Monthly Archives: July 2018

Women’s Words, Women’s Work: Part Two

This is part two of a two-part series exploring the recently installed exhibit, “Women’s Words, Women’s Work.”  The exhibit will be on display through December 2018 and explores the social and cultural expectations that have framed women’s experiences on the Oregon State campus over 150 years.  The exhibit makes extensive use of SCARC’s manuscript, photograph and oral history collections.

titleWhat were some of the issues you encountered in finding a variety of materials and women to represent?

Rachel Lilley: We’re trying, as a University, to be more inclusive, but the evidence of exclusivity was a very challenging aspect of the creation of this exhibit. We tried not to “tokenize,” or represent 1940s-, 1960s-, 1990s-era  OSU as a more diverse place than it was, while at the same time highlighting the women of color, the LGBTQ+ persons, who were agents of change on campus. The source material wasn’t always a big help in that regard, as these women had either not made it into the historical record at all, or weren’t identified in a way that allowed us to tell their stories.

Tiah Edmunson-Morton: Well to put it plainly: there are a lot of white women in OSU’s history. So, finding women of color was a challenge, as was feeling like they were being included for reasons other than their race or ethnicity. That said, there were many times I was surprised to find so many women of color in science or to find reports from years ago showing that administrators, students, and faculty were struggling with diversity.

Another challenge was finding quotes. We leaned heavily on the OSU Sesquicentennial Oral History project, both because it is a robust one with lots of interviews, but also because all the interviews were transcribed. One thing that Chris said when we were discussing themes for the class was that as project lead for the OSU 150 OH project he’d noticed how narrow the fields of representation of women were. I didn’t really know what he meant until I ended up with 15 quotes from 3 women and only a handful from others. I feel proud that we are so deliberately working to document more voices now!

Finally, archivists always struggle to represent the “recent past” and this was no exception. I was glad we had oral histories that were relatively recent, but it was much easier to find historic material.

Chris Petersen: Generally speaking, our photo collections tend to reflect the decades prior to the 1970s most heavily. As such, it can be difficult to find appropriate imagery that is more recent. Also, as with any exhibit, one needs to be careful about choosing originals that might make a more striking impact but can also be damaged by being placed on display.


What surprised you about the materials you found while designing the exhibit?  Or items you didn’t find?

CP: I wasn’t really involved with this component of the work, so I don’t have much in the way of comment. I do know that Tiah and Rachel were often struck by the anonymity of many of the women depicted in our photo collections. Clearly these women were serving in many important roles, but often their identities were not recorded. I think this lack of documentation says a lot.

Eunice Au, Entomology

Eunice Au, Entomology

TEM: I’m not sure what I was expecting to find… There were some pictures of women (c. 1920) doing car repairs as part of an auto mechanics lesson and another of a women’s football team. I’m pretty sure the mechanics were real but suspect that the football players might have been staged. Personally I’m not a fan of bugs, but the photos of the female entomologists were phenomenal, as were all the pictures of women in labs.

I was SUPER excited when I found Susan Castillo talking about Pearl Spears Gray in her oral history interview – and then even more excited when an interview with Castillo was included in the most recent issue of The Messenger (the library news publication). I was also excited when we found the President’s Office faculty/staff photos; these are headshots from c1930-1960 of employees *with* information about them on written on the back. I have an intern this summer who is using those photos to do more research on the women in personnel files, biographical files, and other university publications. This is exciting because most of the women are clerical level staff and were only here for a few years; I’m excited to uncover more about them, but also to test my theory about marriage and employment…

I was pretty bummed out when I found out Jeanne Dost’s papers were at the UO. She started the OSU Women’s Center and it seems the UO collection has some good material about that time.


What were some of the things you learned in the course of curating the exhibit?

CP: My understanding of the richness of our oral history collections, image collections, and digital collections was confirmed by working on this exhibit. The skill and versatility of the colleagues with whom I worked on the project was also clearly evident throughout the process.

