Monthly Archives: September 2013

Friday Feature: Hello, My Name Is…

Mike Dicianna gives us another fabulous feature this Friday — enjoy!

We have all worn these from time to time. They are usually scribbled on with a sharpie with your name, sort of readable, and maybe a title or hometown. By the end of the conference or event, these name tag stickers are usually torn off your jacket, folded in half and stuck in a pocket, only to be found months later…

VFW Encampment badge, 1938

Perhaps the “golden age” of name tags has gone the way of cheap convenience in recent times. SCARC’s recent accession of the Governor Douglas McKay collection (MSS McKay) contains a wealth of artifacts and ephemera that highlights the elegance of personal identification of decades past. Convention attendees of the 1930s and 40s would sport some of the most decorative nametags to their gatherings. These badges were something you kept as a remembrance of attending that special meeting, convention, or in McKay’s case – the 15th Annual VFW Encampment.

AFL Labor Convention, 1950

Douglas McKay was the 25th Governor of Oregon, 1949 through 1952. His political career dates back to the 1930s in Salem, Oregon where he was Mayor and State Senator.  All of these activities necessitated his attendance at meetings, special events and political conventions. The McKay artifacts represent this career in a tangible way.  Some of the name tags include his title, Governor, but most are simply typed with his name. And yes, no scribbled sharpie names, they were typed, on a good ole’ Underwood or Royal manual typewriter.

During World War I, McKay served with the American Expeditionary Forces (the US Army) in Europe, where he advanced to the rank of First Lieutenant.

American Legion 15th Annual, 1933

On October 4th, 1918, about a month before the end of WWI, he sustained severe injuries in battle to his leg, right arm and shoulder, for which he was awarded the Purple Heart.

His involvement with veteran’s groups in Oregon is represented in the collection through convention nametags. McKay was an active member of both the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations. Badges from “encampments” during the 1930s were quite decorative, and became souvenirs of the events. Our collection contains examples from both of these groups.

I took the time to check the Webster’s definition of ephemera, and found it to be contradictory to a historian’s sensibilities:

ephem·era noun \i-ˈfe-mər-ə, -ˈfem-rə\ : things that are important or useful for only a short time : items that were not meant to have lasting value.

The value of the McKay artifacts to the researcher is only magnified by this rather depressing definition.  We are lucky to have these items in the collection. Ephemera can help to tell the story of a person’s life. Boxes of dusty old records or scrapbooks are important tools to all researchers, but pausing to experience a box of artifacts in a collection can bring the story to life. Granted, collections as rich as MSS McKay are not the archival norm, but when you find gold…mining is in order.

Banning Information in 18th Century France

In honor of Banned Books Week and the upcoming 300th birthday of Denis Diderot, the OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center would like to recognize the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers in the McDonald Rare Book Collection. This famous encyclopedia was a beacon of free thought that helped fuel the French Enlightenment and revolutionize social and political order in the Western world. Authorities saw it as a dangerous work-it was banned in France, and the Catholic Church placed it on the Index librorum prohibitorum, or Index of Prohibited Books.

From the entry on Anatomy

The Encyclopédie began as a humble project. In 1743, French publisher Andre Le Breton asked encyclopedist John Mills to complete a French translation of Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopaedia. When Mills failed to complete the project, it was transferred to Jean Paul de Gua de Malves who proved similarly ineffective and was summarily fired. In a desperate attempt to save the project, Breton assigned two of de Malves’ employees, Denis Diderot and Jean-Baptiste le Rond d’Alembert, to the task.

From the entry on Horseback Riding

Diderot and d’Alembert, both French intellectuals at the vanguard of the Enlightenment, took to their task with zeal. Rather than simply translate Chambers’ work, they set out to bring together the entire range of human knowledge in one great collection. Beginning in 1747, the two men commissioned more than one hundred scientists, doctors, writers, scholars, and craftsmen to write for their Encyclopédie including the likes of Francois-Marie Arouet (better known as Voltaire) and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. They divided their work into three categories: history, philosophy, and poetry and assigned subjects within industry, political theory, theology, agriculture, and the arts and sciences to these three groupings.

