In Our Care, Part 1

This first post of a two part series is contributed by Valeria Dávila Gronros, a digitization technician at the Digital Production Unit of the Oregon State University Special Collections & Archives Research Center.  She is an Argentinean photographer, filmmaker, and digital films restorer, about to obtain her BA in Cinema Studies by the Universidad del Cine of Buenos Aires. 

Getting started with film preservation: A rite of passage

Film preservation, or “the continuum of activities necessary to protect film for the future and share its content with the public,” is not only relatively new for libraries, museums, and archives, but also hard to implement. Hence, the fact that we are embracing these practices is a rite of passage for the Library, but also for myself.

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Inspecting a film on the rewinder

I have longed to get involved with the preservation of the Valley Library’s films since I started working at SCARC’s Digital Production Unit early in 2017. For me this was the natural course career-wise, considering my background in film and  in digital film restoration, but especially after being trained in film preservation at the “Film Preservation and Restoration School Latin America,” hosted by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and the Cinemateca y Archivo de la Imagen Nacional (CINAIN) in my home country, Argentina, days after my joining to the DPU. Now that we are embracing preservation practices with the “In Our Care” KOAC TV films project, I feel fortunate for being part and am deeply grateful to my supervisor Brian Davis, and SCARC’s director Larry Landis, for placing their trust in me for this task. And I hope for this project to be the foundation for future film preservation actions at the Library.

The “In Our Care” KOAC TV films preservation project

The “KOAC TV Films Collection” contains 96 acetate 16mm film reels produced by or for the “KOAC” TV station of Corvallis between 1947 and 1975. In the past few months, the Library has been considering digitizing the “In Our Care” television series, part of said collection, which contains 35 film reels from 1959 documenting Oregon’s prisons, hospitals, and schools for the handicapped and delinquent. An inspection of the films was necessary in order to know their features and physical condition, and to prepare them for eventual digitization. Once I was done with the inspection, it was decided to also clean, repair, and rehouse the films in a second stage of the project.

The inspection expectations

We knew some characteristics of the series before inspection, so this examination was expected to help us identify and document technical aspects, pictorial content, and physical condition in further detail.

From the technical standpoint, I expected to determine whether the films were positive, negative, or reversal; color or black and white; silent or sound. For sound films, I expected to identify whether they had magnetic or optical sound, and if optical, whether they had variable area or variable density sound recording. Also, I would try identify whether the elements were camera originals, duplicates, or prints.

From the damage and decay standpoint, I expected to ascertain physical damages and decay to detect films at risk and segregate them to avoid contamination. When stored properly, new films last hundreds of years. But when stored in poor conditions, they suffer chemical (“vinegar syndrome”) and biological (mold) decay. The “vinegar syndrome” appears as a reaction to humidity and produces a distinctive vinegary odor. Mold, which appears under warm, humid conditions, can irreversibly damage the film’s image layer. There is also mechanical decay (broken perforations, scratches), caused by negligent handling and projection, faulty equipment, and deficient repairs.

The inspection process and findings

For inspection I used low-tech tools available at the Library: a hand cranked rewind bench with split reels, and a light box with a magnifying loupe (10x) that I use to inspect photographic negatives before digitization.

Inspecting with loupe

Inspecting with loupe

Technical characteristics

Inspecting the film cans: These films were stored on boxes, horizontally and vertically disposed. Most cans were of metal, and some were rusty (Fig. 1). Other few were of polypropylene. Some cans contained just one film, while others two or three; some films were properly stored on cores, while others on reels (Fig. 2). Reels are intended for film projection, not for long-term preservation, so those last should be transferred to cores.

Rusty metal film can (Fig. 1); Film stored on a metal reel (Fig. 2).

Rusty metal film can (Fig. 1); Film stored on a metal reel (Fig. 2).

Inspecting the films on the rewinder: After viewing several feet of each film, both with a naked eye and using the loupe, I discovered this series contains a myriad of negative, positive, and reversal elements, with predominance of positives; B/W and color elements, with predominance of B/W; and silent and sound elements. Among the films carrying images only, some had their sound elements stored separately. Some films had been composed combining B/W with color, positives with reversals, and even silent with sound. Some examples:

Countdown leader on B/W Gevaert film stock; “KOAC TV” plaque on B/W Kodak film stock; Detail of “In Our Care” plaque on B/W Kodak film stock; Detail of B/W Kinescope (distorted shape due to the loupe).

Negative Films: Countdown leader on B/W Gevaert film stock; “KOAC TV” plaque on B/W Kodak film stock; Detail of “In Our Care” plaque on B/W Kodak film stock; Detail of B/W Kinescope (distorted shape due to the loupe).

Positive and reversal films: B/W positive on Dupont film stock; B/W duplicate on reversal film stock (note the perforations from previous film generations printed on the edges); Ansco color reversal; Kodachrome color reversal.

Positive and reversal films: B/W positive on Dupont film stock; B/W duplicate on reversal film stock (note the perforations from previous film generations printed on the edges); Ansco color reversal; Kodachrome color reversal.

Silent and sound films: Silent film (may have a sound record stored separately); Unilateral variable area sound track; Variable density sound track.

Silent and sound films: Silent film (may have a sound record stored separately); Unilateral variable area sound track; Variable density sound track.

During inspection I paid special attention to the film edges to differentiate between camera originals, duplicates, and prints. For instance, one can easily distinguish a positive from a reversal (both have positive images) because positives have clear edges while reversals have black edges. Camera negatives have equal density on the edges and in-between the image frames, while duplicates tend to have a lavender cast to it, and may have perforations from previous film generations printed on the edges. This way I was able to determine this series contains originals, duplicates, and prints on Kodak, Eastman, Dupont, Gevaert, and Ansco film stocks, being kinescopes and workprints the predominant elements in the collection.


Kinescopes are filmed recordings of live television broadcasts, produced by the studios in the early times of broadcast TV to preserve programming for rebroadcast by other stations. Kines’s were most commonly distributed in 16mm B/W film for its lower cost, and given its poor image quality, they were largely replaced by videotapes after the 1970s.

Detail of a B/W kinescope negative, and as it would be seen as a positive image, with perceivable scan lines.

