The book collection consists of more than 35,000 titles, including pamphlets and rare books. The Research Library’s holdings are strong in several areas, including early maritime exploration and trade, Westward expansion, the fur trade, missionary and pioneer activities, Native American history, settlement and development of the region, local and county history, transportation, biography, art, and architectural history.
All of the library's book titles have catalog records in the online catalog.
The Research Library maintains an extensive collection of still photographs. Over 2.5 million photographs and negatives relate to the commercial, industrial, and agricultural development of the Pacific Northwest (especially Oregon), persons who took part in that development, and the growth of communities and urban areas. Subject fields in which the collection is particularly strong are lumbering, railroads, maritime, and Portland. Learn how to search for photographs in the online catalog or go to photograph gallery.
Newspaper photograph collections provide extensive coverage of places, events, and personalities associated with the region. Many regionally prominent photographers are represented throughout the collection, which spans the 1850s to the present. Reproductions of photographs from the collection may be ordered from Photographic Services, by calling (503) 306-5250 or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Research Library’s Vertical File Collection includes nearly 4,000 subjects on state and local history and 1,500 biographies and genealogies of prominent Oregonians. The files are indexed in an in-house card catalog and cover such diverse topics as historic homes and buildings, churches, ethnic groups, cities and counties, Portland neighborhoods, railroads, historic trees, and maritime history. We are currently adding catalog records for these files to our online catalog.
The Scrapbook Collection contains 350 volumes that span one hundred forty years of Oregon history (1850s-1980s), which is profiled in letters, menus, programs, and other ephemera, and especially in newspaper articles from around the state. Thanks to an extensive conservation effort, the collection is available on microfilm and in bound preservation copies in the Research Library.
The Scrapbook Collection was originally indexed by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s. A biography card index located in the Research Library lists individuals by surname. The subject index, however, is now incorporated into our online catalog. If your subject search brings up a scrapbook entry, click on that entry to reveal the precise citation.
The Research Library’s significant collection of microfilm includes approximately 16,000 rolls of 19th- and 20th- century newspapers from around the state, as well as over 600 rolls of publications from Washington, California, Idaho, Missouri, Hawaii, and Panama. In addition, researchers can access filmed copies of Oregon decennial census records (1850-1930), territorial census records for Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, documents connected with 19th-century exploratory and surveying expeditions, Superintendent of Indian Affairs’ records for Oregon and Washington, and records of the Russian-American Company.
Microfilm is available for use in the Research Library.
The Research Library houses more than 12,000 linear feet of original documents, dating from the late eighteenth century to the present. Included are personal papers of individuals and families and records of a wide range of business, professional, cultural, fraternal, and other organizations. Among the types of sources included are correspondence, speeches, diaries and reminiscences, scrapbooks, ships’ logbooks, business and association records, and legal agreements. Also included are pictorial materials, such as posters, architectural drawings, and ship and wagon plans.
Topics covered include early exploration of the Oregon Country, the fur trade, missionary activity, overland migration to the Pacific Northwest, politics and government, business development (including lumber, fishing, mining, banking, and transportation), labor, the arts, and the activities of women and ethnic groups.
A small percentage of catalog records for manuscripts and other archival collections are found in our online catalog. We regularly add collections to the online catalog.
Most collections, however, are identified only through an in-house manuscripts card catalog.
The Research Library’s Serials Collection includes print publications of local and county historical societies in Oregon; some ninety journals and quarterlies from state, regional, provincial, and special historical societies throughout the United States and Canada; professional literature relating to historical societies and museums, library and museum conservation, and historical preservation; and local and regional periodicals of the nineteenth century.
The Map Collection contains over 25,000 maps that focus on Western exploration and the Oregon Territory. Available types of maps include those of the Oregon Territory, the state, cities and counties, and special subjects such as mining, forestry, railroads, coasts and rivers, soils, farmlands, land claims, Native Americans and explorations.
A special feature of the collection is the collection of Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps (see the Sanborn Fire Insurance maps of Portland-1 and the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Portland-2) which present detailed information on the city in approximate 10-year intervals from 1879 to 1965.
The Research Library’s collection of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Oregon state documents is a particularly valuable resource. The Research Library also has a small collection of Portland city, various regional commissions and boards, and U.S. government documents.
The Society began collecting oral histories in 1976. In addition, the collection includes sound recordings radio broadcasts, speeches, and music that span the 1930s to the present. The collection contains over 13,000 items, including phonodiscs and tapes, transcripts, summaries, outlines, and indices. Principal topics are agriculture, architecture, business and industry, education, environmental affairs, ethnic culture, family history, geography, government, the Great Depression, local history, medicine, military, organizations, science and technology, sports, transportation, urban planning, and World War II. A portion of the catalog records of the library's oral histories are available in the online catalog.
Notable collections include: a 1940s-era sound recording collection, Portland Neighborhood History, Northwest Women’s History Project: World War II Shipyards, Mt. St. Helens, U.S. District Court of Oregon, Politics and Government, Center for Columbia River History Series, Japanese Americans, Latinos in Oregon, and many others.
The Moving Image Collection consists of 8.5 million feet of film and videotape, including Oregon news events from 1966 to the present, early newsreels, family movies, commercial/industrial films, and scenic and wildlife films. Examples include the Amos Burg collection on river exploration, the Finley collection of wildlife and nature, the Ray Conway collection of Pacific Northwest travel, and the Louis Huber collection on Alaskan culture. A small viewing collection is available in the library. To view other films, please contact the library at email@example.com or call the reference line at 503.306.5240.