Through the generosity of Oregon’s citizens and friends, the Oregon Historical Society Research Library has gathered one of the most comprehensive collections of local, state, and regional history in the country, with holdings that chronicle the history of the Oregon Country from early exploration to the present day. Although the Oregon Historical Society is a private, non-profit institution, its resources are held in trust for the State of Oregon, and it functions as the state historical society.

Collection strengths include: European discovery, exploration, and settlement; Native Americans; local history, family history, and genealogy; the fur trade; agriculture, timber, mining, and fisheries; performing arts; business; architecture and building history; politics and government; religion; and transportation.

The Research Library houses more than 32,000 books, 25,000 maps, 12,500 linear feet of manuscripts, 4,000 serials titles, 6,000 vertical files, 18,000 reels of newspaper microfilm, 8.5 million feet of film and videotape, 10,000 oral history tapes, and more than 2.5 million photographs.
The Oregon Legislative Assembly chartered the Oregon Historical Research Library when it incorporated the Oregon Historical Society in 1899. Soon after, the Society opened its first office and museum in Portland City Hall and began the development of a regional research library.

An early OHS curator, George Himes, initiated a strong tradition of library collections acquisition, and in 1917, the library was moved into rooms at Portland's Public Auditorium. Long-time OHS director Thomas Vaughan helped make the library the preeminent research facility in the Northwest. During his tenure from 1954 to 1989, library holdings, usage, and volunteer participation multiplied, and the library cultivated partnerships with area universities and developed notable initiatives including the oral history and nitrate film preservation programs. The library moved into its current location at Southwest Jefferson and Park in 1966 with the opening of the Oregon Historical Center.

In 2003, improvements to our building improved access to the OHS Research Library, with rearrangements in the reading room to enhance patron service. Additionally, digital access to the library is now available; our online catalog provides researchers with expanded search capabilities and digital images.
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