To some the archives don’t really mean much, but to me, well I see more than stacks of boxes and files. I see pieces of people’s lives that were left behind. These pieces all tell a story and it’s up to people who are still living to keep these stories alive. A few months ago I was probably a lot like you; I didn’t really know what the archives were about. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of a project researching Greek Life, sororities and fraternities, at Oregon State to pull together information in time for the centennial celebration in 2015.
Now most people probably wouldn’t get so excited about sitting down for a few hours to read through old minutes, or look through old books. But I bet if you got to look at some of the interesting things the archives has you would be there every day just like me. I have found so many fascinating things relating to the Civil Rights movement, the treatment of women, and how Oregon State University has grown since 1915.
It’s not always easy; sometimes you work for hours and don’t find anything that’s relevant to what you are studying. But sometimes you will find something that’s truly amazing, like an old photo or document, that is just too good to be true. Probably one of my favorite things to look through was a scrapbook from the 1930s. Jayne Walters was a writer with the barometer and she kept everything in a large, wooden book. There were photos, newspaper clippings, and dance cards. It looks like they knew how to party back then! Fun aside, she kept a lot about developments at Oregon State and how women were treated, which I found to be the most interesting part. One of my other favorite discoveries (I have so many) was a film from 1964. You couldn’t actually play it because it was just the film strip, but I was able to look through the negatives with a magnifying glass. It showed women going through sorority recruitment, and I had a lot of fun winding through the reel.
If you’re interested in visiting the archives you definitely don’t need to be a researcher, or even a history major. Everyone who works in the archives is friendly, knowledgeable, and ready to help anyone who walks through the doors. I challenge everyone to try and go find something that interests them, or to just learn a little more about the archives by asking around. If you want to check it out the archives are located on the 5th floor of Valley Library, and you might just find me sorting through a box at one of the reading tables.