Monthly Archives: May 2013

Friday Feature: new Benjamin Gifford exhibit on the 5th floor!

Just in the nick of time, on a sunny Friday afternoon, on the last day of May, we finished the last touches on our newest exhibit in the 5th floor gallery foyer.

“Benjamin A. Gifford: Chronicler of Oregon’s Natural Beauty” celebrates the works of Benjamin Gifford, one of Oregon’s most talented and prolific photographers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Full of artifacts and fabulous photos, this is an exhibit sure to please!

From the time he opened his first studio in Portland in 1891 until he retired from photography in August 1919, Gifford took more than 10,000 photographs of Oregon landscapes – and likely took thousands of studio portraits as well. In addition to his picture taking talent, he was also a pioneer in the use of photographic technology and was widely published.

This exhibit includes some well-known photographs, such as the iconic “Sunset on the Columbia,” but the focus is on items that very few – beyond Gifford himself – have ever seen. Drawn from the more than 600 glass negatives the Gifford Family retained when the bulk of Benjamin Gifford’s work was sold to Sawyer’s Scenic Photos, these items show his range and skill, but also reveal a gift for capturing a kind of distinctive beauty in the people and places he photographed.

The Sawyer’s Scenic Photos are now part of the Oregon History Society’s collection, but in 1986 Gifford’s grandson Ben L. and his wife Beth donated the 600 glass negatives retained by the family  to OSU’s Horner Museum. That donation was accompanied by an extensive collection of photographs taken by Gifford’s son Ralph, his wife Wanda, and Ben L. After the museum closed in 1995, the Gifford Collection was transferred to the University Archives, now a component of the OSU Libraries’ Special Collections & Archives Research Center.

The OSU Libraries recently scanned the glass negatives, revealing an astonishing collection of scenic views, studio portraits, and images of Gifford Family members. We are happy to share a selection of those images with you.

The exhibit is open Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. in the entrance foyer of the Special Collections & Archives Research Center on the 5th floor of the Valley Library. The exhibit runs from June 3rd through September 30th — you can also see exhibit photos the Flickr set if you can’t make it.

Let this exhibit take you on a trip through our beautiful state!

Our incredible reading room

We know our reading room is special and our researchers know it is an inspiring place to make connections and think deep thoughts. Visitors stop by with tours or by themselves to gaze out the wonderful windows. And earlier this week we ended up on a list of “Incredible Reading Rooms Around the World.”

The Douglas Strain Reading Room in the Special Collections & Archives Research Center houses the History of Science book collection. The floor is made of giant timber bamboo from Central Northern China, the furniture is white maple, and ginormous windows let in so much light we tend to forget when it’s winter in Oregon. Okay, this is a bit of an exaggeration…

Nestled in a corner of the Strain Reading Room is a room with items from Linus Pauling’s office at the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine — including his desk and chalkboard. Hanging on the walls are other items such as a panoramic image of Pauling’s Caltech office, a portrait of Ava Helen Pauling, and a special keepsake from the United States Postal Service marking the release of the Pauling postage stamp in March 2008.

Stop by and take a look — you’ll agree that we have an incredible reading room!

Friday Feature: finding aid for Charter Heslep Papers, newsman & Atomic Energy Commission member

The OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center is pleased to announce the release of a complete finding aid for the papers of Charter Heslep, a newsman and member of the Atomic Energy Commission.

Charter Heslep, in profession and personality, is best examined through his complex and sometimes contradictory relationship with information. As a broadcast journalist, censor, ghostwriter, and government employee–Heslep was a conduit through which information flowed and, in some cases, was dammed. He began his career as a newsman in 1929 at the Washington Daily News and in 1941 was appointed night news editor for NBC. During World War II, Heslep served as chief radio censor for the Broadcasting Division of the Office of Censorship where he oversaw the filtering of wartime news as it passed to the public. After the war’s end, Heslep returned to commercial broadcasting, this time at the Mutual Broadcasting Company. In 1949, he joined the Atomic Energy Commission as Assistant to the Director where was asked to apply his talents to the problem of nuclear energy. In his position at the AEC, Charter facilitated information sharing among research and policy organizations, wrote speeches for public officials including Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and assisted in communicating the role of atomic energy—both peaceful and military—to the American public.