From the entry on Glassblowing

The first volume was published in 1751 and succeeded in appalling France’s political and religious elite. The Encyclopédie made little distinction between Christianity and other religions, provided extensive writings on the work of craftsmen and day laborers, espoused the discoveries of the Scientific Revolution, and in some cases openly supported radical political theories and challenged the source of power of the ruling class. Unlike the Church and aristocracy, the French intellectual community received the Encyclopédie with enthusiasm. The popularity of the work grew quickly and the number of subscribers increased with each volume published.

Not to be challenged, ranking members of the Church began a campaign of harassment against Diderot, d’Alembert, and their contributors. In 1752 King Louis XV placed a ban on the enterprise but revoked it three months later.  The attacks continued, however, and many of the individuals writing for the Encyclopédie resigned. Even d’Alembert was forced to abandon the project when he was threatened with imprisonment. In 1759, with only seven volumes published, Louis XV placed a permanent ban on the Encyclopédie. Undeterred, Diderot and ordered the creation of several companion volumes of illustrations (which were exempt from the ban) while he and his remaining contributors continued to write new entries in secret.

From the entry on Mineralogy

In addition to the threats from French officials, Diderot also found himself on the brink of poverty. He was ultimately forced to sell his personal library to Catherine II of Russia who allowed him to keep the volumes at his home in France and paid him a stipend to serve as her librarian. Supported by the generosity of the Russian Empress, Diderot was able to continue his work. In 1765, volumes 1 through 17 were published by a printer in Switzerland and disseminated across France and throughout Western Europe. Much to Diderot’s despair, it was discovered that the printer had removed many controversial articles from the final version. Despite this, the Encyclopédie was well received and marked a historic victory for free thought.

From the entry on Art

Diderot continued his work on the Encyclopédie until 1772. Twenty-five years of difficult and sometimes dangerous work culminated in the publication of approximately 4200 sets, each comprised of twenty-eight volumes containing nearly 72,000 articles and more than 3,000 illustrations. Diderot’s work persists today in libraries and museums around the world and has gained even greater exposure through the advent of the Internet.

–Contributed by Trevor Sandgathe, images selected by Mike Mehringer

From the entry on Natural History

Benny the Beaver visits SCARC – and transforms into Benny the Researcher!

OSU Special Collections & Archives Research Center had a special patron in the 5th Floor Reading Room. Yes, Benny the Beaver! Benny was touring campus with Zoe from the College of Liberal Arts filming a new student orientation video. Mike was there to snap some pictures when Benny stopped by and shares the story!

Not surprisingly, Benny wanted to learn about university history and his Beaver heritage.

 The current Benny the Beaver has a long lineage reaching back over 60 years to the days when he was one of the first mascots active at events on the west coast. The logo to the left was designed by Arthur Evans and was approved by Oregon State College in 1951.

Like any diligent researcher looking into the history of his university, Benny planned to spend some time looking through our collections. He followed good researcher procedures and protocols by contacting us to make arrangements in advance, letting staff know he would be visiting and what he was interested in investigating.

We wanted Benny to be able to connect with his “roots” so we brought out our original Benny the Beaver sailor hat, which is in the style the original Benny wore from 1951 to 1998. Benny reverently placed this historic hat upon his head and was visibly moved by the experience. Actually it was kind of hard to tell how he was feeling, but we would like to think this was significant to our special patron. It’s safe to say that Benny knows the value of primary source documents for his research.

Benny found other fun vintage OSU memorabilia to look at, including a 1915 Oregon Agricultural College pennant and photographs of the 1984 Football team. He also looked through Beaver yearbooks and bound copies of the OSC Barometer. 

Benny’s visit was all too brief, but it was an honor to have this VIP patron in our reading room. Benny is now a registered researcher and on his next visit is set to continue his journey through our collections of OSU history.

Looking for a few more pictures? Fear not, you can find a set on Flickr!

F. A. Gilfillan, Renaissance Man of OAC

Gilfillan at Hamilton Air Force Base

Francois Archibald Gilfillan enjoys a place in OSU history as one of the institution’s celebrated personalities. A unique individual, Gilfillan was a college dropout, a high school teacher, a member of the Army’s Chemical Warfare Service, and the recipient of a doctoral degree from Yale—all before his thirtieth birthday.

Gilfillan’s OAC diploma

Army discharge papers, 1918

In 1927, after a brief stint at the Calco Chemical Company and the University of Florida, Gilfillan found himself teaching Pharmacy at Oregon Agricultural College, his undergraduate alma mater. It was at OAC (now Oregon State University) that he shook his small-town Texas roots and established himself as an urbane Renaissance man at the cultural center of a small Oregon farming community.

