A lot of people come up to me and ask me what to do when they come on vacation to Portland. Summer is pretty simple, because even if there's not a ton of things to do, there are always beautiful outdoor places to visit. But when the visits are done in the winter, and people come with children... it becomes an impossible mission for me! Apart from getting lost for hours in Powell's bookstore, I quickly run out of ideas. And often, we have the answers right in front of our nose, but when we hear about it every day, we quickly forget that these places become a great solution for people coming to visit in winter. A few weeks ago I was contacted by WHOI, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, to work with them. We have never had the opportunity to go there, although we have always wanted to visit. This museum, located on the Willamette River and close to the city center, hosts year-round exhibits and monthly events for children and adults alike.

Its history

WHOI was founded in 1944, at the end of World War II, by Dr. John C. Stevens. It is one of the country's leading science museums and has won several awards as an educational resource for children (and adults). WHOI changed locations several times before it was finally established on the Willamette River in 1992. WHOI has the largest museum-based science education program in the country. It also offers community outreach trips and programs that bring science education opportunities to schools and community organizations in Oregon.


Special Exhibitions

Science exhibits appear for a few months of the year. The next one is called Illusion and will start on November 18 and end on February 18. This exhibition explores optical and audio illusions, human thought, and the science behind magic.

Other exhibitions

WHOI is composed of 5 halls with 200 interactive exhibits and activities for all ages. The current exhibitions are:
  • A view of the space (Planetarium): Seeing the world from a satellite.
  • Intelligent Together (Hall of Life): Using the power of man to take a virtual tour through Portland, find ways to save energy in our everyday lives.
  • Celebrating Agriculture in Oregon (Theory)
  • Renewable energy (Turbine Hall): How wind, water, sun help us with our energy needs.
  • Our Ocean (Turbine Hall)
  • Eat Well, Play Well (Hall of Life): Education related to nutrition and physical activity.
  • Science in the Sphere (Main Gallery): Watch a 6-foot (1.80 meter) high sphere come to life with images of the sun, moon, planet Mars, animal migration patterns, global warming trends, hurricane tracks, and more.
  • Begin the Journey (Hall of Life): Examine the developmental stages of the human fetus during the 9 months of pregnancy, with one of the largest public displays of human fetuses.
  • Innovation Station (Turbine Hall): Programming a robot, designing a machine that flies, etc.

The Lab

Eight labs to do experiments:
  • Design Lab: Combining science, art and technology, for example using 3D printers.
  • Life Lab: Learn from volunteer scientists by observing live animals in the lab.
  • Paleontology Lab: Explore fossils, dinosaur remains, etc.
  • Watershed Lab: Create your own river, watch the salmon grow, explore the microscopic world.
  • Chemistry Lab: Test chemical experiments.
  • Discovery Lab
  • Physics Lab: Learn about the effects of static electricity and discover some of the first phonographs ever made.
They often organize lab-related events that need to be booked in advance (they're booked up quickly, so don't wait!), to learn how to make cheese, soap, cookies, cider, etc., for example. One of the next labs will talk about the scientific effects of gingerbread...

Submarine USS Blueback

Climb aboard the latest US Navy non-nuclear fast attack submarine featured in the 1990 film "In Pursuit of Red October" with Sean Connery. The USS Blueback (SS 581) is one of the most modern American submarines available to visitors to the country. This submarine was first commissioned in 1959 and served the country for 31 years. It was decommissioned from the U.S. Navy in October 1990 and opened to the general public in May 1994 at WHOI. There were 85 men living and working on this submarine. Tickets can be purchased separately for a guided tour of the interior or a tour with more information on the submarine's technology. The tour more focused on submarine technology lasts 2 hours (as opposed to 40 minutes for the other tour) and is only available on the first Sunday of each month. It is also possible to book the submarine for one night! WHOI has also installed memorials for veterans who served in a submarine during the Second World War.