Meal preparation demonstration for OSC Home Economics students, 1954

Meal preparation demonstration for OSC Home Economics students, 1954

TEM: I was always excited when I found out more about the roles women played in Home Economics – or really anything about the program. It’s interesting to learn more about how rigorous the program was, as well as how much “hard science” went into their research.

RL: I learned that creating an exhibit of this magnitude is a full time job.


How has the exhibit shifted your perspective on the role of women on OSU’s campus and in academia more broadly?

CP: For me, the exhibit, and the class before it, really underscored the importance of Title IX in bringing about change. Typically people talk about Title IX in the context of sports, and it was certainly crucial in ushering in an entirely new era for women in that regard. But women also started to make in-roads in other academic areas at around this time as well, and that’s no accident. For me, Title IX is the single most important reason why women at Oregon State began to study in areas like Forestry and Engineering; spaces that had traditionally been mostly or totally dominated by men. The relative gender parity that we see across colleges today has evolved out of that historical moment.

TEM: Honestly, it confirmed what I already knew and had experienced…

One thing that struck me when I was looking for quotes was how these women just … kept … pushing! So while that was inspirational, most of the stories they told were really hard to read. A bright spot exception was when they would talk about the role of their own mentors or other women who had inspired them. That was when the language felt more optimistic.


What do you see as the largest the success of the exhibit?  The largest challenge?  Why?

CP: The largest success of the exhibit is that it is done and that it tells an important story, one that has been a bit overlooked in the past. I think the exhibit will also serve as a nexus or platform for additional programming that is likely to spread awareness even further, both about women’s history at OSU and about SCARC in general. The biggest challenge of the exhibit was trying to distill a huge topic into manageable components that could be absorbed by a visitor to our foyer. This is a challenge with any exhibit, but was especially so for a topic as weighty as this one.

TEM: I love how many people the exhibit brought together even before it was an actual physical thing to see! People were really excited and engaged, which is something that inspires you to keep working even when you hit the exhibit design/install wall.

The biggest challenge was confronting how much I wanted to see massive changes between 1918 and 2018… And while there certainly have been big societal shifts in the last 100 / 150 years, I was also struck by how little things have changed. I’ve been an archivist for a long time, so you think I’d be used to that by now!


Women at the Home Management House (with practice baby), c. 1940

Women at the Home Management House (with practice baby), c. 1940

What is your favorite aspect of curating the exhibit?  Do you have a favorite item?  Or an item you wish you could have included but didn’t?

RL: I loved getting to partner with staff members that I don’t work with on a day-to-day basis. It’s awesome to see the talents and abilities of your co-workers on display in a project like this. I think my favorite item is the Hayden Bridge Unit scrapbook from the Extension Service Records.

CP: I most enjoyed the process of creating something out of nothing, and doing so with people who are talented, committed and a pleasure to work with. My favorite image is probably the portrait of Pearl Spears Gray, mostly because I know a little bit about her years at OSU and am sure that she had to endure a fair amount to achieve what she did. There aren’t any items, per se, that I wish had been included, though I will admit to being a little bit obsessed with the history of compulsory swimming at Oregon State and wouldn’t have objected to a little sidebar on that topic. But that’s very much a Chris thing 🙂

TEM: My lazy person answer is that I loved all the things and they were all my favorites 😉

Probably my favorite thing is actually not an archival item – it’s the wallpaper with the quotes and pictures. We’d never printed a full sheet before, and even when we had wallpaper it didn’t have the lovely large pictures and words. Every time I walk into the gallery I love it all over again!

Women’s Words, Women’s Work: Part One

This is part one of a two-part series discussing the recently installed exhibit, “Women’s Words, Women’s Work.”  The exhibit will be on display through December 2018 and explores the social and cultural expectations that have framed women’s experiences on the Oregon State campus over 150 years.  The exhibit makes extensive use of SCARC’s manuscript, photograph and oral history collections.


Tell me a little bit about the exhibit and what provoked you to pick it as a theme?