Detail of a B/W kinescope negative, and as it would be seen as a positive image, with perceivable scan lines.

Kines’s were largely purged during the transition to VHS, so finding them, even among a TV film collection, is valuable. Given they were recorded from a TV monitor, usual technical problems of kinescopes, such as scan lines, or a dark bar across the image, are distinctive features that can be very helpful when it comes to identifying them.

Detail of B/W kinescope negative, and as it would be seen as a positive image, with perceivable black band across the image.

Detail of B/W kinescope negative, and as it would be seen as a positive image, with perceivable black band across the image.


More unusual to find, since they used to be discarded after serving their purpose, are workprints. Workprints are rough prints made from the original negative that is used by editors to make rough-cuts before intervening the original negative. Workprints can also be made from reversal film to avoid damaging the very original elements during the editing process. In this last case a copy from the reversal film is used as a workprint. Being heavily and careless handled, is usual for workprints to have tape splices between most scenes, scratches, fingerprints, dirt, tears, markings for future edits, fades, and black or blank leaders throughout the print. Some examples:









Damage and decay

With a myriad of elements, comes a myriad of damages. The images below illustrate some common, and singular, damages I found in this series:

Warped perforations on one edge, possibly caused by faulty equipment; Dirt, and dirty splices, especially in the first feet of the films (in this sample it is also appreciable what seems to be color fading on the film edges); Orange dots on the image of a B/W film (I have seen photos of similar damage on B/W microfilm, known as “redox blemishes” or localized zones of silver corrosion); Image and perforation breakage.

Warped perforations on one edge, possibly caused by faulty equipment; Dirt, and dirty splices, especially in the first feet of the films (in this sample it is also appreciable what seems to be color fading on the film edges); Orange dots on the image of a B/W film (I have seen photos of similar damage on B/W microfilm, known as “redox blemishes” or localized zones of silver corrosion); Image and perforation breakage.

Distorted blank leaders at the beginning of the films, especially those not secured with tape, and old tape and glue residue were other pretty usual findings.








Documenting the information gathered during inspection help archivists make informed decisions and track any changes in the films condition over time. Therefore, after inspecting each film, I recorded my findings on a spreadsheet in the cloud. I also made photographic records, some of which I am using in this article.     

What is next?

In the second stage in this project we intend to dry-clean the films, repair broken perforations and splices, check shrinkage, transfer the films stored on reels to cores, and rehouse all films onto new polypropylene cans.

Stay tuned!


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Women’s Words, Women’s Work: Part Two

This is part two of a two-part series exploring the recently installed exhibit, “Women’s Words, Women’s Work.”  The exhibit will be on display through December 2018 and explores the social and cultural expectations that have framed women’s experiences on the Oregon State campus over 150 years.  The exhibit makes extensive use of SCARC’s manuscript, photograph and oral history collections.

titleWhat were some of the issues you encountered in finding a variety of materials and women to represent?

Rachel Lilley: We’re trying, as a University, to be more inclusive, but the evidence of exclusivity was a very challenging aspect of the creation of this exhibit. We tried not to “tokenize,” or represent 1940s-, 1960s-, 1990s-era  OSU as a more diverse place than it was, while at the same time highlighting the women of color, the LGBTQ+ persons, who were agents of change on campus. The source material wasn’t always a big help in that regard, as these women had either not made it into the historical record at all, or weren’t identified in a way that allowed us to tell their stories.

Tiah Edmunson-Morton: Well to put it plainly: there are a lot of white women in OSU’s history. So, finding women of color was a challenge, as was feeling like they were being included for reasons other than their race or ethnicity. That said, there were many times I was surprised to find so many women of color in science or to find reports from years ago showing that administrators, students, and faculty were struggling with diversity.

Another challenge was finding quotes. We leaned heavily on the OSU Sesquicentennial Oral History project, both because it is a robust one with lots of interviews, but also because all the interviews were transcribed. One thing that Chris said when we were discussing themes for the class was that as project lead for the OSU 150 OH project he’d noticed how narrow the fields of representation of women were. I didn’t really know what he meant until I ended up with 15 quotes from 3 women and only a handful from others. I feel proud that we are so deliberately working to document more voices now!

Finally, archivists always struggle to represent the “recent past” and this was no exception. I was glad we had oral histories that were relatively recent, but it was much easier to find historic material.

Chris Petersen: Generally speaking, our photo collections tend to reflect the decades prior to the 1970s most heavily. As such, it can be difficult to find appropriate imagery that is more recent. Also, as with any exhibit, one needs to be careful about choosing originals that might make a more striking impact but can also be damaged by being placed on display.


What surprised you about the materials you found while designing the exhibit?  Or items you didn’t find?

CP: I wasn’t really involved with this component of the work, so I don’t have much in the way of comment. I do know that Tiah and Rachel were often struck by the anonymity of many of the women depicted in our photo collections. Clearly these women were serving in many important roles, but often their identities were not recorded. I think this lack of documentation says a lot.

Eunice Au, Entomology

Eunice Au, Entomology

TEM: I’m not sure what I was expecting to find… There were some pictures of women (c. 1920) doing car repairs as part of an auto mechanics lesson and another of a women’s football team. I’m pretty sure the mechanics were real but suspect that the football players might have been staged. Personally I’m not a fan of bugs, but the photos of the female entomologists were phenomenal, as were all the pictures of women in labs.

I was SUPER excited when I found Susan Castillo talking about Pearl Spears Gray in her oral history interview – and then even more excited when an interview with Castillo was included in the most recent issue of The Messenger (the library news publication). I was also excited when we found the President’s Office faculty/staff photos; these are headshots from c1930-1960 of employees *with* information about them on written on the back. I have an intern this summer who is using those photos to do more research on the women in personnel files, biographical files, and other university publications. This is exciting because most of the women are clerical level staff and were only here for a few years; I’m excited to uncover more about them, but also to test my theory about marriage and employment…

I was pretty bummed out when I found out Jeanne Dost’s papers were at the UO. She started the OSU Women’s Center and it seems the UO collection has some good material about that time.


What were some of the things you learned in the course of curating the exhibit?