Gilfillan family in 1942, when Gifillan was Acting President of OSC

Today, “Doc” (as he was known to family and friends) is often remembered for his extracurricular activities. He collected rare books and fine British silver, was a devotee of traditional Japanese gardening, a mountaineer, an obsessive genealogist, a ranking Mason, and a polyglot. Gilfillan also cultivated relationships with other intellectuals including documentary photographer Margaret Bourke-White and Russian author Antonina Riasanovsky. Naturally, his hobbies drew attention from his students and the greater community and resulted in a certain cult of personality that persists in OSU’s institutional memory nearly fifty years after his retirement.

Despite his compelling personal interests, it is Gilfillan’s efforts as a proponent of science education in Oregon that are his true legacy. In 1939, he was promoted to Dean of the School of Science and began a campaign to improve science education in Oregon’s high schools and universities. To this end, he became active in groups dedicated to furthering the cause of science education. He acted as Secretary for the Oregon Academy of Science where he worked with the American Association for the Advancement of Science to oversee small grants to fund high school lab experiments; he became Vice President of Scientists of Tomorrow which encouraged science learning in the U.S.;  and oversaw the Junior Engineers and Scientists Summer Institute (JESSI) at OSU. He also participated in a National Teacher Training program, served as the Commissioner on Higher Education for the Northwest Association of Secondary and Higher Schools and acted as one of the five original incorporators of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).

JESSI class, 1956

Gilfillan’s legacy is a quiet one but has far-reaching consequences for Oregonians. Scientists of Tomorrow and National Teacher Training provided educational opportunities for thousands of Oregon students and teachers, descendants of the JESSI program still operate at OSU today, and OMSI has become one of the leading educational attractions in the state.

Christmas card created by Gilfillan, 1938: The Journal of Alchemistic Happiness!

Christmas card created by Gilfillan, 1956

The F.A. Gilfillan Papers are a tremendous resource for scholars interested in the history of Oregon State University, science research and education in Oregon, and the role of land grant colleges in all levels of education.

Gilfillan, 1960

Friday Feature: SCARC’s Summer Projects

This summer, SCARC tackled a massive project to shelf-read and clean selected rare book collections. Over time, some books were put back on the shelf in the wrong order after they circulated to the Reading Room.

Team Awesome

The shelf read involved checking the position of each book against a master call number list, gathering information about bookplates and donors within the books, and rearranging if needed to make sure books were in the correct order.

Mike in the rare books stacks

These collections were also long overdue for a thorough dusting. We used hake brushes and other soft tools to brush each individual book. “Herbie” (Hoover) the HEPA vac, fitted with a micro tool suction head, was used for some particularly dusty items and was our trusty servant throughout the cleaning.

Herbie the HEPA vacuum

Name brainstorm for the vacuum

Students carefully removed books, dusted their fore edges and gutters, removed acidic remnants like old library circulation cards and other inserts, and vacuumed shelves.

Mike grins as he finishes cleaning the last book!

We started these projects near the end of June, and finished in the first week of September! It was a long and tedious set of projects, but “Team Awesome” maintained a cheery and determined attitude through the whole thing. An important part of SCARC’s charge is stewardship and preservation. Thanks to the hard work of these amazing students and volunteers, we will be able to protect and care for these books for many years to come.

We asked Mike, Hope, and Cheryl:

Aside from clothes and faces covered in  book dust, red rot, ear damage, dirty hands, and hours standing, what was your favorite part of the project?

Dirty Mike’s Cleaning Service

Mike: “Pulling all the extra pieces of paper from the books feels like I’m pulling out a splinter from under a fingernail. It’s like they are breathing a sigh of relief! Handling books that are older than my great-great-great-great grandparents feels like stepping into a time machine. When I open them up I can read the words and the ideas of someone who lived in such a different time and era, and that’s beyond amazing. It’s like time-travel!

Hope and her amazing apron

Hope:”Finding cool stuff in some of the books was definitely a fun part. Especially letters from authors and such, or beautifully handwritten notes or indexes. The hand-colored plates were gorgeous, too. But I also really liked being able to touch so many old books, because I really love old books. It was also satisfying to clean certain kinds, like the ones with gilded pages. You could really see the difference. Also, I loved my apron and I loved being a book coddler. And finally, I can’t help but mention that I managed to re-listen to Harry Potter books 2-5 while working in the stacks. Harry Potter and antique books, two of my favorite things!”

