Wikipedia:WikiProject Oregon/Reference desk

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A collection of reference materials for researching Oregon-related topics. Be sure to check out WikiProject Resource Exchange, too!


Many books are available online, notably those that were published before 1923, whose copyright has expired. Many of those with expired copyright are available in full on Google Books, where they may be searched, or as downloadable PDF files.

Pre-1923, online[edit]

  • Pete has a library on Google Books with links to a bunch of online Oregon history books, and will be moving them over here as time allows. (Feel free to help!)
  • Colmer, Montagu & Charles Erskine Scott Wood (1910). History of the Bench and Bar of Oregon. Historical Pub. Co.  Contains biographies of most notable lawyers/judges pre 1910 as well as a legal history of the state up to then (includes county formation dates)
  • Joel Palmer, Palmer's Journal of Travels Over the Rocky Mountains, 1845–1846 (1847), Library of Congress catalog F592 .T54 vol. 30. (click on view page images or view text near the top)
    • (title page contents)[1] Journal of Travels over the Rocky Mountains, to the Mouth of the Columbia River; made during the years 1845 and 1846: containing minute descriptions of the Valleys of the Willamette, Umpqua, and Clamet; a general description of Oregon Territory; its inhabitants, climate, soil, productions, etc., etc.; a list of Necessary Outfits for Emigrants; and a Table of Distances from Camp to Camp on the Route. Also; A Letter from the Rev. H. H. Spalding, resident Missionary, for the last ten years, among the Nez Percé Tribe of Indians, on the Koos-koos-kee River; The Organic Laws of Oregon Territory, Tables of about 300 words of the Chinook Jargon, and about 200 Words of the Nez Percé Language; a Description of Mount Hood; Incidents of Travel, &ce, &c.

Post-1923, online[edit]

  • Caroline C. Dobbs (1932). Men of Champoeg (pdf). 
  • Atlas of Oregon Lakes from PSU's Center for Lakes and Reservoirs: has detailed analysis of lakes and some tributary rivers. maps, bathymetry, fish, geological history, human history, water quality assessments, basin information, etc.

Not online, but very useful[edit]

  • Oregon Geographic Names: has a background on the name of nearly every place in Oregon. Excellent starting point, though occasionally inaccurate. Valfontis, Finetooth, Jsayre64, and a couple other people have a copy. The Oregon Historical Society formerly had some of the spreadsheets from the CD that accompanies this book available online. They have since revamped their website so that information may or may not be available currently.
  • Population History of Western U.S. Cites and Towns, 1850–1990, Riley Moffatt, 1996, Scarecrow Press. Moffatt's book is a compilation of U.S. Census data neatly arranged in tabular form for every city in Oregon and many other states. Finetooth has a copy.
Transcriptions of many biographies from this book
  • Ritz, Richard Ellison (2002). Architects of Oregon. Portland, Oregon: Lair Hill Publishing. 0972620028.  Valfontis has this.
    • Note that per Ed Teague of the University of Oregon, this book is incomplete and full of inaccuracies, so be sure to back it up with another source if needed


