Monthly Archives: June 2018

A Reflection

This post is contributed by Ethan Heusser, a SCARC student archivist, who is graduating this week and pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in poetry.

Photo courtesy of the Honors College:

Photo courtesy of the Honors College:

This moment marks the end of a full-year journey as a SCARC employee and a four-year journey as an OSU undergraduate. As I look out on the quiescence of the library quad and its summer sun from what is commonly touted as “the best view on campus,” I’m full of mixed feelings about this point of transition away from the Special Collections and Archives Research Center. One possible metric for a touchstone’s strength is the measure of both one’s professional ability to move beyond it and one’s emotional difficulty in doing so; in that sense, SCARC has proven quite strong indeed.

It’s difficult to fully encapsulate my job here, since so much of it has been based on fitting around wherever I was needed and best suited. Often this meant working with patrons directly, learning about their research goals and questions and helping them access our (sometimes daunting) collections. I also worked on a number of research/infrastructural projects, including the building of a poetry ephemera collection, the synthesis and summary of new accessions, and the assembly of a small exhibit showcasing our collection of comics and cartoons. That being said, my favorite part about my role at SCARC, personally, was the ample opportunity I experienced to write at length about topics and materials I didn’t understand in the slightest. Which meant it was up to me to learn, and almost always in a self-directed fashion. That amount of freedom is, in my experience, very rare at the undergraduate level – especially if you’re being paid for it.

Beyond my own specific job, I think what I like best about SCARC is the culture of continuing discovery. While tasks such as paging and collection management have a simple veneer, in reality everyone in the department (students included) is engaged with improving bodies of knowledge, both personal and collective. It’s an additive, cumulative, and self-sustaining process, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

There are, of course, practical and mercenary benefits to the work as well. Many college students seem to be ill-equipped to handle customer service; SCARC offers a safe place to learn those skills with close guidance and patience for error. For STEM students, SCARC offers a place to hone one’s attention to detail, research skills, and capacity to understand the larger contexts within which scientific discovery operates. For liberal arts students, SCARC lets you tap straight into history and see how any number of your respective fields and areas of interest have changed over time; it also gives you practice synthesizing those discoveries and communicating them effectively. For everyone else, it’s just plain rad.

To newcomers, I would encourage you to remember that some of the most significant lessons and experiences at SCARC can at times be tangential to the specific list of job requirements you agreed to. For example, the act of re-shelving can lead you down rabbit holes of time, revealing long-running trends of history, art, and culture made manifest for you as you walk among them. You could find a rare copy of one of your favorite novels while stumbling through McDonald. You could find touching letters from humble Cold War activists in Linus Pauling’s correspondence.

Being able to take advantage of those opportunities requires open eyes and ears. They are waiting for you to reach out and hold them – with clean hands and your gentlest touch.

After I graduate, next up on my docket is grad school, pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry. Many facets of my experiences as an Oregon State University undergraduate helped to prepare me for that next step; SCARC, specifically, expanded my interests beyond the written word alone to the broader category of book arts and book production. Thanks to my time here, I gradually realized that the creative experience of reading or making a book is above and beyond the words inside it; just like the work at SCARC itself, what happens after my time here can build on those same bodies of knowledge and human experience. In broader terms, I would say that my SCARC experiences affirmed that archives work can build a solid platform upon which a variety of careers and professional skills can expand.

In summary, working at SCARC means working in a field of legacies. These are the legacies of the millions of items held here, but they are also the legacies of the many students and scholars who diligently worked to build, protect, and share what is for better and for worse, simply human. Both objects and people revolve around the building of relationships – by working yourself into the weave, you become part of that legacy, building on it and making it even better for whoever comes next. It creates the privilege of a life with meaning, a life worth living – and there aren’t many privileges greater than that.


The Problem with Rock Concerts

This post is contributed by SCARC student archivist Helena Egbert, currently a master’s student in library science at Emporia State University.

While arranging The Memorial Union Records (RG 099), I discovered a folder titled “Rock Concerts.” As far as folder titles go this already held promises of being a fairly interesting folder. I anticipated newspaper clippings, advertisements for shows, and maybe some correspondence planning the shows. I didn’t anticipate it being comedic!

Image from the concert in the 1970 Beaver Yearbook

Image from the concert in the 1970 Beaver Yearbook

Usually when I read letters and memos in the archives, it is easy to read them in the dry formal tone I imagine they were written in. The very first document in this folder was titled “The Problem with Rock Concerts.” This immediately imparted the image of curmudgeonly administrators shaking their proverbial fists at students for their destructive youthful tendencies. Many documents in this folder carry the same tone and clearly lay out their objections to the negative behavior and destruction of property that rock concerts seemed to encourage.

One of my favorite documents is the letter written to Dean Popovich from the Assistant Director of the Physical Plant Department, Donald Hout in 1969 regarding the Jefferson Airplane concert and its aftermath. The first line begins: “We believe that you should be made aware of the disgraceful and contemptuous disregard for university rules…” and within the first paragraph goes on to describe how the band referred to them as “some chicken Fire Marshal.”  The letter continues in numbered paragraphs describing the wrongs committed.

The first section of these complaints include the program being conducted in total darkness, ignoring the rules about no smoking, the odor of marijuana from both the band and audience, and all of the cigarette butts that had to be cleaned up. The author notes very specifically that it totaled to be about ¾ of a bushel! Not being familiar with this measurement, I looked it up, and a bushel comes out to just over 9 gallons, meaning 6-7 gallons worth of cigarette butts were cleaned up. I can’t help but wonder if he was somewhat prone to exaggeration!

Some of the items left behind by students at the concert

Some of the items left behind by students at the concert

The complaints continue with issues with parking, underage attendees, trashed dressing rooms, and uncharacteristically rude behavior, or as number 10 states: “Never in the memory of long-time employees of the Physical Plant have Physical Plant employees been subjected to the vilification and abusive insults by those in charge of this program and by the performers.”

The letter wraps up to recommend future acts be required to provide an indemnity bond totaling to $500,000, in order to pay for any potential damages. The letter closes out using phrases such as “wanton disregard,” “valiant but futile attempt,” “disgust and revulsion,” and finally “fiasco.”

The Jefferson Airplanes are not the only concert that had these kinds of problems. Due to the consistent nature of these issues at concerts like the Jefferson Airplanes, rules were passed to discourage concerts like these from taking place.