CP: My understanding of the richness of our oral history collections, image collections, and digital collections was confirmed by working on this exhibit. The skill and versatility of the colleagues with whom I worked on the project was also clearly evident throughout the process.

Meal preparation demonstration for OSC Home Economics students, 1954

Meal preparation demonstration for OSC Home Economics students, 1954

TEM: I was always excited when I found out more about the roles women played in Home Economics – or really anything about the program. It’s interesting to learn more about how rigorous the program was, as well as how much “hard science” went into their research.

RL: I learned that creating an exhibit of this magnitude is a full time job.


How has the exhibit shifted your perspective on the role of women on OSU’s campus and in academia more broadly?

CP: For me, the exhibit, and the class before it, really underscored the importance of Title IX in bringing about change. Typically people talk about Title IX in the context of sports, and it was certainly crucial in ushering in an entirely new era for women in that regard. But women also started to make in-roads in other academic areas at around this time as well, and that’s no accident. For me, Title IX is the single most important reason why women at Oregon State began to study in areas like Forestry and Engineering; spaces that had traditionally been mostly or totally dominated by men. The relative gender parity that we see across colleges today has evolved out of that historical moment.

TEM: Honestly, it confirmed what I already knew and had experienced…

One thing that struck me when I was looking for quotes was how these women just … kept … pushing! So while that was inspirational, most of the stories they told were really hard to read. A bright spot exception was when they would talk about the role of their own mentors or other women who had inspired them. That was when the language felt more optimistic.


What do you see as the largest the success of the exhibit?  The largest challenge?  Why?

CP: The largest success of the exhibit is that it is done and that it tells an important story, one that has been a bit overlooked in the past. I think the exhibit will also serve as a nexus or platform for additional programming that is likely to spread awareness even further, both about women’s history at OSU and about SCARC in general. The biggest challenge of the exhibit was trying to distill a huge topic into manageable components that could be absorbed by a visitor to our foyer. This is a challenge with any exhibit, but was especially so for a topic as weighty as this one.

TEM: I love how many people the exhibit brought together even before it was an actual physical thing to see! People were really excited and engaged, which is something that inspires you to keep working even when you hit the exhibit design/install wall.

The biggest challenge was confronting how much I wanted to see massive changes between 1918 and 2018… And while there certainly have been big societal shifts in the last 100 / 150 years, I was also struck by how little things have changed. I’ve been an archivist for a long time, so you think I’d be used to that by now!


Women at the Home Management House (with practice baby), c. 1940

Women at the Home Management House (with practice baby), c. 1940

What is your favorite aspect of curating the exhibit?  Do you have a favorite item?  Or an item you wish you could have included but didn’t?

RL: I loved getting to partner with staff members that I don’t work with on a day-to-day basis. It’s awesome to see the talents and abilities of your co-workers on display in a project like this. I think my favorite item is the Hayden Bridge Unit scrapbook from the Extension Service Records.

CP: I most enjoyed the process of creating something out of nothing, and doing so with people who are talented, committed and a pleasure to work with. My favorite image is probably the portrait of Pearl Spears Gray, mostly because I know a little bit about her years at OSU and am sure that she had to endure a fair amount to achieve what she did. There aren’t any items, per se, that I wish had been included, though I will admit to being a little bit obsessed with the history of compulsory swimming at Oregon State and wouldn’t have objected to a little sidebar on that topic. But that’s very much a Chris thing 🙂

TEM: My lazy person answer is that I loved all the things and they were all my favorites 😉

Probably my favorite thing is actually not an archival item – it’s the wallpaper with the quotes and pictures. We’d never printed a full sheet before, and even when we had wallpaper it didn’t have the lovely large pictures and words. Every time I walk into the gallery I love it all over again!

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Women’s Words, Women’s Work: Part One

This is part one of a two-part series discussing the recently installed exhibit, “Women’s Words, Women’s Work.”  The exhibit will be on display through December 2018 and explores the social and cultural expectations that have framed women’s experiences on the Oregon State campus over 150 years.  The exhibit makes extensive use of SCARC’s manuscript, photograph and oral history collections.


Tell me a little bit about the exhibit and what provoked you to pick it as a theme?

Rachel Lilley: The impetus/catalyst for the exhibit was, I believe, OSU’s celebration of its sesquicentennial, combined with the applicability of Tiah’s and Chris’s HC 407 content. I didn’t play a role in picking the theme, but I suppose that I helped refine it (and how we would break it up).

Chris Petersen: The exhibit emerged out of an honors colloquium class that Tiah and I taught during Winter 2018 called “OSU, Women and Oral History: An Exploration of 150 Years.” The class focused on oral history methods and theory, using women’s history at OSU as its historical grounding. We uncovered and shared a lot of interesting themes over the course of the class and pretty quickly began thinking about repurposing and further exploring these themes in an exhibit. At some point we also made contact with the President’s Commission on the Status of Women who agreed to fund a student position to support the exhibit.

Tiah Edmunson-Morton: That’s a hard question to answer succinctly.

From a practical standpoint, Chris and I taught an Honors College class winter 2018 that focused on gathering OSU women’s oral histories. The final product for the students was an indexed oral history and an online portal to their interviews as well as other interviews we’d identified in the SCARC collections. The upshot is that both of us were thinking A LOT about women’s experiences at OSU, and when it turned out that we needed a spring exhibit I said, “this will be easy, we’ll just copy all the class content.” Chris has worked with me for a while, and I think he knew that I wouldn’t make it “easy.” Concurrently, during winter term we had some good opportunities to share our class plans with others, including the leadership in the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. They had plans to create an online gallery of women, so we piggybacked onto that idea and included an online component to the physical exhibit. PCOSW offered some money for a student intern position and the library expanded Rachel’s position to full-time for two months. All of a sudden, we had an actual exhibit team!

c5be2ab2e6bfd84481172c8efa7e55e9The more complicated part of the answer is that I have long been interested in women and representation, especially as it pertains to archival collections and the historical record. It’s unsurprising to many that women’s work (academic research or otherwise) often isn’t recorded in archives – for lots of reasons, but the main being that many of these women weren’t doing work that was deemed “appropriate” or “scholarly” enough to be included in an archive. It’s also the case that there is a disproportionate number of men in positions of leadership or power, so when archivists are making priority lists for “distinguished faculty” women just aren’t on that list. There are exceptions, but for the most part, other than in their role as students, the work that women have done at this university has been in clerical or staff support roles; often, that means they don’t leave behind file cabinets full of memos or research reports.