Rachel Lilley: The impetus/catalyst for the exhibit was, I believe, OSU’s celebration of its sesquicentennial, combined with the applicability of Tiah’s and Chris’s HC 407 content. I didn’t play a role in picking the theme, but I suppose that I helped refine it (and how we would break it up).

Chris Petersen: The exhibit emerged out of an honors colloquium class that Tiah and I taught during Winter 2018 called “OSU, Women and Oral History: An Exploration of 150 Years.” The class focused on oral history methods and theory, using women’s history at OSU as its historical grounding. We uncovered and shared a lot of interesting themes over the course of the class and pretty quickly began thinking about repurposing and further exploring these themes in an exhibit. At some point we also made contact with the President’s Commission on the Status of Women who agreed to fund a student position to support the exhibit.

Tiah Edmunson-Morton: That’s a hard question to answer succinctly.

From a practical standpoint, Chris and I taught an Honors College class winter 2018 that focused on gathering OSU women’s oral histories. The final product for the students was an indexed oral history and an online portal to their interviews as well as other interviews we’d identified in the SCARC collections. The upshot is that both of us were thinking A LOT about women’s experiences at OSU, and when it turned out that we needed a spring exhibit I said, “this will be easy, we’ll just copy all the class content.” Chris has worked with me for a while, and I think he knew that I wouldn’t make it “easy.” Concurrently, during winter term we had some good opportunities to share our class plans with others, including the leadership in the President’s Commission on the Status of Women. They had plans to create an online gallery of women, so we piggybacked onto that idea and included an online component to the physical exhibit. PCOSW offered some money for a student intern position and the library expanded Rachel’s position to full-time for two months. All of a sudden, we had an actual exhibit team!

c5be2ab2e6bfd84481172c8efa7e55e9The more complicated part of the answer is that I have long been interested in women and representation, especially as it pertains to archival collections and the historical record. It’s unsurprising to many that women’s work (academic research or otherwise) often isn’t recorded in archives – for lots of reasons, but the main being that many of these women weren’t doing work that was deemed “appropriate” or “scholarly” enough to be included in an archive. It’s also the case that there is a disproportionate number of men in positions of leadership or power, so when archivists are making priority lists for “distinguished faculty” women just aren’t on that list. There are exceptions, but for the most part, other than in their role as students, the work that women have done at this university has been in clerical or staff support roles; often, that means they don’t leave behind file cabinets full of memos or research reports.

In 2013, I established the Oregon Hops and Brewing Archives, an initiative that documents a VERY male dominated field. The women in these industries are called on pretty regularly to talk about “being a woman in a male dominated field,” but often not asked deeper questions about their lives or experiences. So… over the past several years, I have come to think of oral history as a powerful tool for recording the stories of these women, and I’ve found that by continuing to focus on gathering their stories in addition to the stories of the men in the industry, I talk more about gender than I have since my time as an English Lit graduate student.


What was your role in curation of the exhibit?

CP: Many of the visuals and some of the themes used in the exhibit emerged from work that I did for the honors class. I also drafted the first iterations of four of the panels, created the videos that run on a loop in both cases, and built the companion web exhibit.

TEM: I was the exhibit lead/project manager. This meant I had the 40,000 ft view of what was going on, but also knew the minutia. I was the point person for calling meetings, doing much of the initial selection, hiring and working with the intern, working with Clara on graphic design (colors, font, layout, etc), working with/checking in with Rachel on her collections research, working with Chris on the web site, working with Natalia to coordinate printing, materials prep, and designing and installing the physical exhibit.


How did “Women’s Words, Women’s Work” differ from other exhibits you have worked on in the past?

RL: The sheer scope of it. This was larger, by far, than any other exhibit I’ve worked on in the past, both physically and intellectually. I also found myself very emotionally invested in this exhibit, to a degree that I’ve never been in the past. It was both heart-breaking and disheartening at times – when we had to leave women out of the main display, or to read stories that made it clear that, though we’ve come a long way, there are so many things that remain the same.

CP: There were a lot more people involved than is usually the case. Also, we created a companion web exhibit and LibGuide, which has not been done in the past either.

