Monthly Archives: August 2018

Activism and Social Justice through the Archive

This post is contributed by Natalia Fernández, Curator and Archivist of the Oregon Multicultural Archives and OSU Queer Archives.  She was recently asked to speak at Emporia State University’s School of Library & Information Management (SLIM) graduation, which took place Sunday August 12, 2018 at the Oregon Health & Sciences University auditorium.

What was it like to be asked to be commencement speaker at Emporia’s School of Library & Information Management (SLIM) graduation ceremony?

It was such an honor to be asked to be a commencement speaker! I accepted the invitation almost immediately.

What inspired your message in the speech you gave?

My work and professional experiences inspired the message I gave in my speech. In preparation for writing the speech, I did my research of course. I listened to a number of commencement speeches and read articles regarding “what makes a good commencement speech.” The main themes that emerged were to be emotional/passionate, use humor if possible, and that personal stories make the best speeches. I also noticed that many speeches included some local references, and of course, a commencement speech typically has life advice and lessons learned. To include some local references, I asked the program director for some examples of the graduates’ accomplishments to share as part of the speech. In addition, I decided to focus the first part of my speech on the Emporia State professional values of service, leadership, integrity, and mentorship. I knew I wanted my ultimate message to be about activism and social justice within the profession, so to transition, I stated that the commonality between all of those professional values is action. I then shared my journey of activism and social justice throughout my career thus far, and reflected on words of wisdom expressed in a 2010 lecture by the archivist Randall Jimerson entitled “Archivists and the Call of Justice.” I wanted my speech to be a call to action to the new graduates; I concluded by stating, “I am archivist activist. When I look at you, I see fellow activists.”

What does social justice mean to you as an archivist?

In my speech I stated that in the journey toward social justice, as information professionals, we each have a role to play as part of the work that we do. One of the many beautiful aspects of our profession is that activism can take many forms. Through my work as an archivist, I collaborate with communities who have been traditionally marginalized, in both the historical record and in historiography. My contribution toward social justice is to assist communities in sharing their stories with the archive as a form of empowerment, a way in which community members can add their voice to the historical narrative. In addition, through my instruction, exhibit curation, and reference services, I have the power to highlight certain materials and assist patrons in discovering stories they might not otherwise have used. I am able to guide researchers, students, and community members to repurpose and reinterpret archival materials in new and interesting ways, and host community events to inform and share traditionally untold stories. I closed my speech by stating that it is incumbent upon all of us as information professionals to reflect upon our role and ask ourselves how we can be more pro-active to the cause of social justice as we serve, lead, and mentor others. When we fully commit ourselves to our professional values is when we can truly say that we are employing our power as information professionals, our expertise, and the love we have for our communities as we strive to promote a better society for all.

What role does mentorship play for you in your work as an archivist?

Mentorship is vital in our profession. I have been incredibly privileged to have an amazing support system of colleagues, both within the OSULP and beyond. In my speech I encouraged the graduates to open up as many opportunities as possible for others, and to build mentoring actions into their daily work. And, I reminded them that part of being an effective mentor is by they themselves having a network of mentors who can assist and guide them. Throughout all of our careers, we will always be both a mentor and a mentee. We will always have worthy experiences to share with others, and there will always be more to learn from others as well.

What do you remember about starting your career?  What do you think has had the greatest impact on your career?

When first starting my career (this job in fact), I remember feeling overwhelmed and having quite the case of imposter syndrome. For me, it was a combination of my amazing colleagues and the wonderful communities with whom I work that had the greatest impact on my career. I have learned, and continue to learn, so much from colleagues who have been generous with their time and who are willing to share their professional experiences with me. In my commitment to serving the communities with which I work, I always have to remember it is not about my intentions, it is about the impact that I have. In order to most effectively center my services on the community’s needs, I strive to ensure that community members direct me in how to best serve them.

What words of advice do you have for new archivists and librarians?

I have so many words! But I’ll be brief. My words of advice are to remember that in our commitment to being leaders in our profession and our communities, our job is to use our positions of power to be advocates for those who lack power. As information professionals, we have a lot of power as stewards and providers of information. I want to assure new archivists and librarians that they are qualified, ready, and capable – they are leaders and activists. And, while there will always be unknowns as part of our jobs, and life in general, one thing for sure is when starting a career as a librarian or archivist, it just the beginning of many amazing journeys that are yet to come!