In 2013, I established the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives, an initiative that documents a VERY male dominated field. The women in these industries are called on pretty regularly to talk about “being a woman in a male dominated field,” but often not asked deeper questions about their lives or experiences. So… over the past several years, I have come to think of oral history as a powerful tool for recording the stories of these women, and I’ve found that by continuing to focus on gathering their stories in addition to the stories of the men in the industry, I talk more about gender than I have since my time as an English Lit graduate student.


What was your role in curation of the exhibit?

CP: Many of the visuals and some of the themes used in the exhibit emerged from work that I did for the honors class. I also drafted the first iterations of four of the panels, created the videos that run on a loop in both cases, and built the companion web exhibit.

TEM: I was the exhibit lead/project manager. This meant I had the 40,000 ft view of what was going on, but also knew the minutia. I was the point person for calling meetings, doing much of the initial selection, hiring and working with the intern, working with Clara on graphic design (colors, font, layout, etc), working with/checking in with Rachel on her collections research, working with Chris on the web site, working with Natalia to coordinate printing, materials prep, and designing and installing the physical exhibit.


How did “Women’s Words, Women’s Work” differ from other exhibits you have worked on in the past?

RL: The sheer scope of it. This was larger, by far, than any other exhibit I’ve worked on in the past, both physically and intellectually. I also found myself very emotionally invested in this exhibit, to a degree that I’ve never been in the past. It was both heart-breaking and disheartening at times – when we had to leave women out of the main display, or to read stories that made it clear that, though we’ve come a long way, there are so many things that remain the same.

CP: There were a lot more people involved than is usually the case. Also, we created a companion web exhibit and LibGuide, which has not been done in the past either.

Female students in an auto mechanics class, 1918

Female students in an auto mechanics class, 1918

TEM: We’re living in a time when gender relations, harassment, rights, et al, are in the national and international news regularly. The #metoo and #timesup movements have given many of us a framework within which to discuss these issues and our own experiences. And I thought it was important that we (SCARC) brought these conversations into the OSU150 commemoration year.

We had super interesting conversations as an exhibits team about issues of item selection, but also deeper conversations about things like the title and the colors (purple, yellow, white for Suffrage). “Women’s Work” carries multiple meanings for people, and I advocated for us embracing that ambiguity and pushing people to engage with what “Women’s Work” means on a symbolic and practical level. What is women’s work, what work were women allowed/banned from doing, what work just wasn’t feasible for a single mom, etc.

This exhibit felt deeply personal, both as a mid-career / mid-forties woman, but also as the mother of a teenaged daughter. I want us to have these hard conversations about intended/unintended behaviors/messages and to look deeply at how much gender inequality is STILL built into the very structures in which we exist. Not everyone who has a gender bias is a bad person, but I’m ready for us to look critically (again) at gender expectations as it pertains to roles, behaviors, abilities, voice, opportunities, etc. What are the choices we didn’t even know we had to make? What do we never think to even try?


I’m sure there was a lot of material to choose from and sift through.  How did you narrow items down to those displayed?

CP: Most of the visuals that we used for the honors class were mined from Larry’s pictorial history of OSU or from Oregon Digital sets with which I was already familiar. Many of these images were repurposed for the exhibit, though Tiah, Rachel and Natalia did a lot of digging to find more. I was not really involved with that component of the work.

Students working in the Secretarial Science lab, 1951

Students working in the Secretarial Science lab, 1951

RL: This was the most difficult part. For me, as classified staff, I had a natural bias and affinity to the “everyday” women of OSU – the women who toiled away as “secretaries” for 50 years and then went unidentified in the photos taken at their retirement parties. If it were up to me, every concourse in the library would be covered in their photos and stories. But we tried to do our best to tell the stories of both the recognized agents of change, you could say, and the lesser known/unrecognized women.

TEM: I literally had a binder full of women, printouts of every picture anyone found and loved. I carried it around with me like some sort of talisman! I did part with the binder for a few days and left it up in a staff and student space for people to note which were their favorite images. I had my favorites, but it was cool to feel like others were chosen by the group.

It also helped that I knew we could put all the images in the online gallery.

I have dreams of making a more official binder(s) to put in the gallery in the fall. We’ll be having some public events then, so I have some time to recover from the installation and start thinking about the exhibit again!

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The Sublime: Exploring Oregon with Wild Bill

This post is contributed by SCARC student archivist Hannah Lawson, a chemistry major with a passion for art, conservation, and preserving history.

thousandislandlake1947Imagine trudging through the mud on a rainy morning, with fifty pounds of supplies tied to your back. Your socks are soaked through, and you’re miles away from any sort of civilization. When Ralph Waldo Emerson described the great outdoors, he surely couldn’t have meant this, you think to yourself. The only respite is your Geology professor, who is leaps and bounds ahead of you, excitedly pointing out igneous rock structures and patterns.

William “Wild Bill” Taubeneck was a faculty member of the Geology Department at Oregon State University from 1955 until 1983, during which time he taught many classes and was in part responsible for building Wilkinson Hall, the home of the Geology Department. Bill received his BS and MS in Geology from Oregon State College and his PhD at Columbia University.

riverBill served in the US Army during WWII, and then had several jobs involved in timber and forestry. There, he found his love for the outdoors. During his doctoral program at Colombia University and throughout his academic career, he conducted several field studies of Oregon. Field studies often took place over the course of weeks – during which time Bill would be deep in the Oregon wilderness, mapping out geological formations and taking notes and pictures of what he saw. With his trusty rock hammer, Taubeneck would take samples from the places he studied to store in the Wilkinson Hall basement, which held over 200 of his specimens at one point.

Bill’s field studies were long, hard work. His students often remarked that they would be out taking surveys from dawn until past dusk, using the car headlights to see their way around the dikes in the darkness. Bill was focused on igneous petrology, or the study of the conditions under which volcanic magma form ancient rock structures.

