Help

Our reference library staff are happy to assist with questions about the Oregon Historical Society’s research library collections. Please contact our staff at libreference@ohs.org, leave a voicemail at 503.306.5240, or browse our Frequently Asked Questions to learn how to access and request library materials for remote and in-person research. Full details about visiting the research library are available here.

Frequently Asked Questions

In consideration of current public health conditions, appointments are required to visit the research library until further notice. Due to space limitations in OHS’s downtown location, most of our library materials are stored off-site and may require up to one week’s notice to retrieve. If you are looking for specific materials or are on a tight research timeline, we recommend contacting reference library staff before visiting by emailing libreference@ohs.org. To make the most of your time in the reading room, librarians are available to provide consultations by email and identify relevant collections in advance.

OHS reference library staff will ask researchers to register and store any non-research related items in a private locker. The library’s collections are held in closed stacks and are not open to browsing by visitors. Reference staff can help identify and retrieve collections during visits.

Conducting archival research takes time. Researchers should expect to spend a few hours in the reading room during their visit, depending on the complexity of their research.

Returning researchers should be aware that OHS has reconfigured collections storage to better accommodate current research needs. Some materials that were previously available in our downtown facility are now stored off-site and must be requested at least one week in advance of your visit. This includes serials and government documents, architectural drawings, many microfilmed materials, and selected titles from the book collection.

Researchers may bring their own materials to the library, with a few exceptions. Pens and highlighters are not allowed in the reading room. Please be prepared to use paper and pencil or a laptop or mobile device to take notes. Researchers are allowed to bring their own accessibility tools, such as magnifiers, as long as these tools do not come in direct contact with collections materials. Please check with reference staff before bringing any personal research materials or books into the reading room.

Cell phones must be kept on silent; researchers are asked to exit the library to take phone calls. Food and drink are not allowed in the research library. A drinking fountain is available for public use during visits.

OHS’s research library welcomes visitors of all ages; children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult. Accompanying adults are responsible for minimizing disruption for other researchers and ensuring the safe handling of library materials at all times. Many researchers find that bringing activities for younger children helps occupy their time.

Storage space is limited downtown; only a portion of the library’s collections can be stored on-site. Research library materials are stored based on patterns of use, size of collection, and storage configuration.

Please note that some changes to storage locations were made as part of the library’s reopening in 2021. Materials stored off-site are indicated in the library catalog by the location code GSF. Please check with reference staff at least one week prior to your visit to ensure that the materials you need are available on-site.

OHS allows non-flash photography of library collections materials for personal research use only. To minimize disruption to other researchers and prevent damage to collections materials, please do not bring additional equipment, including scanners, tripods, and lights. We ask that researchers not stand on chairs, place materials on the floor, press book spines, or engage in other activities that compromise the integrity of fragile collections materials.

Please check with reference staff for further clarification and read the library’s camera use policy.

Researchers are responsible for ensuring that their use of library materials aligns with the terms of copyright law and fair use. Learn more about best practices for incorporating OHS’s research library collections into your projects here.

OHS’s research library staff may be able to make a limited quantity of low-resolution copies of library materials for personal research use only. Fees may apply, and your order will be processed following your visit. This service is dependent on staffing availability, preservation concerns, and other considerations, such as copyright. Researchers are encouraged to take their own personal-use photographs of collections materials while following our camera use policy.

High-quality reproductions of research library collections materials may be ordered directly through OHS’s reproduction services or with the assistance of reference staff (in person or via email or phone). Learn more about our reproduction services here.

Researchers are responsible for ensuring that their use of library materials aligns with the terms of copyright law and fair use. Learn more about best practices for incorporating OHS’s research library collections into your projects here.

OHS’s research library provides high-quality reproductions of collections materials including photographs, manuscripts, audio recordings, and film and videos. Information about pricing, technical limitations, and ordering instructions are available here. If you need help locating materials or completing your order, please contact the reference staff for assistance at libreference@ohs.org.

Researchers are responsible for ensuring that their use of library materials aligns with the terms of copyright law and fair use. Learn more about best practices for incorporating OHS’s research library collections into your projects here.

OHS’s research library holds many irreplaceable and one-of-a-kind materials. Our collections do not circulate. Researchers may not remove materials from the reading room, and OHS’s research library does not make materials available through inter-library loan or through public or academic libraries. We encourage researchers to enjoy rare and unique materials in-person in our reading room. It may be possible to find copies of published materials at other lending libraries by searching WorldCat. For items not found elsewhere, please contact OHS’s reference staff to learn about options for access at libreference@ohs.org.

OHS offers several options for researchers from around the world to access our collections and learn more about Oregon history online.

OHS Digital Collections highlights a number of primary resources for researchers including important manuscript, photograph, oral history, and film collections. Many of these materials are freely accessible for download.

The Oregon Encyclopedia and the Oregon History Project offer hundreds of informative articles written by subject experts. These articles feature significant individuals, places, institutions, events, peoples, and artistic expressions related to the state of Oregon.

The Oregon Historical Quarterly is OHS’s scholarly journal featuring well-written, peer-reviewed articles about Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Learn how to access articles online, including over 100 articles for free, here.

Researchers are also encouraged to review the research library’s catalog for descriptions of research library collections.

For more in-depth information held in collections guides, please search OHS’s page on Archives West.

For how-to guides on various topics in Oregon history, please explore our available research guides.

Reference staff are available to assist researchers remotely with basic research questions. Researchers with detailed questions or who require access to large quantities of collections materials are encouraged to visit the library in person or hire a local private researcher to assist them with their project. Reference staff will do their best to accommodate remote requests, but service may be limited due to staff availability or collections conditions. Remote reference requests are answered in the order received.

Please email libreference@ohs.org so that we may assess your research needs and help you get started with your research.

OHS’s research library is not currently accepting donations but appreciates hearing from you. All potential donations must be pre-authorized following an expert review process, where materials are assessed by their relevance in relation to OHS’s collecting policies and collection needs. We appreciate your patience, as it may take a while to return calls and emails.

Please visit our Donate to Collections page for more information.