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Founded in 1949 by Dorothea Lensch, the Portland Children’s Museum (PCM) in Oregon is one of the oldest children’s museums in the United States. It is a place “where imagination lives,” said Sarah Orleans, executive director of the museum. “Imagination is the driver. It comes to life, and you need it.” The museum’s mission is to inspire creativity, imagination, and the wonder of learning in children and adults by inviting moments of shared discovery.

At PCM, hands-on exhibits invite children to express themselves through art. Current exhibits include the Garage, where recycled materials dictate the art; the Clay Studio, which embraces sculpting; the new Grasshopper Grocery and Butterfly Bistro; and exhibits such as Water Works and Building Bridgetown. These encourage parents and kids to role-play and explore a world created just for them.

PCM also includes Opal, a charter school with kindergarten through fifth grades. The school’s mission is to strengthen public education by provoking fresh ideas concerning places where people, creativity, and learning thrive. The classrooms support this by introducing arts and sciences as languages of communication and tools of the imagination.

Children's Museum

For all children to have the opportunity to be involved in the museum’s learning environment, the Community Partnerships Program was developed. This program strives to improve access to the museum for children of all ethnicities and abilities through agency and school partners.

Children's Museum

As part of this partnership, Subaru of America Foundation makes it possible for PCM to target families who normally would not consider going to the museum because of their economic situation or cultural background. They are encouraged to visit and open their lives to a rewarding world of learning and creativity through reduced admissions pricing, subsidized buses and workshops, and more.

In celebration of its 60th anniversary in 2009, the museum plans to introduce an exploratory outdoor environment. This space will give children the freedom to play in a large, real-life outdoor atmosphere.

The nonprofit PCM is always changing and evolving with new exhibits. To check out the newest and future exhibits, go to