Through his letters and photography of nature and geological formations, it is immediatelyglaciallake apparent that William Taubeneck had an immense appreciation for the world around him. He describes weather and wildlife with poetic detail. In a series of letters, Bill describes seasonal wildflowers to his elderly neighbor, Norma, who lived next to Bill Taubeneck for over ten years in Corvallis, “Norma, you would have loved the wildflowers in the Eagle Creek Cap Wilderness Area. All of the rains of May and June have resulted in exceptional flowers. The red mountain heather is especially nice this year. This flower grows very close to the ground, is small, exquisite, and very much like an Arctic flower such as you would see in Greenland. Each small flower in the clusters is about 1/7th the wildflowers2001size of your thumbnail, bell-shaped, and red. Generally the plants with the tiny flowers are not more than a few inches above the ground…Buttercups also are extra nice this year. I walked across one small meadow at 8,200 feet with only buttercups – no other flowers.”


Bill had a particular interest in nature and wildlife, though he specialized in geology. Many of his letters and retained subject files contained stories about black bears, elk, and bearsmountain lions. The photographs in his collection tell the quiet stories of his travels; along mountains and lakes, in the snow and through the High Desert of Eastern Oregon. His studies and adventures continued past his time with Oregon State University. After his retirement, “Wild Bill” remained in Oregon, conducting field studies and mapping the wilderness until his death in 2016.

taubeneckonsomerocksAs a professor at Oregon State University, Taubeneck was loved by both his undergraduate and graduate students. He received several awards for his teaching, and devoted most of his extra time towards the needs of the Geology Department. His dedication and passion for geology and the Oregon outdoors is exemplified through the letters and photographs in his collection at the Special Collections and Archives Research Center.

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Recent Updates and Additions to Our Collections

New collections:

oh39-gridOregon State University Climate Change Research Oral History Collection, 2017-2018 (OH 39)

This collection consists of 12 oral history interviews conducted with 11 OSU faculty members and one undergraduate student that focus primarily on scholarly research related to climate change and global warming.  The sessions take on the form of life history interviews that trace a given narrator’s entire professional life, with particular attention paid to academic work and attitudes concerning ecological topics.  All of the collection’s interview have been contextualized and made available online through a dedicated web portal.

Benjamin F. Cook Letters, 1860-1865 (MSS CookBF)

This collection is comprised of approximately 150 letters sent by soldier Benjamin Cook to his wife Julia during his service in the Union Army in the Civil War.  His letters provide a first-hand account of certain battles and events in the Civil War and detail his life and concerns as a soldier.  The finding aid includes a item-level description of each letter.

Employment Records, circa 1910 – 1989 (RG 290)

These records document the employment of faculty and staff by Oregon State University and its predecessor institutions through 1989.  These records are in the form of microfiche film jackets.

Indian-Americans in Corvallis, Oregon Oral History Collection, 2016 (OH 37)

oh37-imageThis collection consists of a set of 6 interviews featuring 10 members of the Indian-American community in Corvallis.  All interviews were conducted in Corvallis, Oregon by Sravya Tadepalli, a student at the University of Oregon at the time she completed the project and with family living in Corvallis.  All of the digital recordings of the interviews are available online.

Oregon Tilth, Inc., Records, 1975-2018 (MSS OrTilth)

tilth-logoThese records chronicle the establishment and emergence of Oregon Tilth, Inc. from Tilth, which originally was established in 1974 in Washington State.  Oregon Tilth, Inc. is an organic agriculture certification and education organization based in Corvallis, Oregon.  The materials reflect the growth of sustainable agriculture in the Northwest and later, globally.   The collection includes Oregon Tilth board materials, newsletters, audio recordings, video recordings, manuals, photographs, the organization’s websites, and educational materials.

Payroll Records, 1971-1998 (RG 289)

kerr adminThe Payroll Records consist of computer output microfiche of the payroll register for all Oregon State University employees – faculty, staff, and students – from 1971 through 1998.  The microfiche was produced by the Oregon State System of Higher Education, which provided administrative and institutional services for the public universities and colleges in Oregon.

Writing Intensive Curriculum (WIC) Program Records, 1990-2018 (RG 291)

Teaching with Writing-Spring 2003-coverThese materials document the establishment and functioning of this program to incorporate writing across the curriculum at Oregon State University.  The collection consists of published newsletters and the program’s website.  The Writing Intensive Curriculum was established at Oregon State in 1990 as part of the Baccalaureate Core Curriculum.  Vicki Tolar Burton has served as Directory since 1993.  All of the published issues of the Teaching with Writing newsletter are available online.


Finding aids that have been updated or incorporated additions:   

Marian Field Collection, 1933-1982 (MSS Field)

hc1883-600wThe Marian Field Collection is comprised of botanical illustrations produced by Marian Field, an Oregon artist and botanical illustrator.  The illustrations in the collection appear to have been generated by Field between 1933 and 1941 in collaboration with faculty at the University of Oregon and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The collection includes approximately 250 illustrations of plants and fungi, materials from an exhibit of Fields’ works, photographs, correspondence, and a short biography of Field’s life and work.  The finding aid includes an itemized list of the drawings.

Helen M. Gilkey Papers, 1910-1974 (MSS GilkeyH)

These papers were generated and assembled by Helen Gilkey, an American mycologist, alumnus and professor of the Oregon State College Botany Department, and curator of the OSC Herbarium (1918-1951).  The materials include personal and professional correspondence; notes, research materials, and drafts of publications authored by Gilkey; specimen photographs; and scientific illustrations created by Gilkey.

Elizabeth Henley Papers, 1918-2000 (MSS Henley)

hc3345-600wThe Henley Papers document the life and work of Elizabeth Henley, a Pacific Northwest poet and member of the Oregon State University faculty from 1959 to 1975.  The collection is comprised of research materials; manuscript and audio-recorded drafts of Henley’s work; published and pre-publication poetry; and personal materials including photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and yearbooks.