Female students in an auto mechanics class, 1918

Female students in an auto mechanics class, 1918

TEM: We’re living in a time when gender relations, harassment, rights, et al, are in the national and international news regularly. The #metoo and #timesup movements have given many of us a framework within which to discuss these issues and our own experiences. And I thought it was important that we (SCARC) brought these conversations into the OSU150 commemoration year.

We had super interesting conversations as an exhibits team about issues of item selection, but also deeper conversations about things like the title and the colors (purple, yellow, white for Suffrage). “Women’s Work” carries multiple meanings for people, and I advocated for us embracing that ambiguity and pushing people to engage with what “Women’s Work” means on a symbolic and practical level. What is women’s work, what work were women allowed/banned from doing, what work just wasn’t feasible for a single mom, etc.

This exhibit felt deeply personal, both as a mid-career / mid-forties woman, but also as the mother of a teenaged daughter. I want us to have these hard conversations about intended/unintended behaviors/messages and to look deeply at how much gender inequality is STILL built into the very structures in which we exist. Not everyone who has a gender bias is a bad person, but I’m ready for us to look critically (again) at gender expectations as it pertains to roles, behaviors, abilities, voice, opportunities, etc. What are the choices we didn’t even know we had to make? What do we never think to even try?


I’m sure there was a lot of material to choose from and sift through.  How did you narrow items down to those displayed?

CP: Most of the visuals that we used for the honors class were mined from Larry’s pictorial history of OSU or from Oregon Digital sets with which I was already familiar. Many of these images were repurposed for the exhibit, though Tiah, Rachel and Natalia did a lot of digging to find more. I was not really involved with that component of the work.

Students working in the Secretarial Science lab, 1951

Students working in the Secretarial Science lab, 1951

RL: This was the most difficult part. For me, as classified staff, I had a natural bias and affinity to the “everyday” women of OSU – the women who toiled away as “secretaries” for 50 years and then went unidentified in the photos taken at their retirement parties. If it were up to me, every concourse in the library would be covered in their photos and stories. But we tried to do our best to tell the stories of both the recognized agents of change, you could say, and the lesser known/unrecognized women.

TEM: I literally had a binder full of women, printouts of every picture anyone found and loved. I carried it around with me like some sort of talisman! I did part with the binder for a few days and left it up in a staff and student space for people to note which were their favorite images. I had my favorites, but it was cool to feel like others were chosen by the group.

It also helped that I knew we could put all the images in the online gallery.

I have dreams of making a more official binder(s) to put in the gallery in the fall. We’ll be having some public events then, so I have some time to recover from the installation and start thinking about the exhibit again!

The Sublime: Exploring Oregon with Wild Bill

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

thousandislandlake1947Imagine trudging through the mud on a rainy morning, with fifty pounds of supplies tied to your back. Your socks are soaked through, and you’re miles away from any sort of civilization. When Ralph Waldo Emerson described the great outdoors, he surely couldn’t have meant this, you think to yourself. The only respite is your Geology professor, who is leaps and bounds ahead of you, excitedly pointing out igneous rock structures and patterns.

William “Wild Bill” Taubeneck was a faculty member of the Geology Department at Oregon State University from 1955 until 1983, during which time he taught many classes and was in part responsible for building Wilkinson Hall, the home of the Geology Department. Bill received his BS and MS in Geology from Oregon State College and his PhD at Columbia University.

riverBill served in the US Army during WWII, and then had several jobs involved in timber and forestry. There, he found his love for the outdoors. During his doctoral program at Colombia University and throughout his academic career, he conducted several field studies of Oregon. Field studies often took place over the course of weeks – during which time Bill would be deep in the Oregon wilderness, mapping out geological formations and taking notes and pictures of what he saw. With his trusty rock hammer, Taubeneck would take samples from the places he studied to store in the Wilkinson Hall basement, which held over 200 of his specimens at one point.