Among his many duties at the AEC, Heslep was charged with overseeing the broadcasting of several nuclear weapons tests. Many of the materials in the Heslep Papers—including correspondence, photographs, and ephemera—date from these assignments. Most notably, a series of letters between Heslep and his wife between 1950 and 1957 describe his participation in Operations Tumbler-Snapper, Upshot-Knothole, and Redwing—early nuclear tests staged at the Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds.

It is in this correspondence that Heslep’s talents as a storyteller shine through. His letters, written in a tone approaching wonderment, detail the almost unsettling cleanliness of Camp Mercury, the strange sites of the Marshall Islands, the complexities of broadcasting across the Nevada desert, and the tenseness of a nuclear bomb test. Letters to his children express a similar exuberance at an impromptu military airshow seen from the USS McKinley or the hermit crab races held by bored sailors on Kwajalein. Moreover, his accounts of life and work among scientists and military brass are punctuated by moments of real excitement. In May 1956, he began a series of letters chronicling the USS McKinley’s search for the pilot of a lost observer plane. He wrote,

Tonight, as never before in my life, I have an idea how big an ocean is, especially the Pacific Ocean. Because, somewhere in the thousands of square miles of dark blue water, a man may be fighting for his life.

Only days later, he witnessed the first airdrop of a thermonuclear weapon, describing it “as if a red hot Washington Monument was being thrust upward into an already fiery sky.”

The personal nature of his family correspondence is complimented by examples of Heslep’s professional interactions with the public. Included in the collection are speeches he authored on behalf of the AEC such as “Radio’s Role in Defense” and “Some Aspects of the Impact of the Nuclear Age in the United States.”  Others like “Ghosting: A Necessity, Not a Sin” defend Heslep’s own work and the sometimes circuitous route information takes.

The Charter Heslep Papers are an incredible resource for scholars interested in nuclear history and policy, history of journalism, the work of the Atomic Energy Commission, and the history of information sharing between the U.S. government and the American public.

Additional related materials can be found on our web site  in the History of Atomic Energy Collection, the Barton C. Hacker Papers, the Barton C. and Sally L. Hacker Nuclear Affairs Collection, and the Linus and Ava Helen Pauling Papers.

Congratulations to Trevor Sandgathe!

Trevor Sandgathe

We celebrated our fabulous library staff last week and SCARC’s own Trevor Sandgathe won the Outstanding Classified Employee of the Year award! This post comes from Anne Bahde’s award presentation speech for of Trevor — after reading it I think you’ll agree that we are lucky to have him on staff.

Trevor has played a critical role throughout the Special Collections and Archives department merge, especially in regard to collection management and public services operations. Over the numerous months of this process, he has worked hard to articulate and advance both departmental and library goals, and has contributed significantly to the development of merged processes and policies.

As the plans for the departmental merge began, Trevor initiated the process of preparing the 5th floor facilities to accommodate the anticipated move of a very large volume of third floor collections. In doing this, he identified numerous collection management problems in both departments, and presented creative ideas for solutions to these issues. Trevor worked to maximize space for collections, to identify and solve preservation and facilities issues, and to simplify shelving and retrieval. He subsequently led the work on a major shift of the rare book collections, carefully consolidating them to conserve stack space, streamline paging operations, and to identify volumes in need of special preservation care. Because of this vital work, the department is poised to better serve our patrons, and to better manage and preserve our merged collections for future research and teaching.

Trevor contributed significantly to the procedures and policies related to public services operations. As the combination of public service points began, Trevor worked on the Public Services Merger Team to explore issues related to services for patrons. Once again, he identified problems with current practices, and proposed resourceful and innovative solutions to these issues. In consultation with the Public Services Merger Team, he developed several new processes related to patron registration and orientation procedures, collection retrieval, and recording of statistics. He drafted a comprehensive Public Services Manual that outlined the combined policies for the departments, circulated this to all staff, and contributed to the training of staff members on these new desk operations. In addition to this work, Trevor has also served countless hours on our public services desk. He continually takes the extra time needed to teach visitors to better locate and evaluate our collections, ensuring a rewarding research experience for our patrons. His fine work with public services operations recently led to him being named Public Services Coordinator for SCARC.

In both collection management and public services areas, he has provided excellent service, and created resources and processes that are enabling SCARC to better serve its patrons. Trevor’s accomplishments, as well as his good nature, team spirit, and willingness to engage with problems to work towards solutions, have promoted a much-needed collaborative spirit between the two merging departments. His practical, sensible ideas for improvement have made the daily work of the department easier and more fluid. He continually goes above and beyond for both SCARC staff and patrons, and for that we truly thank him.