Components of the Student Affairs / Memorial Union processing initiative:

Memorial Union Program Council (MUPC) Records, 1964-2016 (RG 275)

battle_of_bands_2006These records document the administration of the MUPC and its role in programming campus events.  Primarily reflecting activities related to event coordination and publicity, this collection includes artifacts, budgetary documents, contracts, correspondence, digital files, flyers, handbooks, meeting minutes, photographs, posters, publications, reports, and scrapbooks.  The MUPC was established in 1948.  The collection includes 52 physical photographs and more than 2800 digital photographs; a VHS videotape; and 8.38 Gbytes of born-digital materials.

Student Leadership and Involvement Records, 1964-2015 (RG 232)

rg232-andallthatjazzThese records document the administration of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) and its predecessor, the Student Activities Center.  These organizations provide support services to student organizations through leadership training programs, event planning assistance, financial advising, and management of the annual student organization registration process.  The administrative role that SLI fills was first established in 1957 as the Student Activities Center as a part of the Memorial Union.  This collection includes 194 photographs, 4 VHS videotapes, 8 sound recordings and 653 Mbytes of born-digital materials.

Component of the Gerald Williams Collection: 

Gerald W. Williams Prints and Postcards of Native Americans Collection , 1887-1969 (P 317)

huckleberry_woman_1024This collection consists primarily of black and white and color lithographic mounted postcards and photographic prints, some by well-known western photographers and studios.  The images depict Native American culture in North America with a focus on the northwestern and southwestern United States, especially Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.  Williams acquired the images in the course of his work as a Forest Service sociologist and historian and due to his interest in the history of Native Americans in the United States, especially that of the Pacific Northwest region.  The collection includes 237 images; the finding aid provides item-level description of the collection.

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A Reflection

This post is contributed by Ethan Heusser, a SCARC student archivist, who is graduating this week and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in poetry.

Photo courtesy of the Honors College:

Photo courtesy of the Honors College:

This moment marks the end of a full-year journey as a SCARC employee and a four-year journey as an OSU undergraduate. As I look out on the quiescence of the library quad and its summer sun from what is commonly touted as “the best view on campus,” I’m full of mixed feelings about this point of transition away from the Special Collections and Archives Research Center. One possible metric for a touchstone’s strength is the measure of both one’s professional ability to move beyond it and one’s emotional difficulty in doing so; in that sense, SCARC has proven quite strong indeed.

It’s difficult to fully encapsulate my job here, since so much of it has been based on fitting around wherever I was needed and best suited. Often this meant working with patrons directly, learning about their research goals and questions and helping them access our (sometimes daunting) collections. I also worked on a number of research/infrastructural projects, including the building of a poetry ephemera collection, the synthesis and summary of new accessions, and the assembly of a small exhibit showcasing our collection of comics and cartoons. That being said, my favorite part about my role at SCARC, personally, was the ample opportunity I experienced to write at length about topics and materials I didn’t understand in the slightest. Which meant it was up to me to learn, and almost always in a self-directed fashion. That amount of freedom is, in my experience, very rare at the undergraduate level – especially if you’re being paid for it.

Beyond my own specific job, I think what I like best about SCARC is the culture of continuing discovery. While tasks such as paging and collection management have a simple veneer, in reality everyone in the department (students included) is engaged with improving bodies of knowledge, both personal and collective. It’s an additive, cumulative, and self-sustaining process, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are, of course, practical and mercenary benefits to the work as well. Many college students seem to be ill-equipped to handle customer service; SCARC offers a safe place to learn those skills with close guidance and patience for error. For STEM students, SCARC offers a place to hone one’s attention to detail, research skills, and capacity to understand the larger contexts within which scientific discovery operates. For liberal arts students, SCARC lets you tap straight into history and see how any number of your respective fields and areas of interest have changed over time; it also gives you practice synthesizing those discoveries and communicating them effectively. For everyone else, it’s just plain rad.

To newcomers, I would encourage you to remember that some of the most significant lessons and experiences at SCARC can at times be tangential to the specific list of job requirements you agreed to. For example, the act of re-shelving can lead you down rabbit holes of time, revealing long-running trends of history, art, and culture made manifest for you as you walk among them. You could find a rare copy of one of your favorite novels while stumbling through McDonald. You could find touching letters from humble Cold War activists in Linus Pauling’s correspondence.

Being able to take advantage of those opportunities requires open eyes and ears. They are waiting for you to reach out and hold them – with clean hands and your gentlest touch.

After I graduate, next up on my docket is grad school, pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry. Many facets of my experiences as an Oregon State University undergraduate helped to prepare me for that next step; SCARC, specifically, expanded my interests beyond the written word alone to the broader category of book arts and book production. Thanks to my time here, I gradually realized that the creative experience of reading or making a book is above and beyond the words inside it; just like the work at SCARC itself, what happens after my time here can build on those same bodies of knowledge and human experience. In broader terms, I would say that my SCARC experiences affirmed that archives work can build a solid platform upon which a variety of careers and professional skills can expand.

In summary, working at SCARC means working in a field of legacies. These are the legacies of the millions of items held here, but they are also the legacies of the many students and scholars who diligently worked to build, protect, and share what is for better and for worse, simply human. Both objects and people revolve around the building of relationships – by working yourself into the weave, you become part of that legacy, building on it and making it even better for whoever comes next. It creates the privilege of a life with meaning, a life worth living – and there aren’t many privileges greater than that.


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The Problem with Rock Concerts

This post is contributed by SCARC student archivist Helena Egbert, currently a master’s student in library science at Emporia State University.

While arranging The Memorial Union Records (RG 099), I discovered a folder titled “Rock Concerts.” As far as folder titles go this already held promises of being a fairly interesting folder. I anticipated newspaper clippings, advertisements for shows, and maybe some correspondence planning the shows. I didn’t anticipate it being comedic!

Image from the concert in the 1970 Beaver Yearbook

Image from the concert in the 1970 Beaver Yearbook

Usually when I read letters and memos in the archives, it is easy to read them in the dry formal tone I imagine they were written in. The very first document in this folder was titled “The Problem with Rock Concerts.” This immediately imparted the image of curmudgeonly administrators shaking their proverbial fists at students for their destructive youthful tendencies. Many documents in this folder carry the same tone and clearly lay out their objections to the negative behavior and destruction of property that rock concerts seemed to encourage.

