July's Portland bucket list item was a visit to the Portland Art Museum. I suggested it as an activity while my parents were in town, as that's right up their alley (especially my mom, who does painting herself). We also ended up going to the Oregon Historical Society, basically across the street, when we were done and had time left in the afternoon.
I'll be honest - I don't really get art museums. Never have. It's not that I find the art itself uninteresting - I go through slowly and read all the plaques and try to learn the information and why a particular painting or artist is significant. But there's nothing comprehensive, at least typically. There was one room with a collection of silver, where you went around the room and sort of saw the evolution of designs over time. Maybe it's simply because I'm missing some context and education, but I don't see that same thing in a gallery of paintings. Even if they're from the same era or of the same style, there's nothing that stands out to me that shows evolution or change or similarities. Perhaps I need a guided tour, to explain how the pieces we're seeing fit together?
I enjoy art when I know its meaning - for example, the gallery wall on my parents staircase. I often linger walking downstairs, taking in the pieces, even though I've seen them many times before. But they're not just art pieces - they're a painting by my mom, a cross stitch by my aunt, a photograph by my great-uncle. I'm not sure how to find that connection and interest when there's not a personal meaning.
After the art museum, we crossed the park blocks to the Oregon Historical Society. There were a few smaller exhibits, but the main one was about World War II. It was actually quite engaging, with a variety of types of items and hands-on activities.
I'd definitely recommend either place for a visit if you're in Portland; the OHS perhaps more highly as having more universal appeal, but the Art Museum is also fine if you enjoy the art. OHS is cheaper - $11 for adults, versus $20 at the Art Museum.