Oregon Historical Photograph Collections

The Historic Photograph Collections​ include over 10,000 photographs and descriptions from the holdings of the Salem Public Library, the Oregon State Archives, and the Marion County Historical Society. Images date from the mid-1800s to the 1990s and depict a wide range of subjects such as Oregon towns, homes, businesses, occupations, scenic vistas, disasters, festivities, and recreational pursuits. The collections are searchable by keyword and are maintained by the Salem Public Library.


The Salem Public Library created an image database in 1992 to manage and provide access to photographs in its holdings. Later was an initiative to broaden the scope of the database to include other repositories. The library asked for the participation of the Oregon State Archives and the Marion County Historical Society in a grant funded effort called the Oregon Images Project. The goal was to create a database that included photographs and related descriptions from all three repositories.

The Salem Public Library provided computers, printers, software, and training necessary to conduct the project in each repository. In exchange, each repository committed to entering a set number of images to the database. The Salem Public Library continues to add photographs from its holdings. However, the Oregon State Archives and the Marion County Historical Society currently are not adding to the collections.

Salem Public Library Contributions

As of 1998 the Salem Public Library contributed over 7500 photographs to the collections spanning from the mid-1800s to the 1990s. Major photographic collections include the Ben Maxwell Collection; the Salem Statesman Journal Collection; and the Kovel Homes Collection that includes images of approximately 600 Salem houses in the 1970s.

Oregon State Archives Contributions

The Oregon State Archives contributed nearly 2,300 photographs. The goal was to complement but not duplicate subject areas covered by the Salem Public Library. Thus, many of the selected photographs feature regions of Oregon outside of the Marion County/Willamette Valley area. They span a period from the 1880s to the 1970s and represent activities of more than thirty state agencies. Oregon Highway Department tourism promotion photographs make up a large portion of the total. The database also includes photos from the Oregon State Fair, Water Resources Department, and Oregon Department of Agriculture. These images are only a small portion of the photographs in the holdings of the Oregon State Archives. Contact the reference staff ​to access additional photographs.

Marion County Historical Society Contributions

The Marion County Historical Society contributed over 300 photographs dating from the late-1800s to the mid-1900s. Major subjects include landmark buildings such as the Oregon State Capitol, the Marion County Courthouse, the Oregon State Penitentiary, and the Bush House.

Search Tips

To search specifically for Oregon State Archives photographs in the Salem Library​ :
  1. Click the "advanced search"
  2. Click "add or remove collections"
  3. Uncheck all collection options EXCEPT for "Oregon Archives." Click OK.
  4. Choose criteria in search window (e.g., Corvallis).

​​​​​​​​Strawberry Harvest

Over a dozen children in a strawberry field holding baskets and bowls of strawberries they picked.
Children harvesting strawberries, 1916 (enlarge). Oregon State Archives, OWP0004. Example of a photo found in the Oregon Historic Photograph Collections.
Rela​ted Resource
The Baker County Library has over 10,000 photos of schools, churches, communities, mines and more.