Oregon Museums Making Collections Accessible

Contributed by SAA Host Committee Member, Katrina O’Brien, World of Speed Collection Manager & Archivist

Oregon has a wide array of museums covering everything from Japanese and Jewish history to environment science, gaming and motorsports, local and national art and heritage, and corporate history. While this is only a small snapshot of Oregon’s museums, each of these museums are utilizing artifact and archival collections as part of their museum experience, special programs, and online resources.



mus1Preserving the stories of the Nikkei—Japanese emigrants and their descendants—of the Pacific Northwest, the Center offers both traveling and onsite exhibits, as well as a research library. It also offers onsite and walking tour apps that provide multiple avenues to experience the Center’s archival collection. As part of its Oregon Nikkei Endowment’s Visual History Collection, over 50 recorded video interviews are accessible online through the Densho Digital Archive.






Mus2OHS looks to “explore the people, places, and events that have shaped the history of Oregon and America.” Besides its digital history websites, The Oregon Encyclopedia, Oregon History Project, and Oregon History Wayfinder, its new OHS Digital Collections website opens a wider window into the OHS Research Library’s collections. At the same time, the OHS Museum provides equally thought-provoking, interactive museum exhibits that make history visible and accessible.






mus3The WFC Discovery Museum offers an interactive experience for visitors to be “both educated and entertained as they learn about the importance of forests and trees in our lives, as well as environmental sustainability.” Visitors find exhibits that pique curiosity and encourage active learning about the forests of the Pacific Northwest and the interconnectedness of global forests, along with the Leadership Hall that celebrates contributors in forestry.




mus4Housing one of the largest publicly accessible game and puzzle collections in the world, IMOGAP seeks to “document and celebrate all aspects of gaming culture” with more than 4,000 games to play. While most of the collection are tabletop games, the collection also includes construction, knowledge, electronic, skill games, and more. The museum offers visitors hands-on tables for gaming along with historical and interpretive displays, and shelves featuring select picks from the collection.




mus5Besides supporting the World of Speed motorsports museum’s exhibits and education programs, the Archive offers “points of access while preserving the rich history of motorsports” with the museum’s complete collection catalog, collection highlights, and digital video collection available online. Besides being open to the public, the Archive Room hosts Open Archive Days each month, offering visitors gloved interaction with select items in the archive collection not currently on display.




mus6Wells Fargo has eleven museums throughout the country, including Portland. Besides artifacts specific to the Pacific Northwest, the museum utilizes the Wells Fargo Corporate Archive to produce local museum exhibits with materials that “range from historical images and objects to modern day marketing samples and digital records.” A select group of its archives are also available online including a photography and advertisement collection documenting the company’s origins, development, operations, and impact.





mus7Founded in 1892, PAM is the oldest art museum in the Pacific Northwest with a collection of 42,000 objects reflecting the history of art from ancient times to today, including North America native peoples’ arts, modern and contemporary art, and Asian and American art. PAM’s Crumpacker Family Library, the region’s most comprehensive visual art resource, holds a collection of over 35,000 volumes originated in 1895 and includes current and historical periodicals, and art archives.





OJMCHE’s artifact and archive collections “document the experiences of Oregon Jews from our earliest history through today.” It acquired the holdings of the Jewish Historical Society of Oregon in 1995, including 150 oral history interviews. In 2014, the Oregon Jewish Museum merged with the Oregon Holocaust Resource Center, taking on the care of the center’s records, artifacts, and oral history interviews of Holocaust survivors and liberators.







The Wonderful World of Powell’s Books

Contributed by: Cris Paschild

Cris Paschild is the head of special collections and the university archivist at Portland State University Library.  As a local high school student, she cut class on a regular basis to roam the aisles of Powell’s.  

Powell’s Books: “the largest used and new bookstore in the world”


A visit to Portland would not be complete for any book lover without a visit to Powell’s. In a city that has undergone great changes, Powell’s Books remains a constant.  Founded in 1971 by Walter Powell and later purchased by his son, Michael Powell, its flagship store has been at its current location since 1979.   Dubbed Powell’s City of Books, it fills an entire downtown block.  The labyrinth of its color-coded rooms and its three levels, home to 3,500 subject sections, are best navigated with a map, available in print at all entrances.  