Exceptional Opportunities for Ambitious Young Women: Secretarial Science at Oregon State University

Rachel Lilley is the Public Services Assistant in SCARC, where she splits her time between providing front-line patron service in SCARC’s Reading Room, and assisting in the management, processing, and preservation of archival collections.

The School of Commerce – proclaims the promotional booklet The College Girl at O.A.C. – offers “training which leads to exceptional opportunities for ambitious young women.” Statistics gathered by the School bear out this claim: between 1917 and 1922, the number of women graduating from the School of Commerce had more than tripled – from 9 in 1917 to 33 in 1922 – testament to the “increasing importance of women in the business world.”

Women working on office equipment (HC0882)

Women working on office equipment (HC0882)

The four-year, curriculum was designed to “meet the needs of students who wish to prepare themselves for responsible secretarial positions or for such positions as office manager, assistants to public officials, and research assistants.” While courses preparing women for the “secretarial field” were the most popular, women could be trained for “positions in the baking world, advertising, business, and civil service work” as well. Early lower divisions course offerings included Stenography, Applied Stenography, Rational Typewriting (typing by touch), and a Reporters’ Course. By 1933, Office Procedure and Office Organization and Management had been added as requirements, and upper division courses included both a seminar in Secretarial Training, and something akin to a modern-day internship, in which students studied the “application of actual problems in college offices.”

School of Commerce class in Bexell Hall (P016)

School of Commerce class in Bexell Hall (P016)

At the height of the Second World War, Secretarial Science offerings had expanded again to include lower division courses in Typing of Army and Navy Correspondence and Forms, and Army and Navy Applied Stenography. To the upper division offerings were added Office Procedures of Army, Navy, and War Industries, Merchandising and Selling, and General Advertising. Training in Secretarial Science was seen as vital to the success of the war effort, and this was heavily emphasized in literature about the major / department.

Demonstrating new IBM machinces in OSC business office (P082)

Demonstrating new IBM machinces in OSC business office (P082)

According to the November 1941 issue of the Oregon Stater, in fact, “degree-granting departments such as education, forestry, pharmacy, science, and secretarial science have all felt the impact of the defense effort in one way or another.” In response, every effort was made to “encourage former students to return and complete their courses and to have new students start in these fields so that the future supply of technically trained men and women may be assured.”

Designed as a companion to the exhibit Women’s Words, Women’s Work: Spaces of Community, Change, Tradition, Resistance at Oregon State University, the exhibit Exceptional Opportunities for Ambitious Young Women: Secretarial Science at Oregon State University was researched, designed, and installed by Rachel Lilley, with gracious assistance from Anne Bahde and Tiah Edmunson-Morton.

The Fight for Wilkinson Hall

Continuing in her work with the William Taubeneck papers, this post is contributed by SCARC student archivist Hannah Lawson, a chemistry major with a passion for art, conservation, and preserving history.

Wilkinson Hall, which resides on Orchard Avenue, is home to Oregon State University’s Department of Geosciences; the Geology and Geography programs. It was dedicated to William “Doc” Wilkinson, a former professor and chairman in the Department of Geology. It is the so called ‘phoenix’ of the Earth Sciences Department at OSU for good reason: the plans were struck down and halted time and time again, only to rise from the ashes due to the perseverance and passion of the Geosciences faculty.

In the 1940s and 50s, the Geology Department at Oregon State University was one of the most revered in the state. It began to languish in the late 1950s and early 60s. While other geology departments at other campuses were getting upgraded buildings and facilities, the department at Oregon State were being pushed and prodded into the smallest, most forgotten rooms on campus. William “Bill” Taubeneck, a geology professor at the time, described the geology facilities at Oregon State as “the most primitive in the West.” By the 1960s, the same facilities shared by 4 professors and 30 students in 1930 were now shared by 11 staff members and nearly 140 geology students.

Wilkinson Hall

Original designs for the Geosciences building from 1969

Wilkinson, along with Taubeneck and a few other members in the Geosciences faculty, began pushing for the construction of an Earth Sciences building in the 1960s. Both the Geography program and Geology program were in desperate need of defined spaces. The plans for this new Earth Sciences were revealed to the Geosciences Department in 1969. Bill Taubeneck was instantly dissatisfied with them. The original plans for this Earth Sciences building had no spaces for geology labs, and multiple ill-designed offices and classrooms. Taubeneck argued that there needed to be space for hundreds of rock specimen per student, as well as maps, photos, and fossils. Taubeneck also noted that poor facilities made it hard for Oregon State University to attract new geology professors and researchers, who could not conduct their research without a new building designated for the geosciences. A new Earth Sciences building would be integral for the future of geology at Oregon State. From that point on, Taubeneck was the chief crusader for the re-design, as well as the construction itself.

