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.

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.

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).

Portland Walking Tours

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

Upcoming History Events

Editor's Pick
Being Present: Revisiting, Somewhat Unfaithfully, Portland’s Most Experimental Art Experiment, PCVA
Nov. 16, 2019–June 14, 2020

Being Present: Revisiting, Somewhat Unfaithfully, Portland’s Most Experimental Art Experiment, PCVA

Portland Art Museum Museum Admission: Free for Members, $20 Adults, $17 Seniors 62+ & College Students, Free Children 17 and under

“Portland has gotten a lot of attention in recent years for its thriving arts scene, but few people know about the organization that originally put the city on the art-world map: Portland Center for the Visual Arts (PCVA). PCVA was an artist-run contemporary art organization that brought innovative artists and performers from around the country…

Editor's Pick
Art & Design
Exhibition
History
Editor's Pick
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 Museum Admission: Free for Members, $20 Adults, $17 Seniors 62+ & College Students, Free Children 17 and under

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…

Editor's Pick
Art & Design
Cultural Communities
Exhibition
History
Editor's Pick
Flaxen: From Flax to Linen in the Willamette Valley, Oregon
Oct. 8, 2019–Mar. 31, 2020

Flaxen: From Flax to Linen in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

Oregon Historical Society Included With Admission

“Flax was once touted as a cash crop in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, but for various reasons the plant never lived up to its potential. It wasn’t for lack of trying though — in the 1930s, Portland Public Schools produced a series of hand-tinted glass lantern slides depicting scenes from the flax industry, from planting to…

Editor's Pick
Art & Design
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 Included With Admission ($5-$8)

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
The Art of Reading
Nov. 16, 2019–June 21, 2020

The Art of Reading

Portland Art Museum Museum Admission: Free for Members, $20 Adults, $17 Seniors 62+ & College Students, Free Children 17 and under

“Reading may be falling out of fashion in these times of increasingly short attention spans, but books were once a big business, and publishers employed gifted artists to promote their newest titles. The Art of Reading presents gems from the golden age of poster advertising, with color lithographs from some of the most famous names…

Editor's Pick
Art & Design
Exhibition
History
Editor's Pick
Spirits Rising: ひろしま / Hiroshima by Ishiuchi Miyako
Jan. 18–Mar. 15, 2020

Spirits Rising: ひろしま / Hiroshima by Ishiuchi Miyako

Portland Japanese Garden Included with admission

The exhibition will include a selection of the internationally acclaimed photographer’s monumental ひろしま / Hiroshima series, documenting cherished items and clothing left behind by victims of the atomic bomb detonated in Hiroshima at the close of World War II that are now housed at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The subjects are captured in her…

Editor's Pick
Art & Design
Cultural Communities
Exhibition
History
The All American Toy Company: An Oregon Original
Oct. 17, 2019–Jan. 26, 2020

The All American Toy Company: An Oregon Original

Oregon Historical Society $10; free to Multnomah County residents

For generations, the All American Toy Company has captured the interest of children and adults alike. Beginning in 1947 with its first release of the Timber Toter, a logging truck, the company’s lineup included a series of vehicles that represented expanding industries in Oregon, including dump trucks used in construction, cattle liners that transported the…

Exhibition
History
A Changing Landscape and the Forgotten City of East Portland
Nov. 1, 2019–Apr. 25, 2020

A Changing Landscape and the Forgotten City of East Portland

Architectural Heritage Center $7

What we think of today as Portland covers a broad swath of land on both sides of the Willamette River. In the late 19th century, that same area contained several mostly independent communities, including Albina, St. Johns, Sellwood—and East Portland, a small city on the eastern shore of the river roughly bounded by Division Street…

Exhibition
History
After Promontory: 150 Years of Transcontinental Railroading
Nov. 1, 2019–Apr. 25, 2020

After Promontory: 150 Years of Transcontinental Railroading

Architectural Heritage Center $7

On May 10, 1869, two railroads-built with haste, hope and aspiration—joined in a lonely desert of northern Utah, at a place called Promontory. On that day, dignitaries from both companies—the Central Pacific, which had built from California, and the Union Pacific, which had built from the east—gave speeches and installed ceremonial last spikes. To mark…

Exhibition
History
 Beyond the Gate: A Tale of Portland's Historic Chinatowns
May 23, 2019–May 23, 2020

Beyond the Gate: A Tale of Portland's Historic Chinatowns

Portland Chinatown Museum

Using rare and seldom-seen objects like Chinese opera costumes as well as theatrical sets, bilingual text, audiovisual media and interactive visitor stations, Beyond the Gate tells a sprawling transnational story of contact and trade between China and the West, focusing on Portland’s Old (1850-1905) and New (1905-1950) Chinatowns. Beyond the Gate was originally created as…

Cultural Communities
Exhibition
History
Celilo Collaborations: Sharing the Stories of a Place and Its People
Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020

Celilo Collaborations: Sharing the Stories of a Place and Its People

Oregon Historical Society Free

After WWII, the Native fishing community of Celilo village on the Columbia, home to Indigenous people for over 12,000 years, was flooded with the construction of Bonneville Dam. Historian Dr. Katrine Barber and Linda Meanus (Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation,) an educator who grew up in Celilo, will discuss the history of the…

Cultural Communities
History
Readings & Talks
Teaching Portland’s Black History through Primary Sources and Art
Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020

Teaching Portland’s Black History through Primary Sources and Art

Portland Art Museum Free

The Portland Art Museum is honored to partner with the Cottonwood School of Civics and Science on an Educator Workshop for the curriculum Civil Rights and Civil Wrongs: A History of Portland’s Black Community. The curriculum was created by Cottonwood School staff in collaboration with educators and community leaders throughout Portland. This free workshop includes:…

Black History Month
Cultural Communities
History
Readings & Talks
Zimmerman House Tour: Vases and Valentines
Jan. 18–Mar. 21, 2020

Zimmerman House Tour: Vases and Valentines

Zimmerman House Free

The historic Zimmerman House was built in 1874 and was home to three generations of the Zimmerman family. Their furnishings and personal articles remain in this two-story Victorian home, with nine rooms open to the public. The Vases and Valentimes exhibit is now open, with valentines paired with vases varying from Depression-era glas to Carnivale…

Exhibition
Guided Tour
History
Sammuel Murry-Hawkins & The Ne Plus Ultra Jass Orchestra
Ongoing

Sammuel Murry-Hawkins & The Ne Plus Ultra Jass Orchestra

Village Ballroom $5 – $10

Portland’s homage to the luscious dance bands of a bygone era launches into its fourth year of producing dances every month. The 11-piece ensemble painstakingly recreates the sounds of the large society dance bands that were so prominent in the 1920s and ’30s, found performing on ocean liners and in the grand ballrooms of Art…

History
Music
Nightlife
Noon Time Talk with Jill Neuwelt
Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020

Noon Time Talk with Jill Neuwelt

Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education Free

This talk is titled How Aristides de Sousa Mendes Saved Thousands from the Nazis. Jill Neuwelt will discuss her trip last year to commerate the work of Aristides de Sousa Mendes who, as an individual, saved many lives during World War II. Jill Neuwelt and a group met in Bordeaux and travelled along the route…

Cultural Communities
History
Readings & Talks