Who We Are: Our Name Says It Best

A museum’s name tells you a lot about what it treasures.

You hear the name—art museum, history museum, automobile museum—and you immediately know what you’ll find there: objects, rare and wonderful; encounters with the unusual; beauty for beauty’s sake. The specifics differ, but in each case, the collection takes center stage.

Our name shows what we treasure, too, and it tells you how we’re different.

We’re a museum that doesn’t act like a museum because our audience—children and the adults who care for them—is more important to us than anything we collect. Indeed, our audience is the essential component that gives our exhibits meaning.

Instead of investing in precious objects, we use familiar materials to craft priceless opportunities for children to learn through play. Our approach is inspired by the early childhood schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy; built on inquiry-based learning strategies; and influenced by a strong image of children as intelligent, creative, and resourceful. 

Our Mission: To develop innovative problem-solvers through playful learning experiences that strengthen relationships between children and their world.

Our Vision: We envision a world where everyone retains and values the innate curiosity, creativity, and empathy of childhood.

Our Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion: In the Portland metro area, 47% of students are children of color. At Portland Children's Museum, we strive to have our guest and school families reflect that diversity, and for our staff and board to be equally diverse. We are committed to eliminating barriers to access and equity and see a diverse workforce as a key step toward this goal. We actively seek to recruit, hire, promote, and retain a diverse workforce—one that welcomes and engages people from every background. We value our staff members, volunteers, and board members and their individual backgrounds, which further our ability to serve and learn from the diverse families that enrich our community. We invite you to join us on our journey.

2016 Portland Children's Museum Video

We create experiences and share what we learn

Every day, and with every encounter, we co-create our exhibits with our audience. Children are active participants in their world, so we invite them to be active participants in everything at the Museum. We are constantly learning from our audience. We use what we learn to improve our own programs, but that’s only the beginning.

We provide an opportunity for children to have an immersive experience in the Museum’s approach to learning through our Opal School,private preschool (ages 3–6) and public charter elementary school (grades K–5). Opal School serves as a resource for teacher-research by supporting and provoking fresh thinking about learning environments that inspire playful inquiry, creativity, imagination, and the wonder of learning in children and adults.

Through our Museum Center for Learning, we make visible the ways children think, imagine, design, invent, and create when given intelligent materials, including the tools of the arts and sciences. We share our experiences through professional development workshops, educational materials, and our annual Summer Symposium.

A year in review 

Annual Report 2018-19

Annual Report 2017–18

Annual Report 2016–17

Annual Report 2015–16

Annual Report 2014–15

Annual Report 2013–14

Audit Report 2019–20

Audit Report 2017–18

Audit Report 2016–17

Audit Report 2015–16

Audit Report 2014–15

Audit Report 2013–14

Strategic Plan Summary