One of my favorite documents is the letter written to Dean Popovich from the Assistant Director of the Physical Plant Department, Donald Hout in 1969 regarding the Jefferson Airplane concert and its aftermath. The first line begins: “We believe that you should be made aware of the disgraceful and contemptuous disregard for university rules…” and within the first paragraph goes on to describe how the band referred to them as “some chicken Fire Marshal.”  The letter continues in numbered paragraphs describing the wrongs committed.

The first section of these complaints include the program being conducted in total darkness, ignoring the rules about no smoking, the odor of marijuana from both the band and audience, and all of the cigarette butts that had to be cleaned up. The author notes very specifically that it totaled to be about ¾ of a bushel! Not being familiar with this measurement, I looked it up, and a bushel comes out to just over 9 gallons, meaning 6-7 gallons worth of cigarette butts were cleaned up. I can’t help but wonder if he was somewhat prone to exaggeration!

Some of the items left behind by students at the concert

Some of the items left behind by students at the concert

The complaints continue with issues with parking, underage attendees, trashed dressing rooms, and uncharacteristically rude behavior, or as number 10 states: “Never in the memory of long-time employees of the Physical Plant have Physical Plant employees been subjected to the vilification and abusive insults by those in charge of this program and by the performers.”

The letter wraps up to recommend future acts be required to provide an indemnity bond totaling to $500,000, in order to pay for any potential damages. The letter closes out using phrases such as “wanton disregard,” “valiant but futile attempt,” “disgust and revulsion,” and finally “fiasco.”

The Jefferson Airplanes are not the only concert that had these kinds of problems. Due to the consistent nature of these issues at concerts like the Jefferson Airplanes, rules were passed to discourage concerts like these from taking place.

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Things I Wish To Discuss with the Late Milton Harris

This post is contributed by SCARC student archivist Hannah Lawson, a chemistry major with a passion for art, conservation, and preserving history.

Milton Harris relaxing on the golf course

Milton Harris relaxing on the golf course

The 20th Century introduced a relatively new brand of scientist – the celebrity scientist. Milton Harris, born in 1906, graduated from OSU (then OAC) and later Yale. He primarily worked with textiles, creating multiple methods by which to prevent wool from shrinking and prevent moth damage. He worked closely with the military in WWII and with the razor blade company Gillette. Milton Harris’s ability to apply his discoveries to the commercial world launched him into relative fame and wealth. Interestingly, even after his days of laboratory research, he never lost sight of the role of science and scientists on society and technology. I am fascinated by his insights into the direction of chemistry – many of which are still relevant in our world.

As I’ve been researching Milton Harris and his work, I have noticed how thoroughly his personality bleeds into his science. His passion for technology, business, and education are prominent features in his speeches. After reading through Milton’s notes and speeches and jokes (which were often scribbled onto hotel notepads, presumably while he was away at industry conferences), I feel as though I know Milton Harris. I keep wanting to ask him questions – both about chemistry and industry – as well as his life and the impact he’s had. The questions below are those I wish to discuss with the late Milton Harris.

-Why textiles? What about the chemistry of textiles interests you most?

-How do you view collaboration in the laboratory? How have the works of earlier scientists and your colleagues influenced you?

-Through reading through your speeches and the articles that have been written about you, you seem to have a very distinct coupling of industry and science. Was this relationship between business and chemistry always apparent to you? How did this relationship influence the way you approached research?

-I have also noticed that you have supported educational institutions throughout your life. What would you say to those who do not value education as you do? What can we do, as scientists, to keep education well-funded and well established?

-Burnout is an increasing consequence of unpaid laboratory labor for STEM undergraduate students. What advice do you have to young, aspiring scientists to keep motivated and stay passionate? What kinds of opportunities should they be looking for?

-What role do scientists have in politics and law-making? How can we make our voices and concerns heard in a culture where science isn’t always seen as trustworthy?

-As technology advances, so does our opportunity to chemically analyze our world to a depth we never thought possible. Which chemical advancement or instrument do you wish had been around at the time, say, as your Yale dissertation?

-Ethics are becoming an important topic when sourcing textile materials. What role do you think chemists play in the moral acquisition of textiles and fiber for both research and industry?

While I realize that Milton Harris cannot answer any of my questions himself, I have found that many of my questions he answers indirectly through his work as an advocate for science. Milton Harris’s views on research and development within industry and education were very progressive for his time, and would even be considered progressive now. His constant positivity and hope in our future as a society is nothing sort of uplifting and inspiring. I am thankful that I have gotten to know Milton Harris through this project, and I hope that I can do him justice by displaying his work and his ideas through SCARC.

Want to learn more about Milton Harris and his manuscript collection held at SCARC?  Check out his finding aid!

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Collecting Stories of Climate Change

This post is an interview conducted with SCARC student employee Liz Thorley who has been conducting oral histories with people on the Oregon State campus who are involved in climate change research from a variety of perspectives.  Liz is a post-bacc student in environmental engineering and will be graduating this June. She has a BA in English from UCLA and worked seasonally as a field botanist for several years before returning to school. In her free time (so when she’s not in school…) she likes to hike, backpack, forage for wild mushrooms, and ferment things.


Dominique Bachelet

Tell me a little bit about the project and what interested you in this job?

This project is a documentation of the careers and research of people in the OSU community who work on and/or care deeply about climate change. I interviewed researchers, academics, the OSU Sustainability Officer, and a fellow student.

I was drawn to this position because it seemed like a unique opportunity to delve into climate change research and to talk to people about not only their research, but also their thoughts on the future of the planet. The oral history format was intriguing, and I liked that it was completely different from my engineering coursework.

Had you done oral histories before?

No, I had not. I was aware of the interview format, but did not know much about it. My supervisor, Chris Petersen, who conceived of this project and has conducted a lot of interviews, trained me before I started working on it and provided guidance.

Peter Ruggiero

Peter Ruggiero

What surprised you about the interviews you conducted for the project?

I can’t think of anything in particular that stands out. I found it interesting in talking with people about their lives that themes would often emerge. Childhood experiences or interests seemed to resurface in careers or life choices later on.

What did you learn about interviewing?

