Author Archives: dvoraka

November 2018 Guide Additions to SCARC Collections

These finalized finding aids are available through the Archives West finding aids database, our Archon finding aids interface, and the library catalog.


Collections that were only minimally described and are now fully processed and described:

Agricultural and Resource Economics Department Motion Picture Films and Videotapes, 1954-1994 (FV 245)

p218-sg4-0824-600wThese moving images consist primarily of film reels documenting the cultivation, harvest and processing of apples, cherries, peaches and pears among many other crops.  The collection also contains a smaller number of videotaped lectures delivered by OSU faculty and other regional experts participating in “Economics and the Endangered Species Act,” a seminar course offered in Winter 1994.

Fisheries and Wildlife Department Films and Videotapes, 1934-2001 (FV 243)

mc-fisheriesandwildlife-600wThis collection consists primarily of distance learning course videos offered by the Oregon State University Fisheries and Wildlife Department and taught by its faculty.  The collection also includes 7 motion picture films dating from the 1930s-1950s documenting the Albany Fish Hatchery, the Salmon River, and other locations within the forests and along the coastline of the Pacific Northwest.

Libraries Moving Images, 1960-2012 (FV 083)

hc75b-600wThis collection consists of videotapes, DVDs, motion picture films and other recording formats that document library milestones, events and services, and provide insight into the people, programs and collections that have been crucial to the Kerr and Valley Libraries’ missions since the early 1960s.  In addition to tutorials produced for the benefit of students and faculty, the collection includes several items created with donor audiences in mind.  Much of the collection has been migrated to digital format and a subset of these materials is available online.

Sphinx Society Records, 1909-2006 (MSS Sphinx)

Plaque_Full shotThe Sphinx Society Records consist of correspondence, an historical essay, membership lists and “yearbooks,” a large wooden plaque with members’ names, photographs, and procedural information regarding initiation rituals.  This honorary, and largely secretive, senior male students society was founded in 1909 and dissolved in 1969.

Collection that was a component of the Gerald Williams Collection:  

Kinsey Brothers Photographs (P 309)

Men in front of a building, 1914The Kinsey Brothers Photographs consist of both mounted and unmounted photographic prints reflecting the logging industry.  Clark and Darius Kinsey began working as photographers in the late 19th century, finishing their respective careers in the mid-1940s.  Both made significant contributions to photographing the Pacific Northwest, especially the Spruce Production Division and Civilian Conservation Corps life.  The collection consists of  40 images.

University Publications:  

Graduate Catalogs, 1963-2002 (PUB 489)

PUB489-001These publications document graduate programs at Oregon State University and provide guidance to graduate students and graduate faculty.  A formal graduate program was established at Oregon State College in 1933 and the Graduate School was formed in 1946.

New Collection:

Tom Gabel Collection of Oregon State Athletics Photographs, 1916-2000 (P 336)

P336-101This collection of 294 photographs consists primarily of portraits of Oregon State athletes and coaches as well as action shots of football and basketball games.  Also includes are images of Oregon State baseball, track and field, and rowing, as well as Athletic Department staff and Olympic skier Jean Saubert.  The items were assembled by Tom Gabel, an Oregon native who has collected sports-related photographs for many years.

Oregon Archives Month Recap

After the whirlwind of activity that we packed into October, everyone here at the OSU Special Collections and Archives are now taking naps.  With our five events for Oregon Archives Month finished up, we just wore ourselves out!  A big thanks to NWA for Oregon Archives Month funding to help with craft supplies, food, and coffee for these events! 

Here’s a recap:     

IMG-7210We showcased our Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives in an open house (Oct 3rdhighlighting hops history documented in oral histories, photographs, homebrew club newsletters, industry periodicals, and art from breweries throughout the state.   
 
reception (17th) for our exhibit “Women’s Words, Women’s Work” informed many Folks about the history of women at OSU.   
 
Throughout the month of October, we featured a different vintage dog photo from our collections every day for followers of our Instagram account. #DOGADAY   
 
image002Glitter in the Archives (Oct. 26th) event, where creative energies envisioned expressions of queer/trans identities in the OSU community. For this year we had a very fun collaboration with the OSU Craft Center (more supplies!) and the promise of a ‘Zine to be developed from the art that was created. Stay tuned!    
 