Friday Feature: Take a walk!

Planning your weekend? Join us for walking tour of campus on Mothers Day (May 12) at 2 p.m!

As a historic district, with more than 80 contributing structures and the only Oregon Campus listed in the National Register of Historic Places, it’s the perfect place for a Sunday stroll. Larry Landis, the Director of OSU’s Special Collections & Archives, will share the history of campus structures, as well as early Olmsted and Taylor campus plans, quads, and view sheds. The group will meet on the east side of Benton Hall, 14th St near Monroe. The tour limited to 20 persons, so please call (541) 737-0540 for reservations.

Can’t make it on Sunday but still interested in touring campus? Use BeaverTracks, our interactive mobile guide and walking tour of OSU’s historical locations.

You can also explore campus through several Flickr sets — from ghost tours to historic buildings… There’s something below for everyone.

New updates to findings aids for parts of the President’s Office Records

SCARC staff are working hard to update one of our most frequently used collections — the Office of the President!

Presidents of OSU

Recently updated finding aids for portions of the President’s Office Records include:

President’s Office Records of John D. Letcher, 1892 (RG 013 – SG 02)

The President’s Office Records of John D. Letcher contain correspondence between Letcher and Wallis Nash, Secretary of the Board of Regents, during the month of February 1892. The correspondence relates to Letcher’s appointment to Acting President of the college following the death of President B. L. Arnold and operation of the State Agricultural College.

President’s Office Records of John M. Bloss, 1892-1897 (RG 013 – SG 03)

The President’s Office Records of John M. Bloss are comprised of correspondence and reports related to the management and operation of the Oregon State Agricultural College between 1892 and 1897.

President’s Office Records of H.B. Miller, 1896-1926 (RG 013 – SG 04)

The President’s Office Records of H. B. Miller contain extensive correspondence regarding the operation of the State Agricultural College of Oregon during Miller’s 1896-1897 presidency, a comprehensive report describing the activities of the College during the 1897 academic year, and copies of a biography and an obituary for Miller.

President’s Office Records of Thomas Gatch, 1897-1907 (RG 013 – SG 05)

The President’s Office Records of Thomas Gatch contain correspondence and reports related to the operation of the Oregon Agricultural College and include detailed reports created by the OAC faculty and materials submitted to the Secretary of the Interior. Gatch served as President of Oregon Agricultural College from 1897 to 1907.

Check out our (soon to be updated) Gallery of the Presidents of Oregon State University.

Friday Feature (on a Wednesday): WWII Newsmap Collection

Those who know our student worker Mike DiCianna know that he LOVES war-related archival material and history! He is working on the WWII news maps (MAPS Newsmap) collection and has written this post to get you as excited about this “Must-See” assortments of WWII news map posters.

We have rediscovered an important collection of World War Two history in the OSU Special Collections and Archive Research Center repositories. The WWII News maps (MAPS News map) collection is a window into how the U.S. Army kept us informed about the progress of the war in “real time”. These huge 3 X 4′ posters were published by the U.S. Army Information Branch weekly from 1942 until 1946 to inform and motivate American military personnel. The two-sided news maps include maps depicting the previous week’s events in the war as well as brief news items, photographs, and motivational graphics.

The collection includes 224 sheets of graphics, maps, and timely news about the United States involvement in the worldwide conflict. The news maps include both world maps and maps of local areas. Some provide cues for recognizing tanks, ships, and planes; information about enemy organization, equipment, and uniform insignia; highlights of service achievement; or graphics intended to inspire and motivate military personnel. After mid-1945, the news maps became more like promotional posters and you’ll see that the graphics and text are decidedly designed to promote the Army’s position, and are not exactly propaganda, but…

The posters were issued to military bases around the country, as well as governmental offices (such as congressional and senate). Our collection likely has its roots in the presence of both the ROTC and the Army Specialized Training Corps units at Oregon State College during WWII. One can visualize these posters being viewed by cadets and students during the dark days of WWII on the OSC campus. We were, after all, considered to be “the West Point of the West.”

  • Can you find more accurate history of WWII? Sure, but the value of these in perspective, point-of-view, and audience is great!
  • Can all these posters be viewed online? Yes, on the UNT Digital Library site.

However, nothing can replace being in the physical presence of these important WWII documents. This collection must be experienced in-person to really get the feel of what it was like to follow the progress of the war while on campus. This collection is a must-see for researchers and WWII historians.

The finding aid is live and you can find it several ways — take your pick!