Several issues quickly arose, which postponed the development of building plans. Construction was continually put on hold by the State Emergency Board. The most devastating issue was the moratorium placed on all construction on Oregon state college campuses, which was placed by the State Legislature in March of 1970. The building was originally scheduled for construction in May of 1970. Oregon’s economy was both declining and inflating, which sharply increased the estimated cost of the proposed Earth Sciences building. Additionally, student riots across the state were causing property damage to campuses, which made legislatures hesitant to fund new buildings.

Hollis Dole, right, with Eldon GIlbert ("Oregon Stater," December 1975)

Hollis Dole, right, with Eldon Gilbert (“Oregon Stater,” December 1975)

Taubeneck was fortunate enough to have quality friends and associates in high places, which would benefit him in his fight for Wilkinson Hall. A particular ally was OSU alum Hollis Dole, who served as Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Mineral Resources. Hollis would ultimately act as a mediator between Taubeneck and influential legislators in Oregon’s government. A series of letters between Taubeneck and Dole show the collaboration and friendship between the two. Dole kept Taubeneck informed of hearings in Washington, as well as pressed his fellow politicians about the issue of the Earth Sciences building at OSU, while Taubeneck continued persuading at the grassroots level. Both pushed continuously for the Geology Department, a program they were equally invested in. In late 1970, Taubeneck brought Rep. Stafford Hansel and Sen. Lynn Newbry through a tour of the Geology facilities located in the Education Hall, Benton Annex, and the now demolished WWII Quonset hut, and how these spaces created tension for students and teachers, as they restricted access to supplies and laboratory equipment. In short – the Geology Department and its’ professors were unable to provide their students with the proper education in the buildings they were divided by and housed in. They needed a space specific for them and their unique needs. Hansel and Newbry assured Taubeneck that the building would begin construction in March the next year, but in February of 1971, Taubeneck was told by Dean Popovich that the proposed Earth Science building was a lost cause.

In a letter to Gov. Tom McCall, Taubeneck expressed the inadequate conditions of the Geosciences Department. McCall, a proponent of higher education and proper management of natural resources, was empathetic to the needs of Oregon State University’s geology and geography programs.  While the decision to vote upon and release the funds would ultimately be made by the Ways and Means Committee, having the governor’s approval was a large step forward for the fate of the Earth Sciences building. McCall mentioned to Taubeneck that a reduction of the estimated cost of the building construction would be necessary for the final approval.

William Donald Wilkinson (President's Office Photographs, 1947)

William Donald Wilkinson (President’s Office Photographs, 1947)

The obvious requirement for a new building motivated Taubeneck and the Geosciences Department to push even harder for state approval. The plans were redesigned with guidelines from the Geology Department (who were not initially consulted during the original plans) with downgraded fixtures and the removal of two floors. The final budget came several thousand dollars under budget, and was approved in May of 1971. Construction of the building began shortly thereafter in the following summer, and the building was completed in December of 1972. The dedication ceremony, which came two years later on April 20th, 1974, officially named the hall after “Doc” Wilkinson, whose dreams of a Geoscience building were finally realized, nearly 5 years after his death.

Hollis Dole was the main speaker at the dedication ceremony. He remarked in his speech, It’s a New World, “On this campus a new building rises to remind us that nothing stands still, that change and challenge are as much a part of life as breathing and eating. May we accept the changes and the challenges and go forward boldly to claim a better life in the future than any we have known in the past, and do to so with the confidence and spirit befitting the great nation we are.”

The entirety of Dole’s speech highlights the energy crisis in the United States during the 1970s. It parallels the story of Wilkinson Hall, which is fraught with the unpredictable nature of politics and bureaucracy. However, the fight for the Geoscience building shows us that it can only take a single, committed person to change the course of Oregon State University history. It shows us how far a professor will go for his field and his department. William Taubeneck was a man who truly cared about the education of his students, and is a prime example of excellence within Oregon State.