Cheryl in her apron

Cheryl: The special surprise of finding a handwritten letter was delicious! Translating and researching the letter found in a book from author/scientist Louis Agassiz to one of his pupils was a treat…I felt like an amateur detective at times. I really enjoyed the illustrations of various plants and animals in the “Transactions of the Linnean Society” volumes – I gleaned some great future tattoo ideas from some of the drawings! I also appreciated the exposure to so many different kinds of books. I kept reminding myself, someone held/read/loved this book hundreds of years ago! I’m proud to have been a part of this project.

Stack of library circulation cards removed from rare books

Thank you for such a great job, Team Awesome!

Thanks, Team!

Index for the Oregon Stater now online!

We are happy to report that Kevin Miller of the Oregon Stater has shared an index his office compiled — essentially the entire run of the magazine beginning in beginning in 1915! And yes, we’ve put the entire thing online.

The web version is linked on various pages on the SCARC website.

This online resource unlocks a lot of potential that has previously been buried in the card catalog. Not only will we be able to use the  Stater more effectively, but the document itself (all 537 pages) provides a great source of searchable text that will enable serendipitous finds by us and our researchers.

Archives of the OregonStater are available on the OSU Alumni Association site from April 2000 to the present; however, they include only excerpts of each magazine until the April 2006 issue and after are full PDF versions of the magazine as published.

Founded in 1915 by OSU alumnus E.B. Lemon, the Oregon Stater is published by the OSU Alumni Association three times a year (Fall, Winter, Spring) and distributed to all alumni households, and non-alumni members of the association.

Friday Feature: WWII OSC “Yank” Collection to be featured at Adair History Day this Saturday

Mark your calendar, free up your Saturday. This Saturday (September 7th) the WWII-era OSC “Yank” Collection will be featured at the Adair History Day Mini Conference.  And guess what? There is a fabulous new Flickr set of Stock US Army Signal Corp photographs of Camp Adair 1943-44.

During the war, many OSC alumni served in all theaters, all over the globe. The OSC Yank was a quarterly newspaper sent to OSC servicemen from 1943 through 1945. Graduate students Mike Jager and Mike Dicianna will highlight this collection in a presentation about the war effort on campus and in the Corvallis community during WWII. But in advance of the event, Mike D. wrote this blog post as a teaser…

MSS Yank is one of our most poignant collections from the war years. Every letter tells a story, and each Yank issue is a window into what was happening at home and with Beaver alumni in service to their country.

Elaine Kollins Sewell and Jane Steagall, OSC graduates, wanted to provide their fellow Beavers with a little taste of home to boost morale. They published the first Yank as a 4-page newspaper-style Christmas greeting with news and gossip about OSC men and women in the service. They received many letters praising the publication and asking for more. It was expanded to 16 pages and published quarterly through November 1945. The collection includes this correspondence consisting of letters, telegrams, postcards, and V-mail. V-mail was a popular way to correspond with those serving overseas.
Participants at the presentation this weekend will have the opportunity to send their own “V-Mail” message to today’s Beaver military personnel on authentic WWII style V-Mail stationary.

A very special debut of a collection of Camp Adair photographs will also be presented on Saturday. These previously unseen images of the Adair Cantonment are part of SCARC’s new Governor Douglas McKay Collection. Last month, OSU brought the extensive collection of one of their famous alumni home to OSU. Douglas McKay was a 1918 Graduate of Oregon Agricultural College (and Student Body President) and a veteran of WWI.

McKay petitioned to re-enter the US Army when WWII broke out. He was reinstated as a Captain and was put in charge of the artillery range at Camp Adair. The collection of US Army Signal Corps images of life at the base during WWII was part of this new accession. Over 150 photographs surfaced in this vast collection. The majority of these images have never been seen here in the Willamette Valley history community before. This is an epic find! Adair historians will have the opportunity to research this sub-group of the MSS McKay collection when the entire collection has been processed. A representative sample of the new Adair photographs will be available as a slide show to whet the appetites of WWII Adair researchers.

The Mini-Conference will be held from 1:00 – 4:00pm at the Santiam Christian School, Mario & Alma Pastega Room, Library Building, 7220 NE Arnold Ave, Adair Village, OR. The event is sponsored by Adair Living History, Inc.