Daily Archives: March 21, 2007

“Harriet is of a nature for her work. She is careful of details and exacting,” 1955.


The spirit of Harriet Moore, the first University Archivist, still lingers in our shelves. In the notes she’s written on recycled memos in the Memorabilia Collection, in the approximately 30,000 items in Harriet’s Collection, and in the stories from retired librarians who remember when Harriet interviewed them for a job when they were students. Even in my short time here, I could write paragraphs about the woman.

Moore’s affiliation with OSU spanned more than 70 years, from her arrival in 1920 as a student to her days as the University Archivist.Her professionalism and dedication to the historical record is present in all of the staff in the Archives: she established this as a place where serious work is done.

Harriet Louise Forest was born in Miles, Iowa, at the end of the 19th century. In 1910, when she was 14, her family moved to Oregon. Four years later, in 1914, she entered Reed College as one of 13 students in a US Army Medical Corps cooperative program with the University of Oregon Medical School. Moore became a reconstruction aid in physical therapy in spring of 1918; she received orders in October of that same year and was awaiting deployment in New York when the World War I armistice was signed. She stayed in New York until the end of that year, when she was transferred to both Camp Gordon and Fort McPherson in Georgia, and then to Walter Reed in Washington D.C. She served for three years, then resigned to finish college.

She started at OAC in the summer of 1920, but was called away after one term to work as a physical therapist in Tacoma, Washington. She returned to OAC and graduated in 1922 with a BS in Vocational Education; just a few days after graduation, she was married. She spent the next academic year in Corvallis, resuming her studies in 1923. In 1924, she earned her MS Vocational Education, the first master’s degree of it’s kind awarded at OAC. Her master’s thesis was entitled: “Functional periodicity in women.” In case her studies weren’t enough, from 1923-1926, she and her husband were chaperones at Shepard Hall.

For the next 30 years, Moore traveled with her husband throughout the country as his Department of Agriculture job required, she raised her children, she worked as a physical therapist, and she cultivated her passion for history. In November of 1929, she drove, by herself, from Pasadena to Orlando — it took her 5 1/2 days, and she did it in a Model T. The family lived in New York, Washington DC, Yakima, Pasadena, and Orlando; they found themselves stationed in Washington, D.C. on three separate occasions, which allowed Harriet to pursue her interest in historical and genealogical research.

In 1945, her husband accepted a position on the Extension staff, and they returned to Corvallis. At the request of the Daughter’s of the Revolution, she began recording information on head markers in Benton County cemeteries. A 1997 Gazette Times article said this of Moore’s adventures: “She often had to crawl on hands and knees through brambles to find grave markers and, once, she was thoroughly rump-stung by angry bees whose hive she had disturbed.”

Her work at the library began in 1955, when she was hired by Marie Jackson as a Library Assistant in the cataloging and reserve room. The Archives were established in the fall of 1961, largely the result of the growing quantity of University records and historical materials that were inundating the library: Harriet Moore was the natural choice to be in charge of maintaining “some kind of order to this mass of material.” Her job was “sorting, classifying, labeling, and filing piles of papers, books and pictures.” Coincidentally, the 1960s also saw the state enact a state-wide Records Management program. In anticipation of her new position, Moore paid her own way in the summer of 1961 to a training offered by the National Archives and American University.

The Archives was set up in the basement of Gill Coliseum; unfortunately for Moore, the accommodations weren’t as nice as those we have now — there was no air and there was no heat. By 1962, Moore had a student to assist her in the Archives, a column in the Oregon Stater entitled “Archives would like to know about this,” and a career as a professional archivist. Two years after opening in Gill, the Archives moved to Kidder Hall.

Moore’s monthly reports offer a window into her both her job as an archivist, and to her as a person. These reports document the amount of material received and weeded, notes on the weather and facilities, and highlights of her reference work. She was committed to historical accuracy, and expected others to take facts as seriously as she did. This is a quote from her November 1964 report: “During the past year, I have asked students who come for historical data to let me see their first drafts, in order to check their accuracy. It is so easy for them to pick up misstatements that have been carried in earlier publications. She was a stickler for the details.

Moore retired in 1966, but remained in a part-time position until 1968. Even in retirement, she received almost daily inquiries on local history — and answered many from memory.

Margaret Anderson, in a letter just after Harriet’s death in 1995, writes “[n]ames like Snell and Cordley and Kerr — that we think of as buildings — were people to Harriet. Often people connect with pictures and documents in the archives.”