A lunchtime showing of films (Oct 12th) of OSU and Corvallis from the 1980s brought nostalgia and astonishment to a packed room in seeing aerial views of campus (circa 1983), the 1987 Mom’s Weekend Fashion Show, and footage from the First Da Vinci Days festival in 1989.
 
IMG_4967For the Great Beaver Bake-Off (Oct 31st), our continuing annual celebration of historic recipes, 9 cooks brought 13 different kinds of baked goodies for sampling. Most of the recipes were drawn from the OSU Folk Club Cookbook and
the Oregon State Fair Cookbook. According to our voting white board, the zucchini cheddar bread and lemon squares were clear favorites, while I thought the apfelkunken was a visual stunner, and the chocolate beet cake had a surprising flavor (couldn’t be beet!).   

October 2018 Guide Additions to SCARC Collections

We completed seven new or updated finding aids in October 2018.  The following is a list and a little information about what we accomplished.  These finalized finding aids are available through the Archives West finding aids database, and our website.

  • Three of the guides are for collections that were only minimally described and are now fully processed.
  • Two of the guides are for collections within our student affairs collections initiative.
  • One of the guides is for a component of the University Publications (PUBS).
  • One of the guides is an update to reflect current descriptive practice.
  • These 7 guides represent  ~20 cubic feet of physical materials and 3 Gbytes of electronic records and include 255 photographs.

All of these materials are now available to researchers (with restrictions for some materials).   Several of the collections have materials available online in Oregon Digital (see links below).


Collections that were only minimally described and are now fully processed and described:

p065-case-600wReva Buell Photograph Collection, 1902-1904 (P 065)

This collection consists of 14 mounted photographic prints depicting Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) scenes, buildings, and student groups.  Reva Buell attended OAC in 1900-1904. Images from this collection are available online in Oregon Digital.

hc0882-bexell-hall-600wClass Sessions Photograph Collection, 1907-1961 (P 047)

These photographs depict Oregon State University students and faculty in classroom settings and engaged in various learning activities in the early to mid-1900s.  Classes pictured include farm mechanics, pharmacy, business, engineering, and home economics.  Images from this collection are available online in Oregon Digital.

hc0417-600wMaud Wilson Papers, 1917-1965 (MSS WilsonM)

The Maud Wilson Papers document Wilson’s research in housing design and improvements in efficiency that could result from planning and design, especially in rural settings.  Wilson was the first full time researcher in home economics at Oregon Agricultural College.  Several of her publications are available online in ScholarsArchive@OSU.

Collections within the Student Affairs Initiative:  

Image from the 2007 Matriculation SlideshowGreek Life Office Records, 1918-2015 (RG 223)

These records document the administration, regulation, and support services provided for the fraternity and sorority community at Oregon State University.  The Greek Life Office was established in 1998.  This collection includes 3.14 Gbytes of born-digital (electronic) records).

p57-3718-plageman-600wStudent Health Services Records, 1929-2015 (RG 023)

The Student Health Services records document the administration and provision of health services to Oregon State University students.  The records address a variety of health and medical topics such as communicable diseases, vaccinations, patient privacy, and medical records.   Student Health Services was established at Oregon Agricultural College in 1916.

Finding aids that have been updated to reflect current descriptive practice:   

p130-6-grass-seed-600wFarm Crops Department Photographs, 1919-1961 (P 130)

These images illustrate the research activities of the Farm Crops Department and includes photographs of crop production, the use agricultural machinery, and department faculty. All of the images in the collection are available online in Oregon Digital.

University Publications:  

student_handbook_1949-1950Student Handbooks, 1894-1996 (PUB 010-23a)

The Student Handbooks (also known as Rook Guides, Rook Handbooks, or Rook Bibles) provided an introduction to incoming first-year students about Oregon State University, especially history and traditions, social regulations and expectations, student activities and services, and academic policies and procedures.   Most of the handbooks are available online in Oregon Digital.

In Our Care, Part 2

This second 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, digital films restorer, and a recent graduate with a BA in Cinema Studies from the Universidad del Cine of Buenos Aires.


Every year on October 27th, archives worldwide join together to celebrate the World Day for Audiovisual Heritage, with activities not only raising awareness of the importance of audiovisual archives and the vulnerability of this heritage, but also acknowledging the work of the heritage institutions that protect it. Honoring this cause, with this year’s theme “Your Story Is Moving”, we join this wave by sharing the second part of the “In Our Care” KOAC-TV films preservation project.

Be kind, rewind

Inspecting a film on the rewinder.

