OMSI is more than a museum.
We create learning experiences these walls can’t contain — bringing science to as many people as possible, no matter who or where they are. OMSI believes our collective potential can be unlocked when curiosity, learning, and community unite. Our differences are what make us amazing, and we celebrate those who dare to question: the explorers, the tinkerers, the storytellers, and the troublemakers. Welcome to OMSI.
OMSI’s mission is to inspire curiosity through engaging science learning experiences, foster experimentation and the exchange of ideas, and stimulate informed action.
Our vision is to collaborate with partners to ignite an education transformation at the intersection of science, technology, and design. We will weave a thriving innovation district into the fabric of Portland that spreads opportunities across the Northwest.
OMSI is committed to working with partners and community members to include diverse perspectives in learning experiences and to dismantling systemic barriers by addressing disparities in our staffing, business practices, and public engagement. We participate in ongoing community conversations to evolve and create opportunities for all people to reach their full potential. We are committed to leading with racial equity.
We believe our community needs OMSI more than ever to support scientific thinking, advance opportunities for all, empower us to tackle global challenges, and transform STEAM education. We offer programming almost every day of the year, own camps in Fossil and Newport that leverage resources across Oregon and five Northwest states, and teach professional development programs for educators who reach the youngest pre-school scientists to advanced PhD researchers. We are committed to equipping everyone, no matter their background, lifestyle, or income level, with the skills and confidence to keep asking questions and to question those answers.
From the beginning, the idea of OMSI has inspired curiosity in generations of children and adults, and nurtured deep partnerships across the Northwest. Over the years, leaders, learners, and communities have come together at key moments to propel OMSI into the future and broaden our opportunities to engage children and families in hands-on science education. Our aspirations for the future grow from our rich legacy and deep appreciation for everyone who has made the OMSI of today possible. With community and partners, we look forward to continuing to grow and evolve.
- 2022: OMSI’s design and fabrication teams complete two new traveling exhibitions – AlegreMENTE/ Happy Brain and Snow: Tiny Crystals, Global Impact and begin national tours.
- 2021: OMSI opens a new onsite Digital Learning Recording Studio to support digital learning.
- 2021: OMSI’s newly renovated Science Playground opens (delayed due to the pandemic)
- 2020: After more than a year of extensive community listening around the state, OMSI launches its 2020-2025 strategic plan and OMSI Accelerated campaign focusing on climate action, digital learning, early childhood education, and accessibility.
- 2020: OMSI and the whole community is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. OMSI staff and supporters quickly rally to provide childcare for essential workers, OMSI summer classes, new digital and virtual programming, and a new OMSI Homeschool program to support children and families with distance learning.
- 2019: OMSI serves 900,000 visitors at the museum and 300,000 students at remote locations and throughout the state.
- 2019: The newly imagined Center for Innovation opens in the Turbine Hall focusing on hands-on learning experiences that empower visitors to tackle some of our biggest global and local challenges through science, technology, engineering, and math.
- 2019: OMSI celebrates its 75th anniversary.
- 2018: OMSI launches an Equity Action Framework that clarifies and strengthens the organization’s commitment to equity, inclusion and diversity. The framework leads to changes in recruiting practices, training practices, exhibit development processes, and financial accessibility.
- 2017: The newly renovated Planetarium opens with a state-of-the-art projection system that interfaces with real-time data from NASA and NOAA
- 2016: OMSI supporters rally to fund the construction of Camp Gray in Newport, OR and the camp opens for its first summer season.
- 2015: Based on significant community input, OMSI launches its 2015-2020 strategic plan focused on expanding statewide outreach, advancing OMSI District Planning, reimagining museum experiences, and increasing community support.
- 2015: OMSI launches its 20-Year Vision to collaborate with partners to ignite an education transformation at the intersection of science, technology and design, and weave a thriving innovation district into the fabric of Portland, that spreads opportunities across the Northwest.
