The stories we pass down and share with each other create a sense of home and belonging. For 125 years, since our founding in 1898, people have looked to the Oregon Historical Society for information, context, and perspective that make those stories collectively meaningful. The materials we have preserved provide evidence of the past, and through our research library, exhibitions, educational resources, and scholarship, curious individuals can deepen their understanding of history, make sense of the present, and foster a better future.
To understand our world, we must look to the historical record — the primary sources and the work people have done to make sense of them — to gain new insights about the people who came before us and how their actions shape our present. As we approach our 125th anniversary on December 17, 2023, we bring to the forefront the work that OHS had done for over a century to interpret the past and make it accessible to all. Our Unfinished Past: The Oregon Historical Society at 125 explores the people, events, and ideas that have shaped our institution, reflecting on OHS’s complex history and our mission to advance knowledge and inspire curiosity about Oregon history.
Featuring over 100 objects and archival materials from our museum and library collections, this exhibition highlights diverse voices from Oregon’s past and the many people who have entrusted their stories to our care. It also highlights the ways scholars, researchers, and artists have worked independently and in partnership with OHS to forge new insights and understandings about Oregon. And it serves as a reminder that countless people continue to use OHS resources to make enriching discoveries about their homes and communities.
History shapes people’s understanding of who they are and provides opportunities for critical thinking. Studying history gives us the confidence and courage to persevere through challenging times and reassures us that we can have a lasting influence on our community and in our democracy. Exploring the Oregon Historical Society’s history allows us to better understand how this institution has been a catalyst for civic engagement rooted in an understanding of the complexity of our state — and how we can better live up to that responsibility now and in the future.