Inspecting a film on the rewinder.

In the previous blog post about the first part of this project, I explained the films inspection process and findings, and announced the upcoming instance which comprised the cleaning, repairing, and rehousing of the films. Now I completed this last instance, I will share the process below.

Cleaning, repairing, and rehousing the “In Our Care” KOAC-TV films

For cleaning, repairing, and rehousing the films I used the following elements:

2

  1. 16mm film projector;
  2. Splicer and splicing tape;
  3. Anti-static brushes;
  4. Blank leader;
  5. Cores;
  6. Polypropylene film cans.

1. Rewinding, cleaning, and transferring to cores:  

Having a 16mm film projector at the Library, I used it to automatically rewind each of 35 films. This allowed me to dry-clean the films (as shown below, with two faced anti-static brushes) while they were rewinding.

Cleaning a film while rewinding.

Cleaning a film while rewinding.

The films stored on projection reels were properly transferred to cores also at this point. This way I made sure to have all the films on cores, starting at the beginning, and winded up with the film base side up thus protecting the emulsion.

A film originally stored on a projection reel, transferred to a core.

A film originally stored on a projection reel, transferred to a core.

 

2. Repairing and preparing for rehousing:  

After I had the films cleaned and rewound, I removed old tape residues, repaired broken perforations, and replaced old splices for new ones using the splicer. At this point, I also added blank leader at the head and/or tail of all films that were lacking it, for their protection, and replaced leaders showing decay signs for new ones in order to prevent any damage or contamination on the films. During this process, I transferred all information written on the old leaders to the new ones.  

Yellowed leader, affected by oxide residues, vs. a new one; the attachment of the new leader to the film with the splicer.

Yellowed leader, affected by oxide residues, vs. a new one; the attachment of the new leader to the film with the splicer.

Some films were loosely wound up, and showed signs of “spoking”, a particular curl caused by the storage environment relative humidity and by acetate base decay; besides keeping from now on better control of the relative humidity conditions, in order to prevent further deformation of those films over time, I tightened them up firmly once rewound.

A film reel showing signs of “spoking”; the same film reel once transferred to a core and tightly wound up.

A film reel showing signs of “spoking”; the same film reel once transferred to a core and tightly wound up.

3. Rehousing:  

Finally, I rehoused the films from the metal cans, some severely rusty, to the vented, polypropylene ones. I made sure to house one film per can and into cans according to each of the films sizes. Also, of transferring to the new cans all documents stored with them in the original cans.

Some original metal cans piled up; the same pile of films once rehoused to polypropylene cans.

Some original metal cans piled up; the same pile of films once rehoused to polypropylene cans.

Having more cans than before, and available space in the storage facility, I added one more box to the equation in order to have all films stored horizontally inside them, as it is recommended.

Documentation:  

Like did while inspecting the films, I documented my findings throughout the entire process on a spreadsheet in the cloud. I also made photographic records, including the ones I am using in this article.

Box/Item/Title/Originally had leader/Leader was added/Originally on core/Transferred to core/Cleaned/Repaired/Rehoused/Notes

Box/Item/Title/Originally had leader/Leader was added/Originally on core/Transferred to core/Cleaned/Repaired/Rehoused/Notes

 


For more information on audiovisual preservation please refer to UNESCO’s “Recommendation for the Safeguarding and Preservation of Moving Images”, available in English, Spanish, and French.

A Brief History of Women in Chemistry at Oregon State University – 1960 to Present Day

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


1960-1989

Agricultural Chemistry has had a long standing presence at Oregon State University, as OSU was originally an agriculturally focused school. The history of agricultural chemistry at Oregon State University, and thus the history of woman in agricultural chemistry at Oregon State is similar to that of the Chemistry Department. While many female students took agricultural chemistry courses and earned undergraduate degrees from the department, few were involved in the faculty outside of instruction or research assistance.

Ruth Simmons

Ruth Simmons

Ruth Simmons was a research assistant working in the department of agricultural chemistry.

Clara Shoemaker, formerly Clara Brink, was the wife of David Shoemaker, the chair of the chemistry department from 1970 through 1981. She was born in The Netherlands and earned her Bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Leiden. Her doctoral studies were continually put on halt due to the Second World War, but eventually Clara received her PhD in 1950. During her graduate program, Clara was introduced to x-ray crystallography and the study of inorganic structure chemistry. After a few years of abroad study in England, Clara eventually traveled to the United States to work alongside David Shoemaker at MIT. The two would eventually marry, forming a husband-wife chemist duo.

