Records Management 


Where can I get copies of records or submit a public records request?

Our page on Requesting Public Records is your best place to start.  

What’s the difference between records and archives?

In the most general terms, public records are any documentation of the business of government, created by government workers, whether it be electronic, paper, or microfilm. They can range from routine emails and reports to life changing legislation. Public records that are not immediately available online can be requested either through the office that created the records or by contacting the County Attorney’s office.

Archives are the subset of records that are considered to be valuable for documenting the history of Multnomah County as a government entity. Archival records are generally transferred to the historic archives after they are no longer being actively used by the program that created them and their inactive retention period has passed. Records in the historic archives are available for public research by contacting our program to schedule an appointment.

Why do you have a Records Center? Isn’t everything digital now? Why isn’t this all online?

Our program provides storage for approximately 35,000 cubic feet of records in a secure, climate controlled, and low-cost environment.

Mass digitization of inactive records generally has a poor return on investment. By definition, when records have been sent to the Records Center, they are no longer routinely used by the office that created them, and they will most likely not be accessed during the remainder of their retention period. We focus our digitization efforts on paper records that offices are actively using, for offices that want to combine paper and electronic records workflows, and on frequently requested archival records.

For inactive records that are “born digital,” we can store and manage them through our Electronic Document and Records Management System, MicroFocus/HPE Content Manager.

How do you decide how long to keep records?

Retention schedules describe the different types of records that the county creates and how long they are retained by the county. They are developed by professional information managers using a combination of state and federal regulations, audit and grant requirements, business needs of the creating agency, and historical value.

How can I contact the County Clerk?

As a Home Rule County, we do not have a single County Clerk, but divide the functions between several appointed positions, including Records Officer, Board Clerk, Elections Director, and the County Assessor. If you believe that you need to contact the County Clerk but aren’t sure who to contact, we can assist in directing you to the right individual.

Do you have Circuit Court Records?

No, but these records can be requested through the Circuit Court Records Room.  You can get more information from them by calling (971) 274-0570. 

Can you look up records for me from a different government agency? Is there one database that everyone in government shares?

Sorry, no, but we can help you find the right agency to call or email in order to get a copy of or access records from different government agencies.

How can I access the historic archives?

To visit the Archives in person, please first review the facility and research guideline. Email County Archivist Terry Baxter to schedule an appointment, or call us at (503) 988-3741.

We also have many items in the Multnomah County Digital Archives. Email Digital Archivist Paige Monlux with questions about the digital archives. 

What’s the oldest record in your archives?

We have a book of Deed Records, dated 1849-1854. They were recorded for parts of Washington County, which later became Multnomah County. 

Do I have to pay to use the archives?

Accessing the archives is typically free of charge, however certain fees may apply if you request assistance or copies above and beyond certain limits. Our Copying and Research Assistance Fee schedule details these limits.

How do I use the archives if I don’t live in Portland?

While we are working to increase the amount of digital content we have available online, much of our collection is still only available in physical formats. Contact us with your research question and we can assist by providing copies or scans. Fees may apply.

Do you have artifacts in your collection?

The majority of our archival collection is text based, though we do have a few artifacts that we use in exhibits. In general, archives collect text based materials (with the addition of photographs, films, and maps) and museums collect artifacts. The Oregon Historical Society has a fascinating collection of artifacts from the region. 

Are you the same as the Oregon Historical Society? Or are you part of the Library?

We are a separate organization from the Oregon Historical Society, though depending on the nature of your research, you may wind up visiting both locations. While we do report to the same government body as the Multnomah County Library, we are separate offices with different purposes. It is worth noting that the Library does have some historic materials that have not been transferred to the archives, in addition to the manuscript collections (not related to county government) that are part of the John Wilson Special Collections