Oregon Historical Society Museum, Portland

Oregon Historical Society Museum, Portland

This (somewhat small) museum in the downtown South Park Blocks is a wonderful place to delve into the past of Oregon and the entire Pacific Northwest. Founded over a century ago, it houses the 1835 penny used to select Portland over Boston as the name for what would become the largest city in the state. Oddly enough, the main permanent exhibit here, the 7,000-sq-ft "Experience Oregon", takes up the upper floor, while temporary galleries along with the museum shop and ticket counter are on the street level with some additional galleries on the lower level.

Visitors enter "Experience Oregon" through a panoramic theater that introduces major themes and sets the stage for the exhibit. Land and water are two the most pervasive topics covered throughout, displaying the diversity of Oregon's landscape, as well as people's historical and ongoing relationships with its resources. Interactive stations include a "Stories from the Archives" tablet game, a canoe-building exercise, a covered-wagon replica visitors can walk through, role-playing games that allow visitors to take sides in historical debates, listening wands that bring to visitors voices from the past, and opportunities to offer ideas and opinions on relevant themes.

On the remaining floors are several additional exhibits – some temporary, such as "Greatest Photographs of the American West" (2020) while others, like the children/family-oriented "History Hub" and "Oregon Voices", which tells the story of post-war social change in the state and the people who have led those changes, are permanent.

Once finished with all the galleries, you can stop by the museum shop for some souvenirs or Oregon history books (they have a pretty interesting collection for sale, though it's not quite clear which books are new and which are used).

Tip:
Overlooking the museum courtyard is the flat side of a building painted with such a wonderful trompe l'oeil (trick of the eye) that, for a moment, you would think it's a building rich in remarkable architectural detail. And then you see that it's not. But it's so well done you don't mind, and it's easy to fall back in.

Want to visit this sight? Check out these Self-Guided Walking Tours in Portland. Alternatively, you can download the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Oregon Historical Society Museum on Map

Sight Name: Oregon Historical Society Museum
Sight Location: Portland, USA (See walking tours in Portland)
Sight Type: Museum/Gallery
Guide(s) Containing This Sight:

Walking Tours in Portland, Oregon

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