The Oregon Historical Society

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I was told by someone whilst travelling, ‘why are you going to visit The Oregon Historical Society’?  Hmm, I was confused.  Why not?  For a girl travelling from Canada wanting to learn more about the state of Oregon it would make a fantastic reference point in educating myself towards Oregon’s roots.  Isn’t that one of the most important pieces when travelling?

Sure enough, I arrived at The Oregon Historical Society and read that their mission is a simple one,

‘As the steward of Oregon’s history, the Oregon Historical Society educates, informs, and engages the public through collecting, preserving, and interpreting the past . . . in other words, Oregon history matters.’

What struck me whilst visiting in Portland is that people are kind, live simply, earnestly and with sheer enthusiasm.  So refreshing!  These are beautiful qualities to behold and seen as evidenced at The Oregon Historical Society through their varied and interesting historical exhibits.

I encourage you to check out the following:

Place: Framing the Oregon Landscape

November 8, 2014 – May 17, 2015

Place: Framing the Oregon Landscape brings together an impressive collection of artists currently working to capture and interpret the landscape of Oregon through the medium of photography. The dramatic beauty of this region’s landscapes has inspired generations of artists, and these contemporary photographers carry forward the innately human aspiration to depict the relationship between their own existence and nature’s elegance. This exhibition will feature the stirring works of ten contemporary landscape photographers and draw from the Oregon Historical Society’s extensive collections to foster a contextual examination of the land, its people, and the artists’ negotiation of that duality.


The ‘Place: Framing the Oregon Landscape’ exhibit is stunning.  Interactive, emotional and an eclectic collection of work.  As a visitor you are instantly aligned with the artists as they demonstrate their connection to the Oregon landscape and what drew them to it.  What their reactions to their new ‘place’ is and what creative stimulation it evokes.  As a visitor, I found myself taking photographs in transit, of nature and the mountains in Portland.  I immediately felt a kinship to this exhibit.  It stirred something deep within me.  What brought me to Portland?  What am I taking home with me?  Don’t forget to pick up some free postcards at the ‘Place: Framing the Oregon Landscape’ exhibit to pop onto your fridge or your desk at work.  They are beautiful pieces of art to reflect upon at a later date.

Plastics Unwrapped

October 14, 2014 – January 1, 2015

Only 50 years ago, we hardly used plastics. How did they go from being rare to being everywhere? Plastics Unwrapped, explores how material culture was changed―rapidly and perhaps permanently―by plastics. Learn what life was like before plastics, how they are made, why they are so convenient to use, and what happens after we throw them away. Explore how this? Material of the future? Has impacted our daily lives, as well as the long-term impacts that plastics have on our environment. Plastics Unwrapped is a traveling exhibit organized by the Burke Museum, University of Washington, and the national tour is sponsored by Boeing and the University of Washington.


An interesting exhibit that offers some tremendous food for thought.  Portland has the hand on the pulse of ‘green living’ and recycling.  An informative and easy to digest exhibit that is worth perusing for your relationship with being kind to the planet we share.

Working on the River: A History of Dredging

May 1 – December 14, 2014

Come navigate a part of Portland’s history in the original exhibit Working on the River: A History of Dredging. Through this exhibition, discover the men, women, and machines that have shaped our region’s geography, trade routes, economic vitality, and history. In commemoration of the Port of Portland vessel, Dredge Oregon, and its recent upgrades, this exhibit highlights the role of dredges like the Oregon in maintaining the Willamette and Columbia River navigation channels for maritime trade.


Dredging is fascinating.  At first you may think, I’ll skip this exhibit – I encourage you not to and immerse yourself into some education as to why dredging was and is instrumental to life in Portland.  This is the stuff you want to go home and talk your mates about when they ask, ‘Why Portland?’.

Oregon: 150 Years of Statehood; 150 Million Years in the Making

The windows in this exhibit illustrate how geology crafted Oregon’s landscape and natural resources and continues to shape the land and lives of its citizens.

Oregon My Oregon

Winner of a 2005 MUSE Award, Oregon My Oregon features the most important pieces from the Society’s collection of artifacts.

Oregon Voices: Change and Challenge in Modern Oregon History

With Oregon Voices, a new permanent exhibit, the Oregon History Museum combines the technology of today with stories from the past. This interactive exhibit gives visitors a chance to explore the issues and events that shaped Oregon from 1950 forward.

Clink! A Mini-Taste of Oregon Wine

Due to the popularity of Clink! A Taste of Oregon Wine, the exhibit’s “Tasting Room” (Hayes Gallery) has been held over and a portion of the exhibit highlighting the history of the Oregon wine industry is currently on display in the space. Learn about the early days of Oregon wine through colorful graphics with photos and text, view vintage bottles from the OHS collection, or relax in comfy chairs while paging through photo books featuring some of Oregon’s most celebrated vineyards.


These four exhibits are wonderful examples of what makes up the fabric of Oregon and why it is one of the most interesting, game changing and progressive states.  Take your time with them and let the wonder sink in.  It may offer you some inspiration to input into your own life.

The Oregon Historical Society is a must see on your next trip to Portland.  For a quiet humble neighbour sitting next door to the Portland Art Museum you will need an hour or two to walk the length of the exhibits.  Leave some time for ‘Place: Framing the Oregon’.  Visitors and locals alike have a lot to gain from hearing the whispers of those through their photographs about why Oregon is important.  You may find your own heart echoing similar beats.

Lastly, if you look closely enough you will see where Portlandia filmed the infamous ‘Sacagawea’ skit.  If that doesn’t get you in the door to visit The Oregon Historical Society; you are missing out.

The Oregon Historical Society

1200 SW Park Avenue

Portland, OR 97205

(503) 222-1741

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