I learned how to better articulate questions that would elicit expansive answers. Ideally, you want to avoid yes or no responses. You’re acting more as a guide or prompter for the interviewee to tell their story. Oral history interviews require being very present. You don’t want to miss something important that you could follow up on. I also improved my listening skills. I realize that this sounds clichéd, but it’s true. An oral history interview is about the interviewee, not the interviewer. So while you may have a question in the back of your mind to ask them next, you’re not inserting yourself directly into the interview.

Hilary Boudet

Hilary Boudet

How did you select interviewees?

Chris had done some background research on potential interviewees and had sought recommendations from Phil Mote (the director of Oregon Climate Service (OCS) and Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI)). So when I came on board, most of the interviewees had already given their consent to participate.

How did you prepare?

I developed chronological outlines for each interviewee, using any information I could find online (such as resumes or interviews). Since most of the interviewees were researchers, I spent a lot of time reading their published work and trying to think of expansive questions that I could ask them.

What were some of the issues you encountered in conducting the oral histories?

I didn’t really have any major issues. Initially I was concerned about people committing to an interview time, given how busy academics are and that an interview was a one to two hour time commitment. Fortunately, people were pretty responsive and generous with their time.

Allen Thompson

Allen Thompson

What did you already know about climate change and the issues surrounding it?

I had learned about the science of climate change in high school and as a college student. So I knew the basics of the physical processes that are occurring, and how anthropogenic climate change differs from long-term climatic trends in the Earth’s history. It’s something I care about and think about, so I also read about follow climate science and policy in the news.

What were some of the things you learned in the course of conducting the interviews?

While performing background research, I learned a lot more about the impacts of climate change to our planet in a variety of contexts-oceans, atmosphere, forests, grasslands, etc…It was a unique opportunity to further my understanding of climate science. I also got to learn about the intersection of philosophy, epidemiology, economics, and policy with climate change.

Bev Law

Bev Law

How did the interviews shift your perspective?

The last question that I asked each interviewer was “do you feel optimistic about the future of the planet in the context of climate change?” Many people responded with cautious optimism. It was useful for me to hear how researchers who have been documenting the impacts of anthropogenic climate change for years (if not decades), still retain some sense of hope in the face of an urgent issue. For example, some people place their hope in technology, some in the progressive actions of their community or other countries, and some people reframe how they think about the future.

Quite a few people brought up the importance of communicating science to the public, and how politicized the subject of climate change has become. It made me reflect on how people can effectively communicate technical information or how to better integrate science into our culture. It also made me think about how people communicate from polarizing viewpoints, and at what point people stop being receptive to listening. So I don’t know that my perspective really shifted, but I found the interviews to be thought provoking, and they often made me reflect on how people communicate and value our planet.

Oregon State University has long been a center for groundbreaking ecological research and many of those who work and study here are presently wrestling with the implications of climate change as it relates to a number of different disciplines.

Want to learn more?  Check out the oral histories Liz conducted here, including those interviewees pictured above!


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Shifting Collections to Maximize Space

We recently completed a two phase project that included a MASSIVE shifting of our collections on the fifth floor. This project was carried through in large part by our Public Services team, Rachel Lilley and Trevor Sandgathe. In this interview, they reflect on the project and what it means for the department and our researchers.

What is your role in SCARC and how long have you worked here?

TS: I am an archivist with SCARC. I help coordinate our public services, arrange and describe collection materials, and oversee our collections storage. I began working at the OSU Special Collections as a student employee in 2007 and have been a staff member since 2010.

RL: Like Trevor, I’m an archivist in SCARC. I’m the other half of the “front of house” Public Services team, so I do a lot of what Trevor already described. I started working at SCARC in April of 2017 (on the 17th), so I’ve been here just over one year.
What was the impetus for the shelf shift project?

So much space to move!

So much space to move!

TS: In the summer of 2017, we found that we were beginning to run out of usable storage space in our Valley Library facilities. As a result, we developed a multi-phase project to make facilities changes to allow for expanded storage and consolidate our existing materials.

RL: This meant that we presented a proposal to Faye Chadwell, University Librarian, for changes to our stacks core that would facilitate a more efficient storage design and allow for room to grow. We were given a fixed sum to implement Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the proposal we presented to Faye.

What were some of the lessons learned in the course of the project?

RL: As the newest employee in SCARC, I’m finding that one of the surprising outcomes of this project is how many more collections I recognize and know a little something about, which is obviously useful in my public services role.

TS: To modify a popular adage, “measure twice, move once” was an important guiding philosophy during this shift (and a lesson we learned the hard way…more than once).

How will it make working in SCARC easier for employees?

Pauling's library shifted and now located next to the other rare books collections

Pauling’s library shifted and now located next to the other rare books collections

RL: I think one of the reasons I was drawn to the archival profession is that I love making order out of chaos. I would never have described our stacks as chaotic prior to this work, but I think both phases of this projects have helped us to arrange materials in a more efficient way, and in a way that makes them easier, and safer, for staff to retrieve. The project also gave us “space” to tackle some general “house-keeping” projects as natural parallels of the physical moving of boxes (e.g. rehousing as necessary, dusting shelves, etc.).

TS: Materials in our 5th floor storage area are now better organized and consolidated, allowing for simpler placement and retrieval of our manuscript and rare book materials.

How will it be better for our researchers?

TS: We should see an overall improvement in our retrieval times which will translate to more efficient research visits for our users. As we continue the project, we should be able to transition materials from our auxiliary storage to our primary storage which will further simplify the retrieval process.

RL: The whole goal of this project was space…well, maybe space, and as a by-product, efficiency. We now have more space, and space that is used better, so we can continue to accept new collections and additions to collections. The more collections we have, the higher the likelihood that we have material that will fit any given patron’s research interest. I think retrieval will also be faster, which I think many of our patrons will appreciate.

Did you find anything fun/weird/random?

An aisle of Pauling, condensed and reorganized

An aisle of Pauling, condensed and reorganized

TS: This project was a trip through SCARC’s history and offered plenty of opportunities to reflect on the work of our predecessors. It was a nice chance to be reminded of some of our lesser-known holdings and to appreciate the volume and quality of work that has gone into making these materials available to the public since the University Archives inception in 1961.

RL: I learned that Tiah can dance. I also have a fuller appreciate for the full breadth and scope of the Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Papers.

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