In Our Care, Part 1

This first post of a two part series is contributed by Valeria Dávila Gronros, a digitization technician at the Digital Production Unit of the Oregon State University Special Collections & Archives Research Center.  She is an Argentinean photographer, filmmaker, and digital films restorer, about to obtain her BA in Cinema Studies by the Universidad del Cine of Buenos Aires. 

Getting started with film preservation: A rite of passage

Film preservation, or “the continuum of activities necessary to protect film for the future and share its content with the public,” is not only relatively new for libraries, museums, and archives, but also hard to implement. Hence, the fact that we are embracing these practices is a rite of passage for the Library, but also for myself.

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Inspecting a film on the rewinder

I have longed to get involved with the preservation of the Valley Library’s films since I started working at SCARC’s Digital Production Unit early in 2017. For me this was the natural course career-wise, considering my background in film and  in digital film restoration, but especially after being trained in film preservation at the “Film Preservation and Restoration School Latin America,” hosted by the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) and the Cinemateca y Archivo de la Imagen Nacional (CINAIN) in my home country, Argentina, days after my joining to the DPU. Now that we are embracing preservation practices with the “In Our Care” KOAC TV films project, I feel fortunate for being part and am deeply grateful to my supervisor Brian Davis, and SCARC’s director Larry Landis, for placing their trust in me for this task. And I hope for this project to be the foundation for future film preservation actions at the Library.

The “In Our Care” KOAC TV films preservation project

The “KOAC TV Films Collection” contains 96 acetate 16mm film reels produced by or for the “KOAC” TV station of Corvallis between 1947 and 1975. In the past few months, the Library has been considering digitizing the “In Our Care” television series, part of said collection, which contains 35 film reels from 1959 documenting Oregon’s prisons, hospitals, and schools for the handicapped and delinquent. An inspection of the films was necessary in order to know their features and physical condition, and to prepare them for eventual digitization. Once I was done with the inspection, it was decided to also clean, repair, and rehouse the films in a second stage of the project.

The inspection expectations

We knew some characteristics of the series before inspection, so this examination was expected to help us identify and document technical aspects, pictorial content, and physical condition in further detail.

From the technical standpoint, I expected to determine whether the films were positive, negative, or reversal; color or black and white; silent or sound. For sound films, I expected to identify whether they had magnetic or optical sound, and if optical, whether they had variable area or variable density sound recording. Also, I would try identify whether the elements were camera originals, duplicates, or prints.

From the damage and decay standpoint, I expected to ascertain physical damages and decay to detect films at risk and segregate them to avoid contamination. When stored properly, new films last hundreds of years. But when stored in poor conditions, they suffer chemical (“vinegar syndrome”) and biological (mold) decay. The “vinegar syndrome” appears as a reaction to humidity and produces a distinctive vinegary odor. Mold, which appears under warm, humid conditions, can irreversibly damage the film’s image layer. There is also mechanical decay (broken perforations, scratches), caused by negligent handling and projection, faulty equipment, and deficient repairs.

The inspection process and findings

For inspection I used low-tech tools available at the Library: a hand cranked rewind bench with split reels, and a light box with a magnifying loupe (10x) that I use to inspect photographic negatives before digitization.

Inspecting with loupe

Inspecting with loupe

Technical characteristics

Inspecting the film cans: These films were stored on boxes, horizontally and vertically disposed. Most cans were of metal, and some were rusty (Fig. 1). Other few were of polypropylene. Some cans contained just one film, while others two or three; some films were properly stored on cores, while others on reels (Fig. 2). Reels are intended for film projection, not for long-term preservation, so those last should be transferred to cores.

Rusty metal film can (Fig. 1); Film stored on a metal reel (Fig. 2).

Rusty metal film can (Fig. 1); Film stored on a metal reel (Fig. 2).

Inspecting the films on the rewinder: After viewing several feet of each film, both with a naked eye and using the loupe, I discovered this series contains a myriad of negative, positive, and reversal elements, with predominance of positives; B/W and color elements, with predominance of B/W; and silent and sound elements. Among the films carrying images only, some had their sound elements stored separately. Some films had been composed combining B/W with color, positives with reversals, and even silent with sound. Some examples:

Countdown leader on B/W Gevaert film stock; “KOAC TV” plaque on B/W Kodak film stock; Detail of “In Our Care” plaque on B/W Kodak film stock; Detail of B/W Kinescope (distorted shape due to the loupe).

