Whales, Tales, and Native Trails: OMSI’s Fascinating Orca Exhibit Rocks

by | Sep 11, 2023 | Art, Conservation, Family Fun, Featured, History, Portland, Things To Do

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Ever imagined standing face-to-face with the ocean's mightiest predator? Dream no more. At "Orcas: Our Shared Future", OMSI's current temporary exhibit, guests can journey alongside the waves of environmental heroes, pop culture icons, and deep-rooted Indigenous tales as they unravel the grand narrative of these magnificent beings. While the West once dubbed them "Killer Whales", it's time to unveil the real saga behind their names.

orcas, killer whales, OMSI, oregon museum of science and industry, temporary exhibits, native american art, indigenous culture, 2023, family fun, ADA, things to do, portland, oregon
Orca breaching in Depoe Bay, Oregon. National Marine Sanctuaries / Flickr

"Orcas: Our Shared Future" is not just an exhibit; it's an experience. With over 100 authentic artifacts and specimens waiting for you, be ready to be awe-struck by life-sized orca models, age-old fossils, and stunning cinematic journeys. As you wander through the exhibit halls, you'll encounter life-size orca models, ancient fossils, items from popular culture, and original artwork crafted by the Indigenous communities of the North American west coast that celebrates the timeless bond between the Native tribes and these majestic mammals.

Orcas: Our Shared Future from OMSI on Vimeo.

While OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is renowned for its dedication to science education and its interactive exhibits, it also boasts a rich history. Founded in 1944, OMSI has been a beacon for science enthusiasts of all ages. Over the years, it has transitioned from its humble beginnings in Washington Park to its current sprawling campus along the Willamette River, where it educates and inspires daily.

orcas, killer whales, OMSI, oregon museum of science and industry, temporary exhibits, native american art, indigenous culture, 2023, family fun, ADA, things to do, portland, oregon
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

The Orca, a commonly regarded symbol of fortune, empathy, and kinship, holds great significance in various Pacific Northwest Indigenous cultures, where it is revered as the sea's protector. Due to their closely-knit social structure, Orcas are sometimes associated with the potency of affection and familial ties, representing the unbreakable bonds that exist within a family.

orcas, killer whales, OMSI, oregon museum of science and industry, temporary exhibits, native american art, indigenous culture, 2023, family fun, ADA, things to do, portland, oregon
Oregon Museum of Science and Industry

The Pacific Northwest is home to two distinct groups of Orcas: resident and transient. While they may look the same to the casual observer, they are in fact distinct ecotypes with their own patterns and behaviors. Puget Sound, WA residents, for instance, have a diet consisting of mainly native salmon. The transient pods we observe on the Oregon coast are Biggs Orcas, travelers that subsist on seals and sea lions, dolphins, and other whale species.

orcas, killer whales, OMSI, oregon museum of science and industry, temporary exhibits, native american art, indigenous culture, 2023, family fun, ADA, things to do, portland, oregon

In this exhibit, dive deeper into the intricate web of relationships that define orca societies. Ponder the unexpected implications of captivity and discern between thriving orca communities and those facing challenges. Emerge with a profound realization of the undeniable bond between orcas and humans.

This is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a captivating exploration!

OMSI's "Orcas: Our Shared Future" exhibit runs from May 13, 2023 - January 28, 2024.

Tickets and Additional Information: omsi.edu


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Written By Danielle Denham

Danielle Denham is an award-winning and published photographer who loves her home state of Oregon. Recently she was featured on a regional-Emmy-winning episode of Oregon Field Guide, and is currently writing a book on Abandoned Oregon. When she isn't out and about exploring for derelict places to photograph, you may find her hanging around in Eugene Oregon with Tyler Willford and his two awesome kiddos.

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