Clara Shoemaker

Clara Shoemaker

At Oregon State University, Clara conducted research on heavy metal transition phases, particularly close-packed tetrahedral structures alongside Ken Hedberg. Hedberg’s wife, Lise, was also a research professor at Oregon State University who worked alongside David. This arrangement was to avoid the nepotism rules in the department at this time. After these nepotism rules were abolished, however, Clara resumed her work alongside her husband until their retirement in 1984.

 

Almost identically, Lise and Ken Hedberg were a married chemist pair who researched alongside each other in branches of computational and physical chemistry. Though retired, both are still alive and continue to perform research and advising at Oregon State University.

Te May Ching

Te May Ching

Te May Ching was a professor in the botany department at Oregon State University from 1958 to 1988. While not directly involved in the chemistry department, Ching was extremely involved in the success and expansion of women in STEM, both nationally and on campus at Oregon State University. She regularly kept in touch with female faculty members from other science departments, and was a member of Women in Development, a group dedicated to furthering education and information on women in developing countries. Additionally, Te May Ching was a member of the Association for Women in Science, a group that discussed the experiences and issues that come from being a woman in a professional scientific field. Ching was known for being a mentor to young women in science, and has undoubtedly had a part in the development of women in science at Oregon State University.

Many women were involved in the chemistry department through secretarial positions in the office or in the stock rooms. Yvonne Fossum worked as a stock room clerk from 1938 until her retirement in 1972.

In the early 80s, the Niobium Chapter of Iota Sigma Pi, an honorary sorority for women in chemistry was established. While short-lived, the presence of Iota Sigma Pi on Oregon State University’s campus demonstrates the capacity of female chemistry students to form communities to help one another.

Women in Chemistry At OSU After 1990

Today, chemistry at Oregon State University is definitively more diverse than it has ever been. Much of that can be attributed to the outreach programs offered at various local public schools and on OSU’s campus. Precollege programs expose young female students to scientific research and careers they might have never considered before, and the popularization of famous and revolutionary female scientists like Marie Curie and Rosalind Franklin offer these young women a glimpse at what is possible in the field of chemistry. While the ratio of men and women in the chemistry department is still skewed (especially in regards to professorship and tenure), there are many faculty members, instructors, and students who are women.

It is impossible to observe the history of women in science at Oregon State University without also addressing the barriers that have kept women out of science for tens of decades. While there was never any formal restrictions keeping women out of chemistry programs or professional careers, there were certainly social restrictions. Rural Oregon in the 20th century was unfortunately not as diverse as the Oregon State University campus is today, and many women felt confined to more domestic programs, like home economics or education.

The Chemistry Department at Oregon State University owes its diversity and progression to the women who paved the way for those who came after them; whose passion for science and discovery allowed them to advance in a field where they were not always welcome. As a science and as a profession, chemistry can only benefit from a myriad of scientists whose backgrounds and identities are varied. The future of scientific advancement is dependent on this diversity, and as the Chemistry Department develops further, it is important to remember its’ history, and how the environment the department provides for its faculty, researchers, and students can be improved for generations of chemists to come.

The Oregon State University’s statement on diversity is as follows:

“Oregon State University aspires to be a collaborative, inclusive, and caring community that strives for equity and equal opportunity in everything we do; that creates a welcoming environment and enables success for people from all walks of life; and that shares common, fundamental values grounded in justice, civility, and respect while looking to our diversity as a source of enrichment and strength.”

 

A Brief History of Women in Chemistry at Oregon State University – The Beginning to 1960

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


Before 1900

1892 photoIn the early days of Oregon Agricultural College, an education in the basics of chemistry were a requirement for all students. Prior to 1900, no chemistry degrees were awarded, as there was no specific program for chemistry. While nearly half of the students enrolled at Oregon State University were women, few were science majors. Several women earned degrees in sciences related to agriculture, however the majority of women who earned Bachelor’s degrees in the 19th century at Oregon Agricultural College focused their studies in home economics. Many women became interested in chemistry through courses offered in the home economics program, in which basic reactionary chemistry was taught in the context of household solvents and reactions.

