Did you know that four million people in eight countries live in or near the Arctic? And that the Arctic is the only place polar bears live, but you won’t find penguins? Did you know that the Jensen Arctic Museum in Monmouth, Oregon is the only museum on the West Coast devoted solely to collecting, preserving and teaching Arctic culture and ecology? Although small in square footage, this museum is over-flowing with thousands of rare objects, including an Umiak (boat made of walrus hide).
The Jensen Arctic Museum was established in 1985 by the late Dr. Paul Jensen and is located on the campus of Western Oregon University. Most of the material in the museum represents the indigenous Inuit culture from Arctic Alaska. Dr. Jensen was an adventurer, educator, collector, and philanthropist who acquired most of his collection between 1965-1980, while he traveled to the Arctic as an education consultant to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Dr. Jensen studied the Inuit, their culture, history and wildlife, and collected a great many artifacts. His respect and love of the Arctic people, their art, lifestyle and environment is evident throughout the museum. While his observations might seem dated today, keep in mind that the Inuit are not a people of the past. Their culture continues to evolve, and many of their traditions and unique lifestyles you’ll learn about in the museum are still in practice today.
The museum’s exhibits are interesting to adults, but kids will really love the touch tables and sound and light show in the museum’s theater where a polar bear, ermine, artic fox, musk ox, and many other animals and birds are on display. On the third Saturday of every month, the museum hosts free hands-on activities for kids to help them learn about the unique Arctic world.
Who knew that Oregon was home to a special museum dedicated to the animals and people who make their homes in the harsh Arctic environment! The next time you visit the Beaver State, take advantage of an educational opportunity to immerse yourself in the unique world of the Artic—no mukluks (boots) or kuspuks (parkas) required.
Jensen Arctic Museum
590 Church St. Monmouth, OR 97361
Free admission, donations accepted. On-site parking.
Hours: Wed-Sat., 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com