  • List of newspapers in Oregon
  • If you do a search on Google News, you'll get a list of all kinds of articles. Many of the older ones will be a small preview for a fee-based system (depending on the news outlet), but it's a great starting point even without buying any articles. (See here for an example search on "Tom McCall.")
  • Here you can search among a selection of Oregon newspapers. The date ranges aren't great, but you can still get a lot of articles for free.
Catalogs of newspapers and newspaper articles
Newspapers that keep essentially their entire archives online for free on their own web sites
  • Portland Tribune (web site) -- Portland area semi-weekly, est'd 2001. Their search engine's a little kooky, so use Google or Google News and put "" in the search terms.
  • Willamette Week (web site) -- Portland area weekly, been around since the 1970s. Their 25th anniversary issue had lots of good history, and is cited in many Portland- and Oregon-related articles. Would be good to find out the exact date of that issue.
  • Portland Mercury (web site) -- Portland weekly, est'd around 2000 as an offshoot of Seattle's The Stranger. Excellent coverage of Portland city politics.
  • Portland Business Journal (web site) -- Portland business weekly, has lots of stuff online (not sure if it's the full archive or not.)
  • The Register-Guard (web site) -- Eugene area daily, keeps most articles since 1867 available for free online; see their search advice for how to find what you need. The Google News Archive has a lot of old scanned copies of the R-G. This is a great source for free Oregon news.
  • up to a couple years available free
  • Oregonian paid archives: full articles require payment, but a small free excerpt is included, which may give you the info you need
  • Multnomah County Library archives: two sets of full-search Oregonian archives - "The Oregonian (1987-present)" and "The Oregonian Historical Archive from America's Historical Newspapers" (everything prior to 1987). Requires Multnomah County Library card, but many non-county residents are eligible (see below).
Notes on access
  • Multnomah County Library cards are not limited to residents of that county; anyone in the Portland–Vancouver metropolitan area qualifies for a (free) card, as do residents in certain other Oregon and Washington counties (see this page for information).
  • You may have access through their school library (Willamette does), and very rarely now through their local library (though many branches do have CD-ROMs with some of the archives, also starting in 1987) such as Mult. Co. and at the Beaverton main branch. Older material is also available online. From 1850 to 1923 seems to be complete, with years into the 1960s also appearing lately. Access to these is through NewsBanks historical newspapers database, which some libraries have access to (Genealogy Bank from the Wilsonville Library is one place).
  • See User:Peteforsyth/O-vanish for more on how to access newspaper archives with a library card
Other Oregon newspapers
  • For those with access to NewsBank, including all holders of a Multnomah County Library card (which, as noted above, is not limited to residents of that county and is also free), a searchable archive of articles from about 15 other Oregon newspapers can be found in the section called "America's News", United States section, Oregon subsection. This currently includes papers from Astoria, Baker City, Bend, Klamath Falls, Medford, Pendleton and other cities. How far back the available archive goes differs between papers, but most go back to at least 2005. The Vancouver Columbian can also be accessed (back to 1994), in the Washington section, along with other Washington-based newspapers.

Academic journals[edit]

JSTOR (journal storage) is a for-fee web site that contains lots of academic journal articles. It's possible to get free access through various institutions, though; if you're a Multnomah County Library card holder, you can log in from anywhere:

You'll need your card number and PIN, usually the last four digits of your home phone. Go to the library's web site. Click "Research," then "Databases A-Z," and scroll to JSTOR.

JSTOR has a list of other Oregon institutions that provide free access to its database.

Oregon Historical Quarterly[edit]

  • Current and recent full-text issues (2003–present) available here.

I just acquired a good collection of Oregon Historical Quarterly issues from about 1961 to 1995. See the tables of contents at the link above, and feel free to inquire if there are articles that interest you. I have:

  • June 1961
  • December 1966
  • June 1968
  • December 1972
  • March 1974
  • September 1974
  • September 1975
  • March 1976

And nearly all of fall 1981 to suwinter[clarification needed] 1993–94. -Pete (talk) 17:51, 23 August 2009 (UTC)

This is now User:Esprqii's responsibility. (I am only a junior-grade Californicator who typically gets everything backwards. Did I cross the equator, perhaps, in my recent move??) But yeah -- Esprqii now has all them volumes, so if you ask nicely, he might let you use 'em.
The karate-zombie-Pete-pod is correct. I do have the box o'knowledge now. Let me know if anyone wants to see any of them. --Esprqii (talk) 23:47, 21 December 2009 (UTC)

Databases and other web resources[edit]

  • The "Oregon Biographies Project", a volunteer-driven effort, has compiled numerous biographical pieces about noted Oregonians, from books dated roughly 1850–1928. Note that all pre-1923 bios are copyright-free; the 1928 text may be as well, if copyright was not renewed (would be good to find out.) Any controversial claims based on this source, of course, should be double-checked against original texts.
  • HistoryLink is an online encyclopedia of Washington history, and contains numerous articles pertaining to Oregon. Its writers are knowledgeable – history professors and the like – but it doesn't have a clear editorial review process, so caution should be exercised on anything controversial.
  • USGS Geographic names information system (GNIS). Use this to search for the "feature class" of geographic features (useful if you don't know if a "place" is really a place, i.e. is it a populated place, CDP, locale, someplace that once had a post office, or...?) Also excellent for disambiguating place names like "Diamond Lake". Don't use raw URLs from there, but read the FAQ and use {{cite gnis}}, for example:

<ref name=GNIS>{{cite gnis |id= |name= |entrydate= November 28, 1980 |accessdate= }}</ref>


As a rule of thumb, blogs usually do not meet Wikipedia's reliable source standards. They usually do not have a formal editorial process, so the blogger (or commenter) is typically the only person asserting facts.