- 2014: John Gray makes a generous gift that enables OMSI to buy land to establish The Coastal Discovery Center at Camp Gray in Newport, Oregon.
- 2010-2016: The Indigenous Education Institute and OMSI collaborate on the project Generations of Knowledge: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Environmental Science to raise public awareness that Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and Western science are valuable and relevant to society and offer complementary ways of understanding the natural world. A traveling exhibition, titled Roots of Wisdom, is developed in collaboration with four different Indigenous communities—Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, Tulalip Tribes, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and Native Hawaiians.
- 2009: The OMSI Member magazine goes paperless. OMSI publishes its first digital-only issue of the magazine for OMSI members, supporting the sustainability goals of the organization. OMSI also becomes the first museum worldwide to host SAMSON, the third-most complete T. Rex skeleton ever discovered.
- 2008: OMSI hosts its first OMSI After Dark event, a night of adult-only science learning and play. The initial event drew around 500 people to the museum, and OMSI After Dark continues to be a success today with various themed evenings throughout the year. OMSI also hosts its first Family Science Night, an event designed to deepen OMSI’s partnerships with schools and involve families in STEM learning.
- 2007: At a White House ceremony, OMSI is awarded a National Medal for Exceptional Community Service.
- 2004: OMSI opens two new exhibit halls, Science Playground and Innovation Station, providing brand new spaces and experiences for the youngest scientists. OMSI’s business providing traveling exhibits to science museums across the country continues to grow.
- 2003: Thanks to a generous donation from the Jaqua and Kendall families, SkyVision full dome video is installed in the Planetarium, allowing OMSI to offer a wider variety of programming. The venue would later be renamed the Kendall Planetarium in honor of the Kendall Family.
- 2001: The Eastbank Esplanade, created in partnership between OMSI and other City partners, opens to the public and draws visitors to the waterfront.
- 2000: OMSI receives a glowing accreditation report from the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC), a strong endorsement of OMSI’s prominence in the field.
- 1998: OMSI receives its largest-ever donation, $3.3M from C.F. Swigert, Jr. and Christine Swigert, with a matching challenge that creates a $5M fund.
- 1996: The Willamette River floods and, like many places in the region, OMSI suffers extensive damage and remains closed for months. Through community support and dedicated staff, OMSI rebuilds and opens its doors to guests again shortly after the flood.
- 1994: The USS Blueback opens to the public.
- 1992: OMSI’s new state-of-the-art science center on Water Avenue opens. The 219,000 square-foot facility includes a planetarium, OMNIMax theater and numerous exhibitions.
- 1986: OMSI’s popularity surpassed the size of its facility six times over and a new group of community leaders began a $32M campaign to build a state-of-the-art science center, culminating with a milestone donation from longtime supporter, Portland General Electric, of an 18.5-acre site that held a historic sawdust-fired power generation plant.
- 1986: OMSI hosts an international cultural exhibition, India, A Festival of Science, featuring artisans who are considered national treasures of India, demonstrating traditional crafts.
- 1985: The Art of the Muppets is the first nationally touring exhibition OMSI brings to Portland and draws record-breaking crowds.
- 1985: In partnership with Good Samaritan Neurological Sciences Center, OMSI launches the Oregon Brainstorms Partnership (OBP). The OBP expands to include OHSU, Oregon Regional Primate Research Center, and University of Oregon, and for the next 25 years engages neuroscientists to provide curriculum, an annual Brain Fair, and a touring exhibition about cutting edge brain research.
- 1981: The 1st Annual Computer Fair demystifies computer technology with exhibits and programs for people planning to purchase a home computer.
- 1970-1979: Annual exhibitions produced in partnership with community organizations showcase NW industries with demonstrations of sheep shearing, bee keeping, fruit growing, dairy goat husbandry, horseshoeing, flyfishing and more.
