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The City of Portland, Oregon

Archives & Records Management

Office of the City Auditor

phone: 503-865-4100


1800 SW 6th Ave, Suite 550, Portland, OR 97201

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Our Story: Portland Through an African American Lens

Group of teenagers posing at Unthank ParkThe City of Portland Archives has partnered with the Multnomah County Library and other institutions in the Portland area to help create Our Story: Portland Through an African American Lens. Our Story is a celebration of Black life in Oregon. It is an online collection of images, documents, and interviews featuring people who make this community special.

The City of Portland has contributed 175 digital images and documents from its archival collections, including photos of community events, celebrations, neighborhood clean-ups, protest rallies, and elected officials, as well as newsletters, Council minutes, and other Izeal Campbell outside his home on N Russelldocuments that highlight African Americans in city governmental records. Other archives, special collections and heritage organizations in the Portland area have also donated materials to the digital collection, providing a diverse group of materials for researchers to explore.  The first phase of the collection will be available in May and focuses on Community Building.

Leading up to the release of this collection, the Library is hosting programs in libraries across Multnomah County to celebrate Black communities in Portland. Please follow this link for a summary of the project and a list of upcoming programs: Our Story: Portland Through an African American Lens.

The Our Story Kickoff Celebration will be Saturday, May 19th 2-4PM at the North Portland Library. Click the following link for more information: 

To learn more about historical City records related to African Americans check out our guide and the materials we have available online.

Dorothea Lensch- An Exhibit

Dorothea Lensch, Director of Recreation 1937 to 1973Lensch hiking in snow on mountain side

The Portland Archives & Records Center is pleased to announce a new exhibit focusing on Dorothea Lensch’s career as Director of Recreation for the City of Portland Parks Bureau.

Dorothea Lensch served at the Director of Recreation from 1937 to 1973.  As the first Director of Recreation, she revitalized the Parks Department by expanding existing programming and developing new programs that included the arts, dance, and other forms of play. During a time of economic, political, and social upheaval, as well substantial growth within the City of Portland, Lensch was a leader within the community by promoting her belief that recreation was central to a strong and healthy community.

Exhibiting at: PSU Academic & Student Recreation Center, 5th floor, outside Suite 550  (Portland Archives & Records Center)

On display November 28, 2017 - March 31, 2018

Neverbuilt: Portland

Model of potential Pioneer Courthouse Square

Exhibiting at:

Portland City Hall, first floor, September 1 – 30, 2017
PSU Academic & Student Recreation Center, first floor, October 1-December 3, 2017

The Neverbuilt: Portland exhibit is the result of a year-long collaborative effort between four archival repositories in the Portland area. The City of Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon Health and Science University, and Portland State University each contributed records from their collections that highlight projects, plans, and designs that never came to be part of Portland’s cityscape. The City of Portland Archives focused on the design competition for Pioneer Square, including the 4 unsuccessful designs; Multnomah County Archives presented records related to the Delta Dome; PSU’s Architecture, Engineering and Construction Archives offered up incomplete development plans and never-built structures; OHSU Historical Collections & Archives provided access to records related to various campus projects, grand visions, and alterations to designs.

The exhibit panels feature architectural drawings, historical photographs, designs, and development plans for projects that were once planned or envisioned, but never came to fruition. The rotating exhibit will visit several archival and public facilities in Portland, Oregon this summer. If you can’t make it in person, you can check out the City of Portland panels here.

Come and see what could have been.

Rendering of potential design.

“Annexation & Assimilation: Exploring City Archives East of 82nd Ave” For a Second Time

Did you miss the art exhibit “Annexation & Assimilation: exploring city archives east of 82 Ave” at APANO last fall?  You will have a second chance beginning February 16th to experience the work resulting from artist-in-residence, Sabina Zeba Haque’s, yearlong residency at the Portland Archives and Records Center (PARC).

The work focuses on the tumultuous and fraught process of annexation and growth of East Portland’s incredibly diverse population. Collaborating with neighborhood residents and PARC, Haque examines the history of place as a marker of exclusion and inclusion over the past thirty-five years. She weaves a portrait of inclusive civic identity through hand-drawn animation, video projections, poster installations, and a theater performance. From farm culture to car culture, from ethnically homogenous to diverse, from English to Hmong, Vietnamese, Spanish, Mandarin, Somali, “Annexation & Assimilation along 82nd Ave.” explores the changing cultural and physical landscape and shifting demographics over the last 100 years. The result is an accelerating and visceral mash-up of Portland’s past and present along this boundary, which is at once both real and imagined.

Please join us Thursday, February 16thArtist rendering of 1934 82nd Ave photo & current signage, from 6-8 PM for the opening of the exhibit of video projections, poster installations, oral histories and a recorded theater performance. The event is free and open to the public.

A video preview of the artworks & performance:


Open Signal, a media arts center formally known as Portland Community Media.

2766 N.E. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.

Public Viewing Hours:

Feb 16, 2017- April 28, 2017

Tues--Fri, 10am to 10pm

Sat--Sun, 12pm to 8pm

This is the second in a series of public art residencies funded by the City of Portland Percent for Art Program administered by Regional Arts & Culture Council.

Media Coverage:

Interview on OPB Think out loud with Dave Miller

ArtsWatch Weekly: Un-dividing the great 82nd Avenue divide

Asian Reporter article week

Willamette Weekly

Guide to historical City records related to Building Research

Cover of guideWhat was this building used for originally? Who lived here? How can I prove that this has always been a commercial property? What did this neighborhood look like when my great grandfather lived in Portland? These are just a few of the questions people start with when they are doing building research.

Some people research a property they are wanting to purchase, some need to prove a fact before a city permit can be issued, and still others are simply curious about the history of their home. Not all building research can be accomplished at a single archives or institution. Information about property is not centralized and may require different resources depending on the type of information needed. Because it can often be confusing, we have created a guide identifying the most useful records within the City’s archival collections for doing building research.

The Guide is based on the questions we receive from researchers and the resources they have found useful.  We also include information about creative ways records can be used to find the information needed.  For instance, photos documenting fire damage may also capture the building next door, or a Sanborn Insurance map may show that there was a change to the original footprint of a building.

Before you start your building research, read the Guide for guidance on the types of resources available.

The guide is available online and in print.

For information on our hours, location and what to expect when you visit the Archives, click here.