Last Friday night a group assembled in the fourth floor rotunda of the Valley Library to celebrate the convergence of two anniversaries: the University Archives turns 50 in 2011, while Special Collections celebrates its 25th birthday.
The University Archives was established in 1961 as a component of what was then called the Kerr Library. The department was originally located in Gill Coliseum – home to Beaver basketball, among other sports – before moving to the old library location in Kidder Hall. The first University Archivist was Harriet Moore and her charge was to gather materials of consequence to the history of the institution – variously known as Oregon Agricultural College, Oregon State Agricultural College, Oregon State College and, finally, Oregon State University. These days, one of the University Archives’ most frequently used photograph collections is “Harriet’s Collection,” a set of some 30,000 images that Moore assembled herself.
In 1966 Harriet Moore retired. Her replacement, William Schmidt, established a records management program within the department, one of the first such programs at any university nationwide. In 1972 the University Archives moved again, both physically and organizationally, to the university’s main administration building (in the basement, of course). The Archives were now part of the Office of Budgets and Planning, and the staff spent a great deal of their time microfilming historic records and administering personnel files.
Organizationally, the Archives returned home to the library in the year 2000, making the physical move out of the basement and to the third floor of the Valley Library in 2003. Ever since, the department has focused more and more on acquiring manuscript collections and creating a robust digital presence. Along with the history of the university, two of the Archives’ primary collecting foci are natural resources and multiculturalism in the Pacific Northwest.
As many readers of this blog know, Special Collections at Oregon State University Libraries was created in 1986 with Linus Pauling’s donation of his and his wife’s papers to their undergraduate alma mater. Under the leadership of it’s first head, Cliff Mead, the department spent the better part of a decade arranging and describing the massive Pauling collection and, in the years since, digitizing components of the collection for consumption on the web. Using the Pauling Papers as a cornerstone, the department has collected actively in the history of science and technology. It is also the university’s repository for rare and fine books. And at least once every week since early March 2008, Special Collections has been publishing this blog.
Now, Special Collections and University Archives are one department: The Special Collections & Archives Research Center. As this article in Library Journal notes
The merger…will continue over the next several months, with a goal to ‘create one public service point from which all collections within the new department will be made available to the onsite researchers’… The merger will, among other advantages, eliminate the need for researchers to visit separate reading rooms.
Long term, OSU Libraries plans to consolidate the storage, office, and work space, and create a separate classroom space for the new department… Goals for the remainder of 2011 include combining workflows for collections processing, digital collections creation, and instruction and outreach, using teams made up of staff from both previous departments.
Indeed, these are exciting times for us all, but a lot of work lies ahead.
For now though, the blog is in a reflective mood. In that spirit, please enjoy the photographs below, a sampling of the people, places and events that defined two successful departments for a combined 75 years.