Monthly Archives: July 2023

My First Year at SCARC

If you’ve talked to me for at least ten minutes, you’ve likely discovered that I am a Student Archivist at Special Collections and Archives Research Center. If you’ve inexplicably managed to avoid that fate or you are a stranger stumbling upon this blog post, this is a bit of what I’ve been up to this year at SCARC.

I began working as a student archivist in early November 2022. My first priority was a special assignment, to write biographies about individuals in the News and Communications Services collection. This project encompasses approximately two thousand biographies that will be used to create a more comprehensive finding aid for this collection. I’ve enjoyed learning about the unique people who have been associated with Oregon State, such as Edward C. Allworth, a World War I veteran who was the long-time, beloved manager of the Memorial Union, or Rachel Bail Baumel, a journalist, playwright, and producer who traveled the globe in the mid-twentieth century. As of now, summer 2023, I have written several hundred biographies and still have many more stories to discover! 

I don’t spend all my time writing biographies, though. I also perform other tasks, like assisting researchers in the Public Services Unit. This means that I help retrieve items that researchers use for their own work. I also help scan and digitize items to increase accessibility of SCARC materials. Of course, I’m always curious about what it is that I’m handling, so with every task I simply must take a few minutes to read the document I’m working with. I’ve seen chemical equations I don’t understand in Linus Pauling’s research notebooks, heartbreaking reports about Japanese prisoners published by the War Relocation Authority, and witty interactions between Oregon State students who came decades before me in the Women’s Center Scrapbooks. There’s a special privilege in holding history in your hands. 

My work here has inspired my academic work at the university. In winter 2023, I took a class called “History Lab”, wherein our small group traveled to repositories across the state to design a research project. SCARC was one of the archives we visited, and I was able to use an oral history in our collections for my research!

I look forward to my future work in SCARC, where I will have the opportunity to work in the Digital Productions Unit and continue working in the Public Services Unit. While I had a deep love for history long before being hired here, this job has given me the opportunity to translate this passion into tangible work, where I get to learn and practice historical storytelling every day. 

This post is contributed by Grace Knutsen. She is a student archivist at the Special Collections and Archives Research Center. She studies history, French, and German.

A Nisei Who Said ‘No’

This post references a report from the United States War Relocation Authority Reports. The collection is comprised of more than fifty mimeographed reports  detailing the operation of War Relocation Authority (WRA) concentration camps used to house Japanese American incarcerees during World War Two.

Series 2 is composed of 14 “notes” published by the Community Analysis Section (CAS) between 1944 and 1945. The notes are short reports on subjects including marriage customs, healing practices, and “block” self-governance within the concentration camps. The notes series includes several reports documenting interviews with incarcerees. It also includes a series of reports on areas within the exclusion zone including Fresno County, Imperial Valley, the San Francisco Bay Area, and San Joaquin County.

The item reference in this post (Box-Folder 1.20) and the entire contents of the collection have been digitized and are available upon request.

After the United States declared war on Japan on December 8, 1941, racism and xenophobia against Japanese Americans grew. White Americans suspected Japanese Americans of espionage and loyalty to the Japanese Empire. In response, President Franklin D. Roosevelt infamously established internment camps through Executive Order 9066, intending to imprison Japanese Americans living on the West Coast. Importantly, this order targeted not only Japanese immigrants (“Issei”), but also their descendents who were United States citizens (“Nisei”). 

This mass incarceration caused major organizational chaos. Military commanders were given the authority to create incarceration centers for individuals considered a threat to national security. Soon after, Roosevelt signed another executive order into effect, establishing the War Relocation Authority (WRA). More than 125,000 Japanese Americans were first removed from their homes to military-run “assembly centers”, and later, to one of the ten prison camps established by the WRA. 

Between 1942 and 1946, the WRA Community Analysis Section published reports intended to document the social backgrounds of the prisoners and their reactions to conditions in the camps.

Among these reports is a document dated January 15, 1944, entitled “From A Nisei Who Said ‘No’”. 

In the document, a community analyst working at the Manzanar internment camp in California documents an exchange between a young Japanese American man and a hearing board authorized to pass upon questions of segregation at the camp.

The analyst writes that the young man, who remains unnamed through the document, replied “no” to Question 28 of the Army registration form submitted to all male evacuee citizens in 1943. The question read, “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of America and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power, or organization?”

The question was controversial. By asking Japanese Americans to forswear allegiance to the Japanese emperor, to answer “yes” would imply that they had previously held allegiance to this foreign power. This implication stung Issei and Nisei who held no such allegiance. However, by answering no, a Nisei revoked their American citizenship. The man’s answer resulted in a hearing wherein board members confirmed that the man was an American citizen who had always lived in the United States and that he understood the consequences of answering “no”. 

In the hearing, he stated:

“I thought that since there is a war on between Japan and America, since the people of this country have to be geared up to fight against Japan, they are taught to hate us. So they don’t accept us. First I wanted to help this country, but they evacuated us instead of giving us a chance. Then I wanted to be neutral, but now that you force a decision, I have to say this. We have a Japanese face. Even if I try to be American I won’t be entirely accepted.”

The hearing ended shortly after, when he had convinced the board that his mind was made. He was not willing to serve a country that had imprisoned innocent American citizens. The community analyst who authored the report reached out to the man for a fuller statement on his views, a portion of which are included below:

“Before evacuation, all our parents thought that since they were aliens they would probably have to go to a camp. That was only natural – they were enemy aliens. But they never thought that it would come to the place where their sons, who were born in America and were American citizens would be evacuated. We citizens had hopes of staying there because President Roosevelt and Attorney General Biddle said it was not a military necessity to evacuate American citizens of Japanese ancestry.”

“I don’t know Japan. I’m not interested in Japan. I don’t know what will become of me and people like me if we have to go to Japan.”

“I tell you this because it has something to do with my answer about that draft question. We are taught that if you go out to war you should go out