1900-1929

The schools of pharmacy and chemistry became separate departments in 1909, under which time John Fulton was the Department Chair. With a dedicated building and more funding, the department of Chemistry at Oregon State University could now focus on expanding their resources to attract new chemistry students and faculty. Female involvement in the chemistry department at this time was limited to chemistry courses and instruction through household science programs. Only a few women graduated with higher degrees in science at this time, although many were indirectly involved in chemistry through agricultural chemistry programs or food science and technology. The women who were directly involved in the chemistry department through instruction, research, or stock room maintenance as staff or faculty often never stayed in the department for more than a few years.

The Chemistry Department at Oregon State University during these years was small and somewhat homogenous. Linus Pauling, Oregon State’s esteemed Nobel Prize-winning alum, graduated from Oregon State University in 1922. During his time at Oregon State, he taught a chemistry course for home economics majors where he met his wife of 58 years, Ava Helen.

1930-1959

Lillian Olsen

Lillian Olsen

The 1930s through 1960s marked a progressive time in the world of chemistry. New discoveries were being made due to the revolutionary new technology at the time, and with the advent of the modern analog computer, computational chemistry was expanding. While there were a few chemistry instructors and researchers who were women at this time, there were no female chemistry professors. Ruth Parkinson and Lillian Olsen were chemistry instructors during this time.

Ruth Parkinson

Ruth Parkinson

The 1930s through 1960s represented a turbulent time in American history, as it spans two major wars. However, this time is also representative of change, and the inclusion of women in the chemistry department at Oregon State University shows the changing attitudes towards women in STEM fields. As the field of chemistry expanded, as did the diversity of individuals within the field.

The chemistry notebooks of Mary Spike, who was a pharmacy major in 1934, showcase the nature of chemistry at this time. The material taught in her general chemistry classes were simultaneously in depth, yet lacking in more modern chemical knowledge, such as the neutron and radiation, which are common aspects of chemistry courses nowadays. Mary Spike’s scrapbooks are filled with materials and keepsakes from her sorority, Sigma Kappa. Ultimately, Mary Spike’s collection shows us that a female chemistry student is just like any other, concerned with academics, social life, and her future in science.

Marian Elizabeth Hills

Marian Elizabeth Hills

The first PhD in Chemistry at Oregon State University was awarded to Karl Klemm in 1935. The first PhD in Chemistry awarded to a woman came 25 years later, according to the commencement programs at the Special Collections & Archives Research Center, to Marian Elizabeth Hills. However, the first PhD awarded to a woman at Oregon State University was in 1941, to Chuang Kwai Lui, who earned her doctorate in Physics.

 

A chance to celebrate history in a tasty way!

October 31st will be our 12th annual celebration of historic flavors in our “Taste of the ‘Chives-Recipe Showcase” event. This year we’re looking for inspiration from archived recipes for baked goods-breads, cakes, cookies, and the like-for a fun noontime hour of food sampling!

One good source of recipes is our 2008 Taste of the ‘Chives Recipe Booklet, featuring several dozen historic recipes like this:

Rice-Flour Drop Cookies

  • 2 Eggs, well beaten
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted fat
  • 6 tablespoons milk
  • 1 ½ cups rice flour
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together the ingredients in the order given, drop the batter by the spoonful on a greased baking sheet, and bake for 15 minutes in a moderate oven.

(Source: Farmer’s Bulletin #1195, Rice as Food)

Other offerings include: Pumpkin-Cornmeal Dodgers, Cheese Gingerbread, and Raspberry Cake.  Find these and others here!

New and Updated Finding Aids for July and August

We completed or updated six finding aids in July and August 2018.

  • Two of the guides are updates to reflect current descriptive practice and incorporate additions to the collections
  • Two of the guides are for collections that were only minimally described and are now fully processed
  • Two of the guides are for University Publications (PUBS)

Finding aids that have been updated to reflect current descriptive practice and incorporate additions:   

President’s Commission on the Status of Women Records, 1971-2010 (RG 159)

These materials were generated and assembled by the President’s Commission on the Status of Women (PCOSW), an independent commission established in 1972 at Oregon State University with responsibility for advising the President and other administrators on issues of concern to women on campus.  The records in the collection document the activities of the Commission in its research and advisory role. 

E.E. Wilson Photographic Collection, circa 1855-1953 (P 101)

This collection consists of images of Wilson, a Corvallis native and Oregon Agricultural College (OAC) alum, as well as his family and friends, the OAC campus, Corvallis, and other locations around the Pacific Northwest.  The collection also includes images of the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco and photos of Siletz tribe members.  Digitized images from the E.E. Wilson Photographic Collection can be viewed in Oregon Digital.