Bill’s field studies were long, hard work. His students often remarked that they would be out taking surveys from dawn until past dusk, using the car headlights to see their way around the dikes in the darkness. Bill was focused on igneous petrology, or the study of the conditions under which volcanic magma form ancient rock structures.

Through his letters and photography of nature and geological formations, it is immediatelyglaciallake apparent that William Taubeneck had an immense appreciation for the world around him. He describes weather and wildlife with poetic detail. In a series of letters, Bill describes seasonal wildflowers to his elderly neighbor, Norma, who lived next to Bill Taubeneck for over ten years in Corvallis, “Norma, you would have loved the wildflowers in the Eagle Creek Cap Wilderness Area. All of the rains of May and June have resulted in exceptional flowers. The red mountain heather is especially nice this year. This flower grows very close to the ground, is small, exquisite, and very much like an Arctic flower such as you would see in Greenland. Each small flower in the clusters is about 1/7th the wildflowers2001size of your thumbnail, bell-shaped, and red. Generally the plants with the tiny flowers are not more than a few inches above the ground…Buttercups also are extra nice this year. I walked across one small meadow at 8,200 feet with only buttercups – no other flowers.”


Bill had a particular interest in nature and wildlife, though he specialized in geology. Many of his letters and retained subject files contained stories about black bears, elk, and bearsmountain lions. The photographs in his collection tell the quiet stories of his travels; along mountains and lakes, in the snow and through the High Desert of Eastern Oregon. His studies and adventures continued past his time with Oregon State University. After his retirement, “Wild Bill” remained in Oregon, conducting field studies and mapping the wilderness until his death in 2016.

taubeneckonsomerocksAs a professor at Oregon State University, Taubeneck was loved by both his undergraduate and graduate students. He received several awards for his teaching, and devoted most of his extra time towards the needs of the Geology Department. His dedication and passion for geology and the Oregon outdoors is exemplified through the letters and photographs in his collection at the Special Collections and Archives Research Center.

Recent Updates and Additions to Our Collections

New collections:

oh39-gridOregon State University Climate Change Research Oral History Collection, 2017-2018 (OH 39)

This collection consists of 12 oral history interviews conducted with 11 OSU faculty members and one undergraduate student that focus primarily on scholarly research related to climate change and global warming.  The sessions take on the form of life history interviews that trace a given narrator’s entire professional life, with particular attention paid to academic work and attitudes concerning ecological topics.  All of the collection’s interview have been contextualized and made available online through a dedicated web portal.

Benjamin F. Cook Letters, 1860-1865 (MSS CookBF)

This collection is comprised of approximately 150 letters sent by soldier Benjamin Cook to his wife Julia during his service in the Union Army in the Civil War.  His letters provide a first-hand account of certain battles and events in the Civil War and detail his life and concerns as a soldier.  The finding aid includes a item-level description of each letter.

Employment Records, circa 1910 – 1989 (RG 290)

These records document the employment of faculty and staff by Oregon State University and its predecessor institutions through 1989.  These records are in the form of microfiche film jackets.

Indian-Americans in Corvallis, Oregon Oral History Collection, 2016 (OH 37)

oh37-imageThis collection consists of a set of 6 interviews featuring 10 members of the Indian-American community in Corvallis.  All interviews were conducted in Corvallis, Oregon by Sravya Tadepalli, a student at the University of Oregon at the time she completed the project and with family living in Corvallis.  All of the digital recordings of the interviews are available online.

Oregon Tilth, Inc., Records, 1975-2018 (MSS OrTilth)

tilth-logoThese records chronicle the establishment and emergence of Oregon Tilth, Inc. from Tilth, which originally was established in 1974 in Washington State.  Oregon Tilth, Inc. is an organic agriculture certification and education organization based in Corvallis, Oregon.  The materials reflect the growth of sustainable agriculture in the Northwest and later, globally.   The collection includes Oregon Tilth board materials, newsletters, audio recordings, video recordings, manuals, photographs, the organization’s websites, and educational materials.