There are, however, exceptions. When a blog does have a process for, and track record of, verifying important facts, or establishing the identity of its commenters, it may be reasonable to use it as a source for those things. In the ideal case, these processes would be stated explicitly, e.g. on the blog's "about" or "policy" page, enabling any Wikipedia editor to see, at minimum, that the blog has a clearly stated commitment. (The extent of that commitment, of course, is open to critique.)

Here is a list of some long-standing Oregon blogs with commentary on their suitability as sources:

  • Blue Oregon was launched in 2004, and serves as a platform for many contributors. It bills itself as: "the water cooler around which Oregon progressives will gather. A place for news and original commentary. (And sometimes gossip.)…" (for consistency/longevity of tagline, see [2], [3])
    • Founder Kari Chisholm, a political consultant, has adopted a practice, consistent since the 2008 election cycle, of noting any direct conflict of interest in the first comment following a post. He (encourages? requires? find link) other posters to follow this convention as well.
    • Chisholm has also stated on several occasions (find link) that he fact-checks the names of well known people when they comment, and deletes fakes. Also, since 2009, the site has used Facebook Connect [4] to require real names with comments. When a comment is attributed to a well known person, it is safe to assume that person actually said it.
    • When a substantial factual error is surfaced, blog authors have been known to retract their posts in a transparent fashion. (example: [5] referring to [6])

Libraries and archives[edit]

(Not sure about the distinction between the two OHS libraries listed below? -Pete (talk) 23:38, 27 October 2012 (UTC))

Image libraries[edit]

  • Oregon Historic Photograph Collections is part of the digital collection of Salem Public Library. This archive has 1000s of images from the 1800s to the present. The collection concentrates on Salem and the Willamette Valley, but has photos from all over the state. These can't be uploaded, but it's nice to add a link to a selection of relevant images in the external links section. You may have to try several different search parameters to find what you are looking for. Note that the stream-of-consciousness photo descriptions should be taken with a grain of salt and that most of the place name information is taken from Oregon Geographic Names. The descriptions are rife with misspellings, speculation and inaccuracies, so do try to find a back up source if you're using the description as a citation.

Adding coordinates[edit]

First, to locate obtain coordinate data, use whichever method works best for you:

  • For "official objects" look at the GNIS description which gives an "official coordinate" (see here).
  • For unofficial objects, either:
    • Use Wikimapia and zoom closely into the location of the item. Center the image so the white + is on target. Then copy the URL as it contains the latitude/longitude coordinates.
    • Navigate with a map viewer until the object is closely zoomed in and perfectly centered, then copy the Link to this page link.
    • Follow the instructions here which uses Google maps and has you write javascript:void(prompt('',gApplication.getMap().getCenter())); in the browser's address bar. Copy the resulting text.

Paste the copied text into the target article. For example, Google Maps centered near Portland gives,-122.645874&spn=0.214105,0.431213&z=12. Edit the text to 45.516452,-122.645874, replace the comma with a vertical bar, and surround it with the coord template: {{coord|45.516452|-122.645874|display=inline,title}}

Putting display=title is what gives an article its magic auto-extraction ability—and shows a coordinate at the top right of the article's page. There can be only one such "title" coordinate per article. Use display=inline or omit display=... altogether to get 45°30′59″N 122°38′45″W / 45.516452°N 122.645874°W / 45.516452; -122.645874.

There are several other useful options to {{coord}}, like a default scale, and the general map area so that the map page (which the generated URL links to) offers maps pertinent to that part of the world. The default coord is plenty useful; don't bewilder yourself with all its options until you really want a challenge. (Note that N S E W are acceptable ({{coord|45.516452|N|122.645874|W}}), but can be omitted with positive values for N and E, and negative for S and W.)

For example, the GNIS entry for Wallowa-Whitman National Forest gives 452000N 1170005W. Note that GNIS offers a choice of decimal coordinates or DMS (degrees, minutes, seconds). This form is DMS. Format it like this: {{coord|45|20|00|N|117|00|05|W}} giving 45°20′00″N 117°00′05″W / 45.33333°N 117.00139°W / 45.33333; -117.00139. Note that DMS format drops all the punctuation between the sets of numbers. Choose decimal format when selecting the feature detail to use decimal form. Note that the DMS values to {{coord}} must have NSEW qualifiers.

Wikipedia Library and other paid resources[edit]

The Wikipedia Library has many references for which you can sign up--see the template below. Not all resources are open for sign up at any one time.

WP:ORE users who have access to paywalled online resources include:

  • Valfontis: has access to JSTOR,, and She lost her login info for Credo and Highbeam but could probably get access to them as well. She may have a Questia account as well.