Collections that were only minimally described:

Te May Ching Papers, 1947-1988 (MSS Ching)

This collection consists of teaching and research records created and assembled by Te May Tsou Ching, professor of seed physiology at Oregon State University from 1956-1988.   The materials document Ching’s career via correspondence; research materials including project files, laboratory notebooks, specimen photographs, and bibliographic records; teaching materials; administrative and programmatic records from the Crop Science Department; and records from her involvement in various professional activities and organizations.

Home Economics Club Records, 1937-1974 (MSS HomeEcClub)

These records document the activities and operations of the Oregon State University Home Economics Club.  The record are comprised of constitutions, correspondence, financial records, meeting minutes, reports, newsletters, materials from state and national organizations, and scrapbooks.

University Publications:  

Oregon State College Preview and Promotional Booklets, 1938-1960 (PUB 010-24j)

These annual publications provide a preview for incoming students and the new academic year and promote Oregon State College to potential new students.  All of the publications are available online in Oregon Digital.

Staff Newsletter, 1961-2009 (PUB 008-22a)

The Staff Newsletter consists of the weekly publication for Oregon State University faculty and staff published from 1961 through 2009 as The Staff NewsletterOSU This WeekOSU This Summer, and LIFE@OSU.  The newsletter includes articles, announcements and news of campus-wide interest.  The Faculty Senate minutes were published as an appendix to the newsletter during the 1960s and 1970s.  Most of the issues ofOSU This Week and OSU This Summer for 1987-2008 are available online in Oregon Digital.

“Plywood Jungle: 20th Century Transformations of Tropical Hardwoods”

This post is contributed by Maddie Connolly, a SCARC Student Archivist, and a senior majoring in archaeology, and minoring in French and history. Her Honors thesis focuses on redware ceramics in medieval England that were excavated from a witch’s house!


brock1Dr. Emily Brock recently completed a two-month stint as resident scholar in the OSU Libraries. Brock came to OSU to conduct research in support of an upcoming book on the 20th century roots of the plywood industry. Her interest in the history of plywood originated in 2013 when she worked as a Fulbright scholar in the Philippines, where she observed the country’s significant involvement in plywood production and exportation. Her research was especially exciting for the Special Collections and Archives Research Center as she made use of several natural resources collections that have not otherwise been heavily used.

Brock’s research on the development of the plywood industry focuses on the American presence in Southeast Asia in the first half of the 20th century, and on the subsequent rise of American-style multinational corporations in the region. One specific focus is on the role that the international plywood industry plays in stripping away the natural context of harvested trees, thus encouraging apathy on the part of consumers towards the origins of source materials. This apathy in turn has worked to diminish reverence for the incredible biodiversity of Southeast Asian tropical hardwoods forests, an unusual turn in light of modern ecological awareness movements.

Timber production in Southeast Asia increased significantly following the diminishment of the presence in the Philippines at the onset of World War II. The timber industry of the era was one of the most lucrative in Southeast Asia, where most countries at the time were struggling economically following years of occupation by neo-colonial powers and, later, destruction wrought during the war. The need to clear agricultural lands for food production, much needed for war-torn countries, accelerated deforestation in the region.

During the war, plywood was developed and marketed as a cheaper alternative to expensive and inefficient traditional wood sources and also to metal resources that were scarce during the war years. Initial uses for plywood as a metal substitute included medical and military contexts including, for example, leg splints and instrument panels in motorboats, ships, and aircraft.

Lauan wood, a genus of tropical hardwood which makes up a significant portion of Southeast Asia’s tropical forests, was one of the most common types of wood used to produce plywood in the early years of the product’s development. Contemporary “lauan” plywood, despite being marketed as such, is not actually made of lauan wood because, like many tropical hardwoods indigenous to Southeast Asia, lauan species have become endangered as a result of the success of the plywood industry. That said, tropical hardwoods are favored for plywood production because they are cheap, there are no knots in the wood, and they do not have growth rings.

Plywood is composed of thin layers of wood held together by glue. It is considerably cheaper and more efficient to produce than are traditional wood products and it enables the use of scrap material, since the actual kinds of wood used in plywood production are less important to its functionality than are the number of layers and the types of glue used to create the product. Put differently, the material characteristics of plywood are not dependent on the species of wood used but rather on the production process. The combination of the international production line and the relative insignificance of wood types leads consumers to conceptualize plywood as distinct from its source materials. Consumers tend to prioritize indications of how plywood will behave over information about what makes it up.