The shelves of Powell’s hold almost as many used books as new.  Locals still sweep their home for books to bring to the buying counter, only to find themselves walking out with bags full again, unable to resist picking up another round of titles immediately after.  There are seemingly endless temptations for all, whatever the interest.  The Orange Room hosts rows and rows of cookbooks of every cuisine and for every technique.  The Yellow Room, home to the Sci Fi, Fantasy, Mystery, Horror, Thrillers and Manga sections, may be the best for book cover eye candy, rivaled only by the immediately adjacent Graphic Novel section.  For those looking for an extra special souvenir, the Pearl Room on the third floor is home to the rare book room.  

As online shopping boomed and corporate entities rose to dominance, the always independent Powell’s had to respond accordingly, establishing a retail website.  Nonetheless, as larger bookstore chains like Borders fell, the long-term fate of Powell’s appeared uncertain too.  However, as the market stabilized, so did Powell’s and today the store is busier than ever.  And while it has recently added more gifts and tourist-focused bling to its inventory, books are still its heart and soul.  The space itself has also managed to retain much of its old school Portland feel.  The main aisles may become congested with out of town visitors but quiet spaces for browsing and on-the-spot reading still abound.  

If you find yourself wanting to linger, there’s a coffee shop onsite.  Or you can take a break at one of the nearby restaurants, bars or bakeries.  McMenamins’ Zeus Café, two blocks up Burnside, is a good choice for a relaxed brunch or lunch in a building that holds its own share of Portland history.  

And as July gets closer, be sure to check out Powell’s calendar for visiting authors and other book-related events.   

Portland with Kids and Families

Contributor: Rachel Thomas.  Rachel manages the archives of George Fox University and the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends.  She is a Pacific Northwest native and loves sharing the beauty of her region with others.  



Portland is a great place to spend a day with your family.  Whether exploring the zoo, picnicking in a park, or enjoying quality time at a children’s show, your family is sure to enjoy their time in Oregon’s largest city.  Here are a couple of my family’s favorites:

The Oregon Zoo:


Spread over 64 acres in the hills of Portland, the Oregon zoo can easily keep your family busy for an entire day.  Active in conservation efforts, the zoo not only provides a fun family outing but is a wonderful educational opportunity.  Recent changes include a redesigned elephant habitat,  a new baby polar bear, and advances in Condor conservation efforts.  The main lawn of the zoo is the perfect place for a summer picnic under the gaze of the nearby elephants.  

The Portland Children’s Museum:

Portland Children's Museum

The Portland Children’s museum offers a chance for interactive play and learning.  With a dozen permanent exhibits and more rotating in and out, there are many great opportunities for creative fun.  Exhibits are both inside and out, making this a prime location no matter the weather.

Olive Rootbeer and Dingo Dizmal:

O and D prodWP_20150402_032

What’s Portland without some clowns?  Olive Rootbeer and Dingo Dizmal perform in cafes and restaurants around the city and are loved by the children of Portland.  Their shows include music, stories, comedy, tall bikes, face painting, balloon twisting, and more!  A great place to get those wiggles out, Olive and Dingo’s storytimes are fun for the whole family! Please note: Olive and Dingo support themselves through their career as clowns.  Give what you will to support their artistry.  


On hot days the children of Portland gather around fountains for refreshing play.  Teacher’s Fountain along the waterfront is especially fun to splash in! Grab a suit and join in the laughter as you run through the fountains.

Oaks Amusement Park:

Spend a day or an evening at a good old fashioned amusement park.   Oaks amusement park has traditional rides, carnival games, miniature golf, and a roller skate rink.  Whether you love fast rides or enjoy trying your luck with games, you are sure to have a good time.  

In addition days can be spent exploring one of Portland’s many parks, hiking through green spaces.  Many of the museums in Portland offer family or children’s tours.  Check out OMSI, the Portland Art Museum, the Oregon Historical Society Museum and many more!  The city is full of sights and sounds that are sure to make a memorable trip for your family.

No matter where your family’s interests lie, Portland is sure to have something to delight and amuse you.