Experience Oregon

180 degree immersive theater introduces Experience Oregon exhibit

  • Family-friendly
  • Free for Members
  • Teachers
  • Researchers
  • Handicap Accessible Friendly
  • Hearing-impaired Friendly

Oregon Historical Society
1200 SW Park Ave
Portland, Oregon 97205
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Opening February 14, 2019

The Oregon Historical Society’s new, permanent exhibit, Experience Oregon, will offer unprecedented opportunities for visitors from all backgrounds to connect to Oregon’s rich and complex history. Developed through extensive research and in partnership with Oregon Tribes, educators, content specialists, and historians, Experience Oregon brings to visitors stories from a broad array of perspectives.

From a 180-degree intro theater to an immersive build that will let visitors walk through a covered wagon, Experience Oregon will provide a portal to Oregon for all visitors, whether you are a sixth-generation Oregonian, a recent arrival to our state, or a tourist from another part of the world. Central themes such as water, land, and home span the exhibition’s timeline, inviting viewers to think about how Oregonians have defined our state. Interactive activities will be included throughout the exhibition and include a “beyond the archives” tablet game, a section where visitors will learn how to build canoes, and role-playing activities.

By displaying new and much-loved artifacts, along with diverse voices representing Oregon’s many cultures and geographies, this re-imagined exhibition will engage visitors in the experience of Oregon and its history. One notable artifact that will be on display is the Benson Automobile, the first car built in Oregon. Nils Benson built this car in 1904, and then displayed it at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition the following year!

Funds for this new exhibition are being raised through contributions to our FORWARD! capital campaign.

Share Your Images for Inclusion in Experience Oregon

Example images of people in Oregon

Experience Oregon will offer a gateway into Oregon’s rich and complex history, gathering diverse voices representing a wide range of Oregon's people, cultures, and geographies.

We would like your help in creating an exhibit that recognizes the broad spectrum of people that have shaped this place and who call it home by including your photographs in the film shown in our panoramic theater that will welcome visitors into the exhibit. If selected, your images may be used in graphics, videos, and other materials promoting the exhibit, as well as in the exhibit itself. We are looking for a wide variety of images featuring people in locations throughout the state—at work, at home, in school, in service, and at play in their communities, preferably in outdoor settings that are recognizably Oregon. If selected, we will ask you to sign a release granting OHS permission to use your images without compensation.

To submit your images for consideration, please email them to communications@ohs.org, with the words “Experience Oregon Photos” in the subject line. We will contact you if your images are selected, and only use them once we have received your signed release.

Thank you for helping make Experience Oregon as rich and exciting as the state itself!


History Makers

Here are just a few of the incredible individuals featured in the exhibit whose work has shaped the history of Oregon.

Beatrice Morrow Cannady in 1926, wearing a shawl that she made. CN 011493

Beatrice Morrow Cannady

An early-twentieth-century civil rights advocate and a founding member of the Portland NAACP, Cannady served as editor of the Advocate newspaper for over two decades.

Learn more at the Oregon Encyclopedia

Eva Castellanoz (left) in Nyssa. Folklife Collection.

Eva Castellanoz

A traditional artist, curandera (healer), activist, and teacher, Castellanoz settled in Nyssa, Oregon, with her parents in 1957. While raising nine children and laboring in sugar beet and onion fields, she visited Mexico and was inspired to create wax and paper coronas for celebrations. As a curanderismo, Castellanoz provides healing to middle-class Anglos and Latinos as well as migrant workers.

Learn more at the Oregon Encyclopedia.

Esther Pohl Lovejoy, March 1918. OHSU, Esther Pohl Lovejoy Papers, Accession 2001-011

Esther Clayson Pohl Lovejoy

Lovejoy graduated from the University of Oregon medical school in 1894 and was a leader in the successful 1912 campaign for votes for women in Oregon. While serving as Portland’s public health officer from 1907 to 1909, she prevented an outbreak of the bubonic plague. From 1919 until 1967, when she died, Lovejoy directed the international organization, American Women’s Hospitals.

Learn more at the Oregon Encyclopedia

Heinmot Tooyalakekt (Chief Joseph), 1890s. OrHi 86039

Heinmot Tooyalakekt (Thunder Rising to Loftier Mountain Heights), or Chief Joseph 

Born in the Wallowa Valley of eastern Oregon, he led bands of Nimiipuu, or Nez Perce, who resisted attempts to be bound by an 1863 treaty with the U.S. government, which eventually resulted in the dramatic Nez Perce War of 1877. His people were exiled to Indian Territory (now Oklahoma), and Joseph waged a successful campaign for them to be returned to the Pacific Northwest, where he died in 1904.

Learn more at the Oregon Encyclopedia

Photo courtesy Holly Yasui

Minoru Yasui

A lawyer who challenged Lt. Gen. John L. DeWitt’s military orders to imprison Japanese Americans during World War II, Yasui served time in solitary confinement as his case progressed toward the U.S. Supreme Court, and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his leadership in civil and human rights.

Learn more at the Oregon Encyclopedia

A Sneak Peek of Experience Oregon

While Experience Oregon is under construction, visitors are invited to test out some of the interactives that will be incorporated into the timeline that will weave through the exhibit. The content for these games comes from the Oregon Historical Society's Digital History Projects, comprehensive online resources that use expert scholarship and OHS's extensive collections to engage researchers, students, and curious individuals in learning about our state's past.



The featured interactive games are:

Marie Dorion

Can you survive an 11-month, 2,000-mile walk across the West?

Trouble On The Oregon Trail

Can you keep Grandma safe?

George Fletcher

Bronco- and bigotry-busting in Eastern Oregon.

Vortex I

Oregon was on edge. Would rock 'n' roll save it?