[Ed Note: With the conclusion of the school year, Adam LaMascus, a senior History major at Oregon State University, completed a one-term internship in the Special Collections & Archives Research Center. What follows is his reflection on working with the Pauling Papers on a new project to document Pauling’s life-long association with the state of Oregon.]
The pilot program for SCARC internships was initiated in spring 2013, and consisted of three interns, Mike Dicianna, Buddy Martin and myself, Adam LaMascus. My internship’s goal was to do major preparatory work for the narrative of a new documentary history website focused on the story of Linus Pauling’s experiences in Oregon. This website will mirror the other six documentary history websites that already exist, in that it will include a narrative supported and amplified by a large volume of scanned primary source materials. The bulk of the contextual material to be published on the new site already exists in the form of blog posts here on the Pauling Blog. Therefore, the primary goal of this internship was to take these roughly 1,000-2,000 word posts and condense them down into approximately 45 pages of about 500-600 words in length – texts more suitable to the narrative format used on the documentary history sites.
The most difficult aspect of the project was reducing the size of the posts while maintaining their content in a meaningful way. Some posts were impossible to condense beyond a certain point, and ended up being split into multiple pages. In the past I have worked as the opinion editor for Linn-Benton Community College’s newspaper, The Commuter, and I have written countless other papers as a History major, so I was aware that editing is hard. However, I was surprised by just how difficult the process was for this project. How do you take the life of, for example, Pauline Pauling, one of Linus’s sisters, who lived to be over 100 and enjoyed an eventful life, then condense that to 500 words while maintaining the “heart” of the story? It was difficult, especially when trying to tell the story of a person. Whenever I would cut out a detail of a person’s life to make more space, I felt as though I were insulting their memory. It is nigh unto impossible to give a worthy description of a person’s life in 500 words, and indeed most of my texts ran a bit long.
By the end of the ten week project, roughly 35 of the required 45 narrative pages had been created. The main task remaining for whomever next assumes this project will be to write those last ten pages, most of which do not currently exist as blog posts. Once that is completed, they will be integrated into the new website as it is developed.
One of the more rewarding aspects of this project for me was the extent to it which it afforded me the opportunity to learn a great deal about Linus Pauling, his ancestors, and the state of Oregon in the first third of the twentieth century. I am now a graduate of OSU with a BA in History, so I found this to be a fascinating opportunity and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Pauling was an unusually complex man with an unusually complex youth. I was especially struck by his verbosity in writing, most clearly shown by a journal entry from his freshman year, where he described in clinical detail how he had burned his right hand a few minutes earlier on the stove, and now had blisters of a certain size on certain digits of his hand. He was also a hopeless romantic, and a bit of a sap, which was very humanizing for me, as I am similar to him in that regard.
His dedication was likewise impressive; he worked at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and in only a couple of days drove to Salem, Oregon, for his wedding. He made the drive in an old Ford Model T with a max speed of 45 mph, and a max range of about 40 miles, on dirt roads, and after having received only about 10 minutes of driving practice right before he left. He rolled the car in the Siskiyou Mountains when he fell asleep at the wheel, but got the car fixed, and was only slightly late to the wedding. I used to live in Pasadena, and have made that same drive, which is about 850 miles. Cruising along on I-5 at 80-85 mph it still takes 15-ish hours, and yet Pauling made that drive almost 100 years ago with dramatically less technology, infrastructure, and practice. I take my hat off to him.
Furthermore, as a transplant who has become an Oregonian, it was very interesting to see that, even in the early twentieth century, Oregon was still very much existing in the time and spirit of “the Wild West.” Pictures of Corvallis from Pauling’s time here show dirt streets and wooden sidewalks. The changes that 80 years can bring about are amazing. Looking through old photographs from the 1920s, Corvallis is barely more than a collection of houses, there are no trees, and most of what we now know to be OSU doesn’t exist. The change that I found most amusing was that the rifle range, artillery range, and machine gun range set up on campus for the ROTC are now parking lots full of Toyota Priuses covered in “Peace” bumper stickers.
My internship reaffirmed my desire to work in a field where I can transmit information to, and teach, a public audience. The work environment at SCARC was highly enjoyable; it was relaxed, professional, and my supervisor was fantastic to work for. He was always present to provide assistance, and trusted me to be competent, and so never micromanaged. The environment and managerial style were perfect for me; I hope I can be fortunate enough to find a similar environment outside of SCARC. The internship was an excellent opportunity, and I am honored to have part of the program’s creation and testing. I’m sure that many students will benefit from it in the future.