Payroll Records, 1971-1998 (RG 289)

kerr adminThe Payroll Records consist of computer output microfiche of the payroll register for all Oregon State University employees – faculty, staff, and students – from 1971 through 1998.  The microfiche was produced by the Oregon State System of Higher Education, which provided administrative and institutional services for the public universities and colleges in Oregon.

Writing Intensive Curriculum (WIC) Program Records, 1990-2018 (RG 291)

Teaching with Writing-Spring 2003-coverThese materials document the establishment and functioning of this program to incorporate writing across the curriculum at Oregon State University.  The collection consists of published newsletters and the program’s website.  The Writing Intensive Curriculum was established at Oregon State in 1990 as part of the Baccalaureate Core Curriculum.  Vicki Tolar Burton has served as Directory since 1993.  All of the published issues of the Teaching with Writing newsletter are available online.


Finding aids that have been updated or incorporated additions:   

Marian Field Collection, 1933-1982 (MSS Field)

hc1883-600wThe Marian Field Collection is comprised of botanical illustrations produced by Marian Field, an Oregon artist and botanical illustrator.  The illustrations in the collection appear to have been generated by Field between 1933 and 1941 in collaboration with faculty at the University of Oregon and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  The collection includes approximately 250 illustrations of plants and fungi, materials from an exhibit of Fields’ works, photographs, correspondence, and a short biography of Field’s life and work.  The finding aid includes an itemized list of the drawings.

Helen M. Gilkey Papers, 1910-1974 (MSS GilkeyH)

These papers were generated and assembled by Helen Gilkey, an American mycologist, alumnus and professor of the Oregon State College Botany Department, and curator of the OSC Herbarium (1918-1951).  The materials include personal and professional correspondence; notes, research materials, and drafts of publications authored by Gilkey; specimen photographs; and scientific illustrations created by Gilkey.

Elizabeth Henley Papers, 1918-2000 (MSS Henley)

hc3345-600wThe Henley Papers document the life and work of Elizabeth Henley, a Pacific Northwest poet and member of the Oregon State University faculty from 1959 to 1975.  The collection is comprised of research materials; manuscript and audio-recorded drafts of Henley’s work; published and pre-publication poetry; and personal materials including photographs, correspondence, newspaper clippings, and yearbooks.

Components of the Student Affairs / Memorial Union processing initiative:

Memorial Union Program Council (MUPC) Records, 1964-2016 (RG 275)

battle_of_bands_2006These records document the administration of the MUPC and its role in programming campus events.  Primarily reflecting activities related to event coordination and publicity, this collection includes artifacts, budgetary documents, contracts, correspondence, digital files, flyers, handbooks, meeting minutes, photographs, posters, publications, reports, and scrapbooks.  The MUPC was established in 1948.  The collection includes 52 physical photographs and more than 2800 digital photographs; a VHS videotape; and 8.38 Gbytes of born-digital materials.

Student Leadership and Involvement Records, 1964-2015 (RG 232)

rg232-andallthatjazzThese records document the administration of Student Leadership and Involvement (SLI) and its predecessor, the Student Activities Center.  These organizations provide support services to student organizations through leadership training programs, event planning assistance, financial advising, and management of the annual student organization registration process.  The administrative role that SLI fills was first established in 1957 as the Student Activities Center as a part of the Memorial Union.  This collection includes 194 photographs, 4 VHS videotapes, 8 sound recordings and 653 Mbytes of born-digital materials.

Component of the Gerald Williams Collection: 

Gerald W. Williams Prints and Postcards of Native Americans Collection , 1887-1969 (P 317)

huckleberry_woman_1024This collection consists primarily of black and white and color lithographic mounted postcards and photographic prints, some by well-known western photographers and studios.  The images depict Native American culture in North America with a focus on the northwestern and southwestern United States, especially Alaska, Oregon, and Washington.  Williams acquired the images in the course of his work as a Forest Service sociologist and historian and due to his interest in the history of Native Americans in the United States, especially that of the Pacific Northwest region.  The collection includes 237 images; the finding aid provides item-level description of the collection.