Negative Films: Countdown leader on B/W Gevaert film stock; “KOAC TV” plaque on B/W Kodak film stock; Detail of “In Our Care” plaque on B/W Kodak film stock; Detail of B/W Kinescope (distorted shape due to the loupe).

Positive and reversal films: B/W positive on Dupont film stock; B/W duplicate on reversal film stock (note the perforations from previous film generations printed on the edges); Ansco color reversal; Kodachrome color reversal.

Positive and reversal films: B/W positive on Dupont film stock; B/W duplicate on reversal film stock (note the perforations from previous film generations printed on the edges); Ansco color reversal; Kodachrome color reversal.

Silent and sound films: Silent film (may have a sound record stored separately); Unilateral variable area sound track; Variable density sound track.

Silent and sound films: Silent film (may have a sound record stored separately); Unilateral variable area sound track; Variable density sound track.

During inspection I paid special attention to the film edges to differentiate between camera originals, duplicates, and prints. For instance, one can easily distinguish a positive from a reversal (both have positive images) because positives have clear edges while reversals have black edges. Camera negatives have equal density on the edges and in-between the image frames, while duplicates tend to have a lavender cast to it, and may have perforations from previous film generations printed on the edges. This way I was able to determine this series contains originals, duplicates, and prints on Kodak, Eastman, Dupont, Gevaert, and Ansco film stocks, being kinescopes and workprints the predominant elements in the collection.


Kinescopes are filmed recordings of live television broadcasts, produced by the studios in the early times of broadcast TV to preserve programming for rebroadcast by other stations. Kines’s were most commonly distributed in 16mm B/W film for its lower cost, and given its poor image quality, they were largely replaced by videotapes after the 1970s.

Detail of a B/W kinescope negative, and as it would be seen as a positive image, with perceivable scan lines.

Detail of a B/W kinescope negative, and as it would be seen as a positive image, with perceivable scan lines.

Kines’s were largely purged during the transition to VHS, so finding them, even among a TV film collection, is valuable. Given they were recorded from a TV monitor, usual technical problems of kinescopes, such as scan lines, or a dark bar across the image, are distinctive features that can be very helpful when it comes to identifying them.

Detail of B/W kinescope negative, and as it would be seen as a positive image, with perceivable black band across the image.

Detail of B/W kinescope negative, and as it would be seen as a positive image, with perceivable black band across the image.


More unusual to find, since they used to be discarded after serving their purpose, are workprints. Workprints are rough prints made from the original negative that is used by editors to make rough-cuts before intervening the original negative. Workprints can also be made from reversal film to avoid damaging the very original elements during the editing process. In this last case a copy from the reversal film is used as a workprint. Being heavily and careless handled, is usual for workprints to have tape splices between most scenes, scratches, fingerprints, dirt, tears, markings for future edits, fades, and black or blank leaders throughout the print. Some examples:









Damage and decay

With a myriad of elements, comes a myriad of damages. The images below illustrate some common, and singular, damages I found in this series:

Warped perforations on one edge, possibly caused by faulty equipment; Dirt, and dirty splices, especially in the first feet of the films (in this sample it is also appreciable what seems to be color fading on the film edges); Orange dots on the image of a B/W film (I have seen photos of similar damage on B/W microfilm, known as “redox blemishes” or localized zones of silver corrosion); Image and perforation breakage.

Warped perforations on one edge, possibly caused by faulty equipment; Dirt, and dirty splices, especially in the first feet of the films (in this sample it is also appreciable what seems to be color fading on the film edges); Orange dots on the image of a B/W film (I have seen photos of similar damage on B/W microfilm, known as “redox blemishes” or localized zones of silver corrosion); Image and perforation breakage.

Distorted blank leaders at the beginning of the films, especially those not secured with tape, and old tape and glue residue were other pretty usual findings.








Documenting the information gathered during inspection help archivists make informed decisions and track any changes in the films condition over time. Therefore, after inspecting each film, I recorded my findings on a spreadsheet in the cloud. I also made photographic records, some of which I am using in this article.     

What is next?

In the second stage in this project we intend to dry-clean the films, repair broken perforations and splices, check shrinkage, transfer the films stored on reels to cores, and rehouse all films onto new polypropylene cans.

Stay tuned!