- 1974: The Smoker’s Lung exhibit features lungs from smokers and non-smokers, side by side, attached to a respirator so visitors could see the difference in how they inflate. It conveys a highly impactful message about the health risks of smoking.
- 1972: OMSI creates its first traveling exhibition, Atom-Magic, and it tours nationally. In the following decades, OMSI grows to become a trusted provider of exhibitions for other science centers.
- 1970: Camp Hancock expands with 18 more buildings. The expansion reflects the growing demand as OMSI’s statewide education programs continue to grow in popularity. The museum welcomes its three millionth visitor and reaches an annual attendance of over 500,000.
- 1970’s: Popular statewide Science Fairs are organized and hosted annually by OMSI, with statewide finals at the museum drawing large crowds from across the region. OMSI has an active Science Suitcase program loaning scientific equipment and teaching aids to schools across the region.
- 1967: The Kendall Planetarium opens at OMSI in Washington Park.
- 1962: The Walk-In Heart exhibit is installed and becomes an iconic exhibit for thousands of visitors for decades.
- 1960’s: OMSI hosts three TV shows per week on KGW and a radio show on KBPS. OMSI also held its first gala fundraising event together with the Oregon Zoo – the ZOOMSI Auction! Oregon pilots led the Fly-Out that flew OMSI ambassadors to communities across the state and returned with items donated from that region to be auctioned in support of the museum. OMSI continues to hold an annual gala every year to support programs and accessibility.
- 1958: The Transparent Woman comes to OMSI and is a star, with her own theater and taped presentation about human anatomy. That year, the Foucault Pendulum began to swing as a scientific method to show the rotation of the earth. Both exhibits became iconic parts of school field trips for a generation.
- 1957: In the spirit of pioneer barn-raisings, over 400 volunteer union bricklayers laid 102,000 bricks in one day, and on June 7, 1958, the dream of a dedicated, hands-on science museum became a reality. Animated mascot outer space man “ISMO,” invited kids to join the OMSI Club and get a free star in the Milky Way. So many children called to talk with ISMO that it swamped Portland’s phone lines.
- 1955: With annual attendance swelling to over 25,000 in 1955 and the house scheduled for demolition to make room for the new Lloyd Center, the City Council stepped forward to lease land in Washington Park to OMSI for the sum of one dollar per year.
- 1951: Alonzo Hancock hosts a geology summer camp in Clarno County outside of Fossil, Oregon. It proves popular and today Camp Hancock still operates and welcomes curious minds to explore the high desert.
- 1950: The first OMSI planetarium opens in the front yard of the Hassalo Street house. It is the first in the Pacific Northwest.
- 1949: Local companies and individuals donate time and materials to renovate a house on Hassalo Street that Ralph Lloyd makes available rent-free. The new museum opens the following year. The small but popular museum provides displays from local amateur scientists, including the Oregon Mineral and Agate Society, Audubon Society, and Rose City Astronomers, as well as the first live petting zoo in the United States.
- 1944: The Oregon Museum Foundation is established. This organization will eventually become the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). John C. Stevens spearheads the effort, and a few years later the Portland Hotel hosts the first exhibit. The exhibit grows over the years and spills into the surrounding businesses and storefronts located close to what is now Pioneer Square.
- 1930s: Portland area civil engineer and museum enthusiast, J.C. Stevens becomes a great supporter in the late 1930s, and is a driving force behind the museum’s reopening.
- 1906: Merriam’s dream becomes reality with a display established in Portland’s City Hall. This lasts until the 1930s when the City needed more space for offices. The public display was placed in storage until after the Great Depression and World War II.
- 1896: C. Hart Merriam challenged Oregonians to support a permanent site displaying Oregon’s rich natural resources. His suggestion was met with great enthusiasm by Oregonians who donated many of their own pieces in order to see his dream become reality.
Looking for more info?
OMSI is an independent, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that receives no state or local tax support and relies on admissions, memberships and donations to continue our educational mission, programs and exhibits.