Portland IQ Partner: Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)

Seeking true innovation requires a diversity of perspectives and motivations. That’s why the Portland IQ isn’t just interested in a partnership with a select group of private industry players. Even expanding those partnerships to local and state government doesn’t seem adequate. We want even more voices at the table so we actively seek out partners who drive the very culture of our community.

Like museums.

Now, in any other city, the term “museum” might have folks thinking about art. Probably sculpture. Maybe even potentially design. But in Portland? Not so. In Portland, museums have us immediately thinking of science. With a little bit of industry. Because here in the Portland IQ, we’re home to the one of the  premier science museums in the world, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

OMSI is ranked as one of the top science centers in the United States and has an international reputation for its innovative exhibits and educational programs.

But it didn’t start that way. And to say that OMSI had humble beginnings on its path to innovation? That would be an understatement.

Many folks remember its Washington Park iteration in the building that now houses the Portland Children’s Museum. But not many folks realize that OMSI’s beginnings were even more humble than that. You see, like many of the great Oregon innovations, OMSI started as a passion project, with a random smattering of collected objects inhabiting Portland City Hall.

In the beginning, OMSI was nothing more than a collection of odd artifacts scattered about in Portland's City Hall. Pioneer and park enthusiast Colonel L.L. Hawkins started the city museum in 1903, and for the next three decades, visitors toured the displays in City Hall's corridors and light wells, marveling at curiosities that included a stuffed black bear. When it was ordered to move in 1936, the museum's 12,000 artifacts were put into storage in basements and attics throughout the city.

But those humble beginnings are now a thing of the distant past. Today, OMSI engages more than 1,000,000 visitors a year through a variety of programs, many of which are hosted at its main campus on the southern border of the Central Eastside Industrial District at the eastside bridgehead of the Tilikum Crossing. And that amount of impact — coupled with a desirable location — makes it one of the most compelling projects within the Portland IQ.

What’s more, it’s that continually growing number of visitors — and the desire to help even more people experience the world of science and industry — that fuels plans for even more expansive innovation, including a massive redevelopment project that will transform OMSI, the eastside waterfront, and ultimately Portland.

For the museum, the project would fulfill a long-held goal to redevelop the under-used stretch along the Willamette River, one with the potential to create a vibrant new neighborhood.

As a founding member of the Portland IQ, OMSI has helped provide a voice for the organizations that are well established anchor tenants within the IQ. OMSI representative Ken Wilson, who oversees the efforts to expand and develop the OMSI campus, serves three roles with the Portland IQ: board representative, co-chair of the Real Estate and Business Development Working Group, and a member of the Executive Committee.  

For more information on our Portland IQ partner, visit OMSI.

Rick Turoczy