In 1946 visionary Portlander, Dorothea Lensch, founded the “Junior Museum and Adventure House,” as part of Portland Parks and Recreation. Lensch, who served as Portland’s recreation director from 1937–1972, was particularly dedicated to meeting the needs of Portland’s underserved communities. She developed innovative programs for children with special needs and for economically disadvantaged families, a legacy that lives on in our mission and core values.
Our programs initially included natural history displays, arts and crafts classes, and (believe it or not) a pet lending library. As research on children’s early learning expanded in the 1970s, the Museum’s focus shifted to hands-on, experience-based learning.
We moved to our current location in Washington Park in 2001, thanks to the incredible efforts of our partners including the Rotary Club of Portland and Portland Parks and Recreation. Our building, the former home of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI), is five times larger than the one we left behind, allowed us to expand our programs and add a school. In 2014 we completed Outdoor Adventure, opening new kinds of exploration and discovery to our community.
We have welcomed more than 4.8 million visitors since we opened and in recent years hosted more than 250,000 visitors every year—many of whom first visited the museum as children decades ago and are now returning as parents or grandparents. For more than half a century, we have dedicated ourselves to sparking a love of learning and discovery in all of the children we encounter.