mythology, hero worship and pioneer idolization. [Charles H.] Carey, Scott, and others, constituted a group of politician-writers who advised: Don't hurt the party. Don't divide up America into classes by denouncing the rich and exciting "the envy and hatred of the poor." Spare the city's reputation.... Carey and Scott would never admit they had made mistakes or that the old system was rotten.[14]

See also

  • Frederick Van Voorhies Holman - former president of OHS
  • Oregon Encyclopedia - in 2008, the OHS and the PSU history department announced plans to create an online encyclopedia.
  • Neil Goldschmidt - in 2004, access to historical records of Goldschmidt's term as Governor brought the OHS's role in such matters under public scrutiny.


  1. ^ a b c Corning, Howard M. Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.
  2. ^ "History" (Website). About Us. Oregon Historical Society History. 2008. http://www.ohs.org/about-ohs/history.cfm. Retrieved January 2, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Nicholas, Jonathan (1990-06-18). "PALACE COUP THWARTED ON PARK BLOCKS". The Oregonian: p. C01. 
  4. ^ Pintarich, Paul (1990-01-23). "ROLE OF FAR-REACHING NINTH JUDICIAL CIRCUIT SPAWNS PUBLICATIONS". The Oregonian: p. D06. 
  5. ^ Rubenstein, Sura (1991-11-11). "HISTORICAL SOCIETY PRAISES NEW EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR". The Oregonian: p. B05. 
  6. ^ Saker, Anne (2010-01-11). "Portland State prof takes on a new kind of museum: One on the Internet using a Wikipedia model". The Oregonian. http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2010/01/portland_state_prof_takes_on_a.html. Retrieved 2010-01-11. 
  7. ^ Tomlinson, Stuart (1991-11-07). "FORMER ASSISTANT TO HEAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY". The Oregonian: p. B03. 
  8. ^ a b Leeson, Fred (2000-11-08). "ORLOFF WILL LEAVE JOB AT HISTORICAL SOCIETY". The Oregonian: p. C09. 
  9. ^ Senate Bill 5549 of 2007
  10. ^ LewisAndClarkTrail.com: Oregon History Center
  11. ^ a b c "About the Press". Oregon Historical Society. http://www.ohs.org/research/publications/About-the-press.cfm. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  12. ^ OHS: Museum store
  13. ^ Oregon NRHP list
  14. ^ MacColl, E. Kimbark (1976-11). The Shaping of a City: Business and politics in Portland, Oregon 1885 to 1915. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press Company. pp. 190–192. OCLC 2645815. 

External links

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