Visit the Library

The Oregon Historical Society’s research library makes available to everyone the world’s largest collection of documents, books, maps, recordings, and images. Many library materials are rare, unique, or fragile, and we ask researchers to read and follow these guidelines when visiting. Thank you for helping to preserve our collections to ensure they remain accessible to all.

The Oregon Historical Society’s research library remains closed for renovations that began in January 2020. To learn more about library services during the renovation, please visit ohs.org/libraryreno.

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Research Library Renovation

The Oregon Historical Society Research Library is currently undergoing an extensive renovation that will improve the visitor experience for our researchers and allow visitors to engage with our collections in new and exciting ways. As the renovation nears completion, we will continue to serve the public through our digital resources and digitization services.

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Using OHS Collections

The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) Research Library is committed to providing broad access to its collections for teaching, learning, and...

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Reproduction and Research Services

The Oregon Historical Society Research Library offers reproductions of OHS collection material as a service for research, personal, educational,...

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Planning Your Visit to the Research Library

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. We recommend that researchers contact reference staff before visiting if they are looking for specific materials or are on tight research timelines. To make the most of researchers’ time in the reading room, librarians are happy to provide consultations by email and identify relevant collections in advance.

Beginning Your Research Library Visit

All research library visitors enter through the Oregon Historical Society’s main lobby at 1200 SW Park Avenue in downtown Portland. After checking in at the admissions desk, a visitor experience associate directs researchers to the library, a short elevator ride away to the fourth floor.

All researchers are required to register in the library on their first visit each calendar year by filling out a brief registration form and presenting current photo identification. Subsequent visits during the year only require letting the library greeter know that you are a returning researcher.

Once registered, we ask that researchers leave all bags, purses, backpacks, and other containers in one of the secure lockers in the coatroom. If using a laptop or tablet computer, please remove it from the carrying case and stow the carrying case in your locker. Unneeded coats and sweaters should be hung in the coatroom or stowed in a locker. Once all items are stored, our experienced reference staff will then be happy to help with research requests. 

Guidelines for Researchers

  • Research library materials are non-circulating; they cannot be checked out, removed from the reading room, or borrowed through interlibrary loan.
  • Our collections storage is not open for public browsing. To view materials, fill out a request slip and library staff will retrieve the item for you.
  • Photocopying is limited, so please allow ample time to take notes.
    • Cell phones must be kept on silent; researchers are asked to exit the library to take phone calls.
  • Children under 15 must be accompanied by an adult.
  • Please review and be prepared to follow the Oregon Historical Society’s current health and safety guidelines.

What to bring:

  • Pencil (no pens, please) and paper or writing tablet
  • Non-flash photography is allowed following our camera use guidelines.

What Not to Bring:

  • Scanners, tape recorders, tripods, or other electronic recording devices. The research library offers duplication services for most items.
  • Oversize bags, backpacks, luggage, carts, or other bulky items not required for mobility or accessibility purposes. The lockers will not accommodate these items.
  • Food and drink, including water bottles. A drinking fountain is located in the research library as well as on Level 1 of the museum. OHS does not have accommodations available for eating or storing bag lunches.
  • Weapons, including firearms, knives (including pocket or Swiss Army style), pepper spray, mace, etc. are strictly prohibited in OHS buildings and on the grounds.

Thank you for adhering to our policies to create a welcoming space for our researchers, volunteers, and staff. Your safety, and the safety of our collections, is our highest priority.

Citing and Reproducing Research Library Materials 

The Oregon Historical Society is committed to providing broad access to its collections for teaching, learning, and research. OHS websites, catalog records, collection guides, and digital images enhance scholarship and promote use of both the digital and the original objects. Please credit all use to the Oregon Historical Society Research Library following our citation guidelines.

OHS offers reference reproductions of OHS library collection materials. It is the responsibility of researchers to determine copyright status for materials. Any use of copyrighted materials beyond fair use requires written permission from the appropriate copyright holder. Please refer to Using OHS Collections for additional information on copyright and the use of collection materials.