Category Archives: Oregon State Archives

Trip report: “Local Treasures — Special Collections and Archives in the Portland Area”


Who doesn’t love a guest blogger? Monique Lloyd, who staffs our desk 2 days a week and is a prolific blogger in her own right, sent me this report on her journey to Portland last Friday to attend the “Local Treasures — Special Collections and Archives in the Portland Area” workshop. sadly, I couldn’t go — happily, Monique could and she’s written a wonderful post (yes, with pictures attached).

First off, always the archivist, I have to establish the historical context by answering the question “What was this event?”

Workshop Description: The Portland area is rich in primary documents and historical records. Learn about the wonderful resources available in local archives and special collections, and their availability to the public, in this training at Multnomah County Central Library. Archivists and librarians will be available to talk about their collections.

I had the pleasure of attending this workshop, sponsored by PORTALS (Portland Area Library Association for Continuing Education), and held at the Central Branch of the Multnomah County Library on December 4th. The three hour program was organized by Roberta Richards, and the discussion was moderated by Bob Kingston, who are both librarians at Portland Community College. Presenters from archives, museums, libraries, and special collections discussed their institutions and treasures.

The Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Shawn Gandy informed us that the Library was founded in 1899 and began as a way to collect stories related to Oregon and Oregon Country. She explained how OHS is involved in the Oregon History Project which is online and organized around subject searches and that 100% of their books and 95% of their serials are cataloged online.

The City of Portland Archives and Records Center

Diana Banning shared that the archives began in 1851 beginning with mayoral records and the collection now includes a quarter of a million photographs, many of which are contained in project records.

The Multnomah County Archives

Terry Baxter told us that records were first kept by the County Clerk, mainly on microfilm, and in the late 1970’s began using records management. Most records began in 1915 and there are some large gaps. They are considering using targeted digitization in the future.

Central Library’s John Wilson Special Collections

Jim Carmin described the Special Collections as having six primary collections: the history of the book from mid 13th century to the present; children’s literature, both contemporary and historical; Oregon history; natural history with a focus on ornithology and roses; English literature, and Native American literature. The collection began in 1964, has over 10,000 items and their primary goal is increasing access. They are also in the process of pulling books, as appropriate, from the library collection and putting them in the archives.

Oregon Jewish Museum

Anne Prahl explained that this museum is 20 years and started with volunteers showing exhibits in different locations. In the 1970’s they merged with the Jewish Historical Society. The museum collects art and artifacts that illustrates the story of the Jewish experience in Oregon. They have 350 oral history interviews of Jewish community members going back to 1880. Their focus is on exhibits and they work often with Portland schools. The collection includes photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, ephemera, diaries, minute books, ledgers, and family papers as well as organizational records.

Oregon State Library

Dave Hegeman began with discussing the OSL in general, stating that it was founded in 1906, and that its mission is to preserve Oregon documents and serve state officials as well as citizens. Their Special Collections include historic Oregon documents and WPA federal worker’s projects including manuscripts, photographs, and local histories. They also house historic photographs, with more than 5,000 online, the Oregon Index which is card index to Portland and Salem newspapers from 1900-1986, as well as maps of Oregon and the Northwest from the 1850’s to the present.

Lewis and Clark College Special Collection

Robyn Ward (for Doug Erickson). Robyn is a Serials Technical Specialist at Lewis and Clark and a fellow Emporia Oregon-7 graduate who earned an Archives Studies Certificate as well as her MLS. She graciously offered to fill in for Doug at the very last minute. Lewis and Clark has a large collection on the Lewis and Clark expedition as well as collections of Pacific Northwest poetry and literature, and the William Stafford archives.


The workshop ended with a discussion about digitizing and the importance of developing a collection policy to determine what to accept and what not to accept. Following the workshop, Jim Carmin invited participants to tour the Central Library’s collection. Special treats included Beatrix Potter’s scarce first illustrated book, the exquisite A Happy Pair, held in only a dozen public collections worldwide, and The Birds of America by John James Audubon.

A wonderful resource page for the workshop is available on the Northwest Central webpage and can be found here.

Early Oregonians Database now online!

As a legacy to commemorate the sesquicentennial of Oregon’s statehood, the Oregon State Archives announces the launch of the Early Oregonians Database on its website.

This resource uses data from census, death, probate, and other records to help researchers find information and documents about people who lived in Oregon prior to statehood. Volunteers at the Archives have worked on this project for more than five years. The database currently contains over 105,500 entries for individuals who lived in Oregon prior to statehood. Because of limits on available records and documentation, the project can be defined to include people living in Oregon from 1800 to 1860.

If you have any questions or documentation you would like to contribute to the database, please contact the Archives staff.

Want a more detailed description of the project?

Want the FAQ?