Museums & History

Delve into the roots of the Portland region and enjoy the art of yesterday and today.

At these local monuments, museums and landmarks, you can explore Portland’s pioneer origins and Native history, as well as exceptional collections of art, crafts and more.

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Historic Sites & Features

Portland may seem like a young city, but you can still find plenty of history everywhere you look.

Museums & Historic Sites

Explore Portland's past at these local public parks, attractions and memorials.

More museums

Discover even more about Portland and the world through these local institutions.

  • Oregon Maritime Museum

    Experience the adventure of river life when you explore the Oregon Maritime Museum, housed in the historic sternwheeler “Portland” on the Willamette River.

  • Portland Chinatown Museum

    Opened in 2018, Oregon's first museum to celebrate Chinese American history, art and culture tells the stories of Portland's historic Old Town Chinatown.

  • Oregon Nikkei Legacy Center Japanese American History Museum

    This museum serves as a focal point for the preservation and sharing of the history and culture of the Japanese American community in Portland's Old Town neighborhood.

  • Architectural Heritage Center

    This nonprofit hosts educational programs, tours and exhibits which help people appreciate and preserve older and historic buildings, neighborhoods and traditional commercial areas.

  • Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education

    The mission of the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education is to interpret the Oregon Jewish experience, explore the lessons of the Holocaust and foster intercultural conversations.

A man posing in a photo display appearing to discected from an alien at the Freakybuttrue Peculiarium

Portland’s Weirdest Museums

From the world’s oldest (fake) museum to the only gallery focused on vintage vacuum cleaners, these attractions keep Portland weird.

Featured

Bridges of Portland

Learn the history and key features of the city’s 12 Willamette River crossings.

5 to try

Walkable historic bridges

A great way to see Portland is while crossing one of the city's iconic bridges.

  • Hawthorne Bridge

    Built in 1910, the Hawthorne Bridge is the oldest vertical lift bridge still in operation in America. The busiest bicycle transit bridge in the city, it connects downtown to the Eastbank Esplanade and Springwater on the Willamette trails.

  • St. Johns Bridge

    Built in 1931, this historic green suspension bridge connects Northwest and North Portland. The bridge’s picturesque dual, gothic-style towers inspired the name of Cathedral Park, believed to be one of 14 Lewis and Clark landing sites in the area.

  • Steel Bridge

    The double-decker Steel Bridge was built in 1912, connecting Old Town Chinatown and North Portland. Pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge's lower deck can travel between the Rose Quarter (home to the Trail Blazers) and the downtown waterfront.

  • Broadway Bridge

    One of the longest drawbridges (and most bike-friendly) in the world, the Broadway Bridge was built in 1913 to connect North and Northwest Portland. In 1963, the bridge was repainted from black to its now iconic "Golden Gate" red.

  • Tilikum Crossing

    Opened in 2012, this is the country's first bridge dedicated to light rail, buses, bikes and pedestrians. The cable-stayed structure is known as “Bridge of the People” (“Tilikum” translates to “people” in Chinook, a local Native American language).

Featured

Portland walking tours

A number of historical walking tours led by knowledgeable locals combine entertainment, education and exercise.

Upcoming history events

Editor's Pick
Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II
Oct. 17, 2019–Jan. 12, 2020

Fighting for the Right to Fight: African American Experiences in World War II

Oregon Historical Society Free

In the years leading up to World War II, racial segregation and discrimination were part of daily life for many in the United States. For most African Americans, even the most basic rights and services were fragmented or denied altogether. To be black was to know the limits of freedom — excluded from the opportunity,…

Editor's Pick
Cultural Communities
Exhibition
History
Editor's Pick
Ladies and Gentlemen ... The Beatles!
Oct. 17–Nov. 12, 2019

Ladies and Gentlemen … The Beatles!

Oregon Historical Society Free

In 1964, The Beatles came to America for the first of the group’s three North American visits. Their journey in America began on Friday, February 7 of that year, when John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr arrived from the U.K. at the newly named John F. Kennedy International Airport. With cameras flashing…

Editor's Pick
Exhibition
History
Editor's Pick
Leonard Bernstein at 100
Oct. 3, 2019–Jan. 26, 2020

Leonard Bernstein at 100

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Free

Leonard Bernstein at 100 celebrates the life and work of Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), the great Jewish American composer and conductor who dedicated his life to making classical music a vibrant part of American culture. The exhibition features photographs, personal items, papers, scores, correspondence, costumes, furniture and audio and video recordings. A vocal booth gives visitors…

Editor's Pick
Cultural Communities
Exhibition
History
Editor's Pick
Many Shades of Being Darcelle: 52 Years of Fashion, 1967-2019
Ongoing

Many Shades of Being Darcelle: 52 Years of Fashion, 1967-2019

Oregon Historical Society Free

Portland’s own Darcelle XV (the stage name of Walter Cole) has been headlining the Darcelle XV Showplace cabaret club since 1973. In a career spanning over 50 years, Darcelle has worn a vast array of extravagant costumes, often designed and constructed by Walter himself. Walter, performing as Darcelle, now holds the Guinness World Record for…

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Art & Design
Cultural Communities
History
LGBTQ+
Editor's Pick
Wild About Dance: Oregon Ballet Theatre Celebrates 30 Years
Oct. 17–Dec. 15, 2019

Wild About Dance: Oregon Ballet Theatre Celebrates 30 Years

Oregon Historical Society Free

Oregon Ballet Theatre enriches the community with beautiful, exhilarating and athletic dance. This exhibit celebrates Oregon Ballet Theatre’s (OBT) first 30 years with vibrant film footage and photographs, costumes and theatrical artifacts that highlight the Company’s excellent performances, school and education outreach programs. For those who love OBT and the art of dance, the exhibit…

Editor's Pick
Exhibition
History
Color Line: Black Excellence on the World Stage
Sept. 28, 2019–Feb. 16, 2020

Color Line: Black Excellence on the World Stage

Portland Art Museum Free

At the International Exposition of 1900 in Paris, American sociologist, historian, and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois put together “The American Negro Exhibit,” a remarkable collection of more than 300 photographs of African-American men and women, homes, churches, businesses and universities. These photographs were paired with a series of charts and graphs designed by…

Art & Design
Cultural Communities
Exhibition
History
Hidden Histories
Oct. 3–Nov. 15, 2019

Hidden Histories

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Included with museum admission.

Artist statement from Kathy Miller about this exhibit, opening October 3, 2019: “We’ve learned so much, forgotten so much more. . . Music and art have been important record keepers of culture and history for centuries. Music and Art express who we are as people at any given place and time. Traditional music of the…

Art & Design
Cultural Communities
Exhibition
History
Norma Bassett Hall: Color Block Prints in Oregon Collections
Oct. 17, 2019–Jan. 12, 2020

Norma Bassett Hall: Color Block Prints in Oregon Collections

Oregon Historical Society Free

Norma Bassett Hall was born in Halsey, Oregon, in 1888. Just 18 years later, she entered the School of the Portland Art Association in its first year and by 1929, she had achieved national recognition for her art. Yet, with her local roots and strong ties to Oregon art, her work has never been the…

Art & Design
Exhibition
History
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