The price and quality of plywood dropped as the industry expanded out of Japan and the Philippines into other regions of Southeast Asia, including Korea, Taiwan, and eventually Indonesia. Manufacturers began sneaking durian wood into the inner layers of their plywood, which became an issue because durian wood smells just as bad as it infamous fruit and, when used in building materials, the smell lingers and permeates the structure. This issue came to a head rather quickly as product came to be used in the construction of residential homes. Brock points out that problems of this sort are made possible as a result of the extreme disinterest of consumers toward the source materials used in plywood production. Indeed, the major draw of plywood is that one does not have to know exactly what it is made of to know how it will perform.


residentscholar_logoThe Resident Scholar Program supports researchers from around the world in their use of the Special Collections and Archives Research Center’s holdings. Applications to the program are accepted from January to April; more information can be found on the program website.

World War Two and Transformations of Wood and Forests

This post is contributed by Maddie Connolly, a SCARC Student Archivist, and a senior majoring in archaeology, and minoring in French and history. Her Honors thesis focuses on redware ceramics in medieval England that were excavated from a witch’s house!


macicaKatie Macica recently became the 29th researcher to complete a tenure of work sponsored by the OSU Libraries Resident Scholar Program. Macica is a PhD candidate from Loyola University, Chicago.

Macica’s research focuses on the impact of World War II on regional industrialization. Specifically, she looks at how war-time industries coincided with and influenced local economies throughout the war as well as how policies and practices in place before the war affected the circumstances within which war-time industries were established and managed. She is particularly interested in the role and development of local Pacific Northwest industries throughout the war effort. To this end, she came to OSU to utilize maps and documents from SCARC’s collections that pertain to economic and industrial development during the first half of the twentieth century.

At the outbreak of World War II, the Pacific Northwest region of the United States was relatively isolated geographically from the war effort and from contemporary military and industrial centers of production. The region was home to a significant forestry and forest products economy, which Macica noted underwent a period of internal change at the start of the war, as characterized by a move toward sustainability practices and away from complete extraction. The start of the war came on the heels of the New Deal-era environmental movement which increased awareness about the impact of extractive industries like forestry, agriculture, and mining — the region’s major local economies at the time.

Initially, the forest products industry weakened as its workers were pulled by the draft or moved on to jobs in other industries that were considered more necessary for the war effort. By the end of the war, however, forest products from the Pacific Northwest were in use throughout the war zone. Macica’s research focuses on the shift of the Pacific Northwest forest products industry from relative insignificance to an indispensable source of production and resources for the war effort.

As the war dragged on and metal resources for aircraft, ships, and storage and housing facilities dwindled, the demand for forestry products increased. Wood was used in place of metal wherever possible, particularly in certain components of military aircraft and ships, and as molds, scaffolds, trusses and other construction materials. Its strong forestry economy enabled the Pacific Northwest to ultimately become a hub of shipbuilding and aircraft construction during the war, as easy access to plentiful forest products and to ample hydroelectric power from the Willamette and Columbia rivers facilitated military industry and sped the construction process. Wood products were also commonly used in place of metal in the construction of military storage facilities and housing for military workers.

In her resident scholar presentation, Macica emphasized, despite the enormous demand for Pacific Northwest forest products, the extraction of forest resources did not reach its peak during the war years. All-out exploitation was, for one, prohibited by the National Park Service, which refused to allow the destruction of national parks in order to harvest materials for the war industry. Environmental conservation efforts inherited from the New-Deal era also helped to limit the exploitation of national forests to supply the war effort.

Shipyards in Portland, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, and aircraft production centers in Seattle made up the bulk of the wartime industrialization of the region. These industries were drawn to the region primarily because of its abundance of forest products, but also because local waterways were being harnessed to provide hydroelectric power and house shipyards.

Macica’s research indicates that wartime industries in the region literally laid the groundwork for continuing industrialization in the Pacific Northwest after the end of the war. The shipbuilding and aircraft construction industries relied on pre-existing local economies and natural resources, which enabled regional development to continue without interruption in the post-war years, since industrialization was not dependent on outside financial support or resources.


residentscholar_logoThe Resident Scholar Program provides research support for visiting scholars from around the world. New applications are accepted every year between January and April.  More information can be found here.