I visited a couple of local museums the past several weeks, and was less than impressed.
Oregon Historical Society Museum
I’d originally planned to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), but the day I was off was Monday, and that museum is closed on Mondays. My Plan B was the titular museum. It’s located on the South Park Blocks directly across from the Oregon Art Museum.
There’s a two-tier admission fee: free if you’re a Multnomah County (Portland area) resident, and $11 if you’re from anywhere else. I am not in Category A, so I paid. The original coin used to determine whether Portland would be ‘Portland’ or ‘Boston’ is displayed in the lobby.
The first floor contained the current special display on the Chinese in Portland. At one time Portland had the second-largest Chinatown in the US, but the Exclusion Act of 1924 greatly reduced it, and now Chinatown is a few blocks in one of the seedier parts of town. This was moderately interesting.
There are some items from Oregon history on the walls of the stairs:
The galleries contain the museum’s permanent displays, and include logging, farming, fish canning, Lewis & Clark, the various religious groups that settled the territory, and some information on the Oregon Trail. I’ve visited other museums that deal with these subjects in far greater detail. This museum is more like a sampler menu than a full-course meal. They did have a replica of an Oregon Trail wagon:
And information on washing clothes:
There’s a display of all the Oregon official state artifacts:
A replica of a 1950’s living room, complete with period programming on the TV:
For a museum that purports to represent Oregon history, there are two glaring omissions.
The first is that the display on religious groups completely fails to mention the Lutherans. This group settled the Tualatin river valley between Portland’s West Hills and the Coast Range. It’s an area of rich farmland, and Lutheran influence is still much in evidence.
The other omission is that there’s no mention of the 1980 Mt. St. Helen’s eruption other than a sign warning of ash removal operations. No ash samples, nothing. Yes, the volcano is in Washington, but it’s very close to Portland, and the eruption is arguably one of the biggest events in Portland since the event.
I saw everything there was to see in an hour, and for $11, that’s not great. If you’re a Multnomah County resident, the museum is probably worth a visit, otherwise, not so much.
After that disappointing experience, I wandered around for a bit. There’s this store:
Which is not, in fact, a marijuana store. They’re a tobacconist. I salvaged the day with a visit to the Ground Kontrol arcade, and later to Powell’s World of Books. Visits to Powell’s are fraught with danger, as I tend to find books I didn’t know I wanted. This time was no exception.
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry
My next day off was not on Monday, so I took another stab at visiting the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The museum is located on the east side of the river in the warehouse district, and is across the street from the Oregon Rail Heritage Center. I visited that museum last year and enjoyed it very much. I had similar hopes for OMSI.
Admission is $13.75, plus $5 for parking. For twenty bucks, I wanted to see some Science and Industry.
The view of the river from the museum:
To the left is OMSI’s tame submarine, USS Blueback:
For an additional $6 you can take a tour.
There’s a lost submarine memorial:
With the names of lost boats in the brick circle:
Hopefully no more names will be added.
There’s an enclosed grassy area with a utility box in the middle. It looks for all the world like we’re venerating the equipment:
This isn’t the Museum of English Grammar:
Back in the museum, one of the galleries:
This space is located in a former powerhouse, and the pit on the lower left allows you to see some of the equipment. There’s also a clock mechanism that used to inhabit a building downtown:
This is on the second floor, and the pendulum and weights extend almost to the floor of the machinery pit below.
Nearly everything else in the gallery is oriented toward hands-on experiments for children. Not much of interest for adults.
The only other gallery is this one:
Behold the Hall of Political Correctness. That’s not what it’s called, but it may as well be. Again, the exhibits are oriented toward children. Everything in the place extolls the virtue of some aspect of Gaia-worship. Riding public transit, green energy, the astronomy of indigenous peoples, cultural appropriation, and inclusiveness. Tucked away at the back is the biology lab, where they keep critters live and fossilized.
A hissing cockroach:
Reason enough not to visit Madagascar. A walking stick from (no surprise) Australia:
There’s a selection of lizards, rodents, and reptiles. Other than the exotic insects, not much here I haven’t seen done better elsewhere.
There’s a planetarium and IMAX theater, but that’s it. Again, I saw everything in under an hour. They have a motion simulator, but it’s another $5. People I’ve talked to say the museum does special exhibits well, but there were none when I visited. If you’re eight years old and have $30 to spend, OMSI is probably a fun place. Unless there’s a special exhibit going on, I can’t recommend it.