Our Collections

Explore our Collections

The Oregon Historical Society's Research Library maintains more than 32,000 books, 25,000 maps, 12,000 linear feet of manuscripts, 3,000 serials titles, 5,000 vertical files, 16,000 reels of newspaper microfilm, 8.5 million feet of film and videotape, 10,000 oral history tapes, and millions of photographs.

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Collection Examples

High-resolution digital images, documents, and recordings of selected items and some entire collections are available for educational and research use on the OHS Digital Collections website.

Vertical Files

The Research Library's Vertical File Collection includes nearly 4,000 subjects on state and local history and 1,500 biographies and genealogies of prominent Oregonians. The files are indexed in an in-house card catalog and cover such diverse topics as historic homes and buildings, churches, ethnic groups, cities and counties, Portland neighborhoods, railroads, historic trees, and maritime history. We are currently adding catalog records for these files to our online catalog.


The Scrapbook Collection contains 350 volumes that span one hundred forty years of Oregon history (1850s-1980s), which is profiled in letters, menus, programs, and other ephemera, and especially in newspaper articles from around the state. Thanks to an extensive conservation effort, the collection is available on microfilm and in bound preservation copies in the Research Library.

The Scrapbook Collection was originally indexed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. A biography card index located in the Research Library lists individuals by surname. The subject index, however, is now incorporated into our online catalog. If your subject search brings up a scrapbook entry, click on that entry to reveal the precise citation.


The Research Library’s significant collection of microfilm includes approximately 16,000 rolls of 19th- and 20th- century newspapers from around the state, as well as over 600 rolls of publications from Washington, California, Idaho, Missouri, Hawaii, and Panama. In addition, researchers can access filmed copies of Oregon decennial census records (1850-1930), territorial census records for Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, documents connected with 19th-century exploratory and surveying expeditions, Superintendent of Indian Affairs’ records for Oregon and Washington, and records of the Russian-American Company.

Microfilm is available for use in the Research Library.

Library Association of Portland Newspaper Index

This microfiche resource indexes the Oregonian for 1851-1984, the Oregon Journal for 1902-1982, plus a scattering of other local newspapers, periodicals, and miscellaneous books. Subjects indexed pertain to Oregon, Portland, and the Pacific Northwest.


The Research Library’s Serials Collection includes print publications of local and county historical societies in Oregon; some ninety journals and quarterlies from state, regional, provincial, and special historical societies throughout the United States and Canada; professional literature relating to historical societies and museums, library and museum conservation, and historical preservation; and local and regional periodicals of the nineteenth century.

Government Documents

The Research Library’s collection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Oregon state documents is a particularly valuable resource. The Research Library also has a small collection of Portland city, various regional commissions and boards, and U.S. government documents.

Oral Histories

The Society began collecting oral histories in 1976. In addition, the collection includes sound recordings radio broadcasts, speeches, and music that span the 1930s to the present. The collection contains over 13,000 items, including phonodiscs and tapes, transcripts, summaries, outlines, and indices. Principal topics are agriculture, architecture, business and industry, education, environmental affairs, ethnic culture, family history, geography, government, the Great Depression, local history, medicine, military, organizations, science and technology, sports, transportation, urban planning, and World War II. A portion of the catalog records of the library's oral histories are available in the online catalog.

Notable collections include: a 1940s-era sound recording collection, Portland Neighborhood History, Northwest Women’s History Project: World War II Shipyards, Mt. St. Helens, U.S. District Court of Oregon, Politics and Government, Center for Columbia River History Series, Japanese Americans, Latinos in Oregon, and many others.

Biography Index

This index was initially compiled as a Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. The Biography Card File contains references to biographical materials that were in our collection at the time, and includes information about births, deaths, marriages, divorces, etc. The majority of the references indexed are biographical reference works, the Research Library scrapbook collection, newspapers in our collection at the time, and Indian War Pension Papers filed by veterans and heirs of those who fought in the territorial Indian Wars.

Pioneer Index

Index cards were compiled by the Oregon Pioneer Association (OPA), from questionnaires completed by individuals who attended the OPA annual meetings and other meetings of the OPA. Membership in the OPA was limited to pioneers who arrived in Oregon before construction of the transcontinental railroad.

D.A.R. Index

This card file indexes a collection transcribed and published by the Oregon Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), from a wide variety of sources, all dealing with Oregon genealogy.

Donation Land Claims

This six-volume guide indexes the majority of land claims filed under the Donation Land Act. The guide lists the name of the claimant or the witnesses to the claim. It is a rich source for biographical information. We also have microfilmed copies of the Donation Land Claims, indexed by township, range and claimant's last name, in addition to Bureau of Land Management maps showing claims (aperture cards).