Experience Oregon

Experience Oregon opening banner

  • Family-friendly
  • Free for Members
  • Teachers
  • Researchers
  • Handicap Accessible Friendly
  • Hearing-impaired Friendly

Location:
Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Ave
Portland, Oregon 97205
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Visitors of all ages, and from all parts of the world, come to the Oregon Historical Society each year to learn about Oregon. Whether you were born here, have chosen to make this place home, or are just passing through, it is undeniable that there is something special about this state. From its varied geography to its innovative legislation, Oregon is complex and distinctive, filled with people whose stories are the foundation of the state we see today.

Experience Oregon is a new 7,000 square foot permanent exhibition that is the cornerstone of our museum. A dynamic educational space, Experience Oregon allows visitors to learn about the countless people, places, and events that have shaped this place. Over three years in the making, developing Experience Oregon has truly been a collaborative undertaking. Oregon Historical Society staff, trustees, and volunteers; Oregon Tribes; educators; content specialists; historians; community members; and multiple design firms from across the country have contributed their talents to create this exhibition.

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 the exhibit, displaying the diversity of Oregon’s landscape, as well as people’s historical and ongoing relationships with its resources. Interactive stations throughout the exhibition 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. As visitors leave the exhibit, they can create a memory blanket as a digital “takeaway” using photographs and artifacts, as well as Pendleton blanket designs, to help recall favorite moments from the exhibit.

“Across Time” stations throughout the exhibit use broad themes such as home, water, and land to draw connections between yesterday and today. Experience Oregon’s design continually directs visitors back to the present, emphasizing why learning about history matters.

We have scoured our collections to display artifacts from across the state’s geography and history – some on exhibit for the first time. All of the artifacts on display in Experience Oregon are from the Oregon Historical Society museum collection, and our research library preserves the vast majority of the archival materials on view. Experience Oregon would be impossible without the countless Oregonians who, for over a century, have turned to OHS to preserve their histories.

Did you create a “Memory Blanket” at the end of your visit to Experience Oregon? View, download, or share your blanket here.

 

Canoe, OHS Museum 780

Canoe, OHS Museum 780

Columbia River culture area, made by the Scarborough family as an oceangoing canoe.

Mrs. Frank Galler collecting huckleberries, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, bb014523

Okanogan author Christine Quintasket collecting huckleberries

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, bb014523

Paddles, OHS Museum 779.1-.4

Paddles, OHS Museum 779.1-.4

Loggers in Clatsop County, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 93132, bb016662

Loggers in Clatsop County

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 93132, bb016662

Moccasins OHS Museum 68-230 Plateau culture area

Moccasins, OHS Museum 68-230

Plateau culture area

Ann and Moy Shogren, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 97924, bb016665

Ann and Moy Shogren

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 97924, bb016665

Ship model, OHS Museum 71-89.1

Ship model, OHS Museum 71-89.1

Bridge of Nations, Lewis and Clark Exposition, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 4599, bb017270

Bridge of Nations, Lewis and Clark Exposition

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 4599, bb017270

Housewife, OHS Museum 4014

Housewife, OHS Museum 4014

Also known as a sewing kit, 1804–1806, carried by George Shannon, a member of the Corps of Discovery 

George Fletcher, Pendleton Round-up, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 67878, bb016825

George Fletcher, Pendleton Round-up

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 67878, bb016825

Beaver die and coin, OHS Museum 72-100.1.2 and 72-186.1

Beaver die and coin, OHS Museum 72-100.1.2 and 72-186.1

1849, used to strike “Beaver” currency by the Oregon Exchange Company. “Beaver Coins” filled a need for currency, although illegal under federal law. 

Driving near Multnomah Falls, OrHi 71191, bb016838

Section of concrete road near Multnomah Falls.

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 71191, bb016838

Quilt OHS Museum 1721 1900, pieced and sewn by Abigail Scott Duniway to enter into a national suffrage bazaar

Quilt, 1900, OHS Museum 1721.

Pieced and sewn by Abigail Scott Duniway to enter into a national suffrage bazaar

Group of harvest hands probably near Moro, Oregon, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 6337, bb016677

Group of harvest hands probably near Moro, Oregon.

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 6337, bb016677

Benson Automobile, OHS Museum 99-41.1

Benson Automobile, OHS Museum 99-41.1

Built in Oregon between 1904 and 1906, featuring a four-cylinder engine and wooden spoke wheels. E. Henry Wemme most likely ordered the first car in Oregon in 1899, but Nils Benson was one of the first to build a car in the state, which he displayed at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in 1905. 

Portland Commercial Iron Works women's lunchroom, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 49856, bb016804

Portland Commercial Iron Works women's lunchroom

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 49856, bb016804

Typewriter, ca. 1915. OHS Museum 2012-49.1

Typewriter, ca. 1915. OHS Museum 2012-49.1 

Used by Lola Baldwin, the first credentialed female police officer in the United States

Celilo Family, OrHi 104340, bb017342

Presentation of keys to Celilo Falls Indian Relocation Project. (left to right) Charles Quittocken, Mrs. and Mrs. Jimmie George, Mrs. TT Mackenzie, Mr. George Cloud.

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, OrHi 104340, bb017342

Kaiser mask, OHS Museum 2004-17.1

Kaiser Mask, OHS Museum 2004-17.1

1939–1945, Kaiser Shipyards, worn by Mrs. Hermina Strmiska

The Vancouver Baptist Church congregation celebrating the 30th anniversary of O.B. Williams as pastor in 1975, Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church collection, 1940-2015; Coll 189; Box 1, Folder 3
The Vancouver Baptist Church congregation celebrating the 30th anniversary of O.B. Williams as pastor in 1975.

Oregon Historical Society Research Library, Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church collection, 1940-2015; Coll 189; Box 1, Folder 3

Thank you Donors!

Thank you to the many individuals, corporations, and foundations that have contributed to the FORWARD! campaign. Through generous private donations, we have been able to reimagine our cornerstone exhibition, creating a dynamic, interactive, and thoughtful space for the curious of all ages to learn about our state’s history. Visit the FORWARD! campaign page to learn more about the other capital improvements the Oregon Historical Society will be making through this campaign and to view a full list of campaign donors.

News Coverage

Field Trip: Oregon Historical Society

By Sarah Vanbuskirk, PDX Parent, March 22, 2019

When I picked up my fourth grader, Noah, age 9, early from school recently to go on a “special” outing he was beyond thrilled. That is until I told him where we were going: the Oregon Historical Society’s new Experience Oregon exhibit. “Really, Mom? A museum?” he questioned, clearly disappointed. “I was thinking laser tag or paintball. I experience Oregon every day!” So it was with a decidedly unenthused boy, who had been bribed with a post-museum treat, that I arrived at the museum on the eve of the new Experience Oregon exhibit’s debut, which appropriately enough was scheduled for Valentine’s Day 2019, otherwise known as Oregon’s 160th birthday. Within seconds of stepping into the brand-new, 11,000-square foot, open-design space, three years in the making, his skepticism slipped away. His eyes brightened as he let go of my hand and made a beeline to the huge, incredibly lifelike model of a tree holding court near the entrance. “Wow,” Noah said, crouching down, immediately reaching out his fingers toward the wide, bumpy trunk, as he peered up at the canopy of branches above. “Can I touch it?” The answer, happily, was “Yes!” since the new exhibit is very interactive and totally kid-friendly.

Where We Live: 'Experience Oregon'

By Ken Boddie, KOIN, February 19, 2019

On Feb. 14, 2019, we celebrated Oregon's 160th birthday. Oregon became a state on Valentine's Day in 1859 and its amazing story is told in an ambitious exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society. The "Experience Oregon" journey starts in a panoramic theater telling Oregon's story -- before and after the pioneers. "It's stories -- dramatic victories and defeats, life and death -- it's the story of people," Oregon Historical Society executive director Kerry Tymchuk said. The $4 million, 7,000-square-foot "Experience Oregon" exhibit features 500 artifacts -- some hundreds of years old -- to tell the story: the good, the bad and the ugly.

‘Experience Oregon’ launches on state’s 160th birthday, showcasing ‘good, bad and ugly’ of region’s history

By Douglas Perry, The Oregonian/OregonLive, February 14, 2019

“Oregon was on the edge. Would rock ’n’ roll save it?” The question -- offered up in a cartoon video game that recreates 1970’s Vortex I, the one-of-a-kind, state-sponsored, anti-war rock festival -- is one of the cheekier ones posed in the Oregon Historical Society’s new, $4-million “Experience Oregon” exhibit. The ambitious, 7,000-square-foot permanent installation opens Thursday, Oregon’s 160th birthday. It replaces the beloved “Oregon, My Oregon” exhibit, which had a 14-year run at the museum before closing last year.

Oregon Historical Society: Experience Oregon Permanent Exhibit

KATU, February 14, 2019

February 14th is Oregon’s birthday -- so it's fitting Oregon Historical Society unveils its brand new permanent Experience Oregon exhibit today. Kerry Tymchuk, Executive Director of Oregon Historical Society, stopped by to tell us all about it.

An unvarnished look at state history

By Jason Vondersmith, Portland Tribune, February 13, 2019

The most important permanent exhibit at the Oregon Historical Society — the history of our state, "Experience Oregon" — opens Thursday, Feb. 14, Oregon's 160th birthday, with much fanfare. Throughout the 7,000 square feet of exhibition space, the display pays tribute to first-inhabitant Native Americans, maybe the most crucial aspect organizers want to relate to visitors. "We have a close relationship with nine tribes in Oregon to make sure we're telling their story correctly," says Kerry Tymchuk, OHS executive director. Indeed, it's not just about white people who traversed the Oregon Trail and settled on the land once explored by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. "We work closely with every ethnic population in Oregon," Tymchuk says. "We want all Oregonians to find their story in the exhibit. Our job at the Oregon Historical Society is not to be the tourism bureau, we're here to tell the good, bad and ugly of Oregon, and there's been an ugly history in Oregon with relationship with minorities. We don't varnish the story, it's told accurately."