Oregon Historical Society

Oregon Historical Society

Seal of the Oregon Historical Society
Formation 1898
Type Historical society
Executive director
Kerry Tymchuk
Website ohs.org

The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) is an organization that encourages and promotes the study and understanding of the history of the Oregon Country, within the broader context of U.S. history. Incorporated in 1898, the Society collects, preserves, and makes available materials of historical character and interest, and collaborates with other groups and individuals with similar aims. The society operates the Oregon History Center that includes the Oregon Historical Society Museum in downtown Portland.


The Society was organized on December 17, 1898, in Portland at the Portland Library Building.[1] The first president was Harvey W. Scott, with memberships totaling 370 in the first year.[1] Shortly after its formation, the Society opened its first office and museum in Portland City Hall and began the development of a regional research library and a collection of historical artifacts. In 1900 the first issue of the Oregon Historical Quarterly was printed as the official publication of the organization.[1] In 1917, the Society moved into Portland’s Public Auditorium (now Keller Auditorium) and, in 1966, moved to its current location.[2]

Thomas Vaughan stepped down from his 35-year directorship in 1990.[3] Chet Orloff, who had left OHS in 1987 for the Ninth Judicial Circuit Historical Society in Pasadena, California, was considered by The Oregonian to be heir-apparent, but Bill Tramposch was brought in from Williamsburg, Virginia.[3][4] Tramposch inherited a million-dollar deficit from the previous administration, and his three-year plan to eliminate the deficit, though supported by the board, was unpopular with many long-time staff members, who also criticized Tramposch's management style.[5][6] Tramposch resigned in 1991, and Orloff returned as executive director in 1992.[7][8][9] He remained in the position for ten years, retiring at the end of 2000.[9]

George L. Vogt, a former president of the American Association for State and Local History was appointed as the eighth Executive Director of OHS in November 2006.[10] In July 2007, the Oregon Historical Society was awarded a $2.8 million biennial appropriation from the State of Oregon, though the organization is not a state entity.[11] The $2.8 million given by the state over the two years equals 30% of the annual operating budget. In 2011, Vogt retired and was replaced by Kerry Tymchuk, who was named permanent director in October 2011.[12] The Society sold the Sovereign Hotel in 2014.[13]


In November 2010, Multnomah County voters approved a ballot initiative that included a five-year property tax levy to fund the institution and grant county residents free admission to the museum and research library.[14][15] In 2011, the Oregon Legislative Assembly approved $2.5 million to assist the Society in paying off the mortgage on its 100,000-square-foot (9,300 m2) temperature-controlled warehouse that preserves and protects the Society’s artifacts, maps, books, films, and other assets.[16] At the end of 2011, the Society received a $2 million bequest from the late Fred Fields, a noted businessman and philanthropist in Oregon.[17]


The Society's museum, archives and research library contains approximately 8.5 million feet of film and videotape, over 2.5 million photographs, 85,000 artifacts, 30,000 books, 25,000 maps, 16,000 rolls of microfilm, 12,000 feet (3,700 m) of documents, and oral history preserved in more than 8,400 hours of recordings covering over 2,100 interviews. The society has one of the largest collections of historic photographs in the United States.[18]

OHS has published the Oregon Historical Quarterly continuously since 1900. Since 1929, the Oregon Historical Society Press has published over 150 books on Oregon history, politics, culture, and biographies, including Oregon Geographic Names. As of 2009, the press has suspended operations.[19] University of Washington Press is handling all distribution of OHS Press books still in print.[19] Publication of the Oregon Historical Quarterly will continue.[19]

The OHS Museum Store is located in the lobby of the National Register of Historic Places-designated Sovereign Hotel.[20] The building was added to the register in 1981.[21]

Sovereign Hotel.


Noting that the four successive presidents after Harvey Scott were attorneys, historian E. Kimbark MacColl stated:

young Portland lawyers at the turn of the [20th] century ... rose to civic prominence, ... became actively involved in the Oregon Historical Society, and ... were instrumental in fabricating an "Oregon Story" that was heavily laden with mythology, hero worship and pioneer idolization. [Charles H.] Carey, Scott, and others, constituted a group of politician-writers who advised: Don't hurt the party. Don't divide up America into classes by denouncing the rich and exciting "the envy and hatred of the poor." Spare the city's reputation.... Carey and Scott would never admit they had made mistakes or that the old system was rotten.[22]

See also

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  1. 1 2 3 Corning, Howard M. Dictionary of Oregon History. Binfords & Mort Publishing, 1956.
  2. "History" (Website). About Us. Oregon Historical Society History. 2008. Retrieved January 2, 2009.
  3. 1 2 Nicholas, Jonathan (June 18, 1990). "Palace coup thwarted on Park Blocks". The Oregonian. p. C01.
  4. Pintarich, Paul (January 23, 1990). "Role of far-reaching ninth judicial circuit spawns publications". The Oregonian. p. D06.
  5. Dulken, Diane (July 24, 1990). "Discord mars director's first year". The Oregonian.
  6. Rubenstein, Sura (November 11, 1991). "Historical Society praises new executive director". The Oregonian. p. B05.
  7. Saker, Anne (January 11, 2010). "Portland State prof takes on a new kind of museum: One on the Internet using a Wikipedia model". The Oregonian. Retrieved January 11, 2010.
  8. Tomlinson, Stuart (November 7, 1991). "Former assistant to head Historical Society". The Oregonian. p. B03.
  9. 1 2 Leeson, Fred (November 8, 2000). "Orloff will leave job at Historical Society". The Oregonian. p. C09.
  10. Vogt, George L. (February 27, 2011). "Museum closure damage can't be undone" (PDF). The News Tribune. Retrieved June 5, 2012.
  11. Senate Bill 5549 of 2007
  12. Row, D.K. (October 14, 2011). "Oregon Historical Society board of directors approves Kerry Tymchuk as executive director". The Oregonian. Retrieved February 13, 2012.
  13. Pyrah, Alli (June 24, 2014). "Who has bought Portland's first skyscraper?". Portland Business Journal. Retrieved 25 June 2014.
  14. Row, D.K. "Kerry Tymchuk passes one year mark as director of Oregon Historical Society". The Oregonian. The Oregonian. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  15. Hottle, Molly. "Multnomah County voters narrowly pass levy to support Oregon Historical Society Museum". The Oregonian. The Oregonian. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  16. Row, D.K. "Oregon Historical Society reverses financial picture with $2.5 million from Legislature". The Oregonian. The Oregonian. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  17. Row, D.K. "Oregon Community Foundation receives historic $150 million gift from late businessman Fred Fields". The Oregonian. The Oregonian. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  18. LewisAndClarkTrail.com: Oregon History Center
  19. 1 2 3 "About the Press". Oregon Historical Society. Retrieved August 14, 2009.
  20. OHS: Museum store
  21. Oregon NRHP list
  22. MacColl, E. Kimbark (November 1976). The Shaping of a City: Business and politics in Portland, Oregon 1885 to 1915. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press Company. pp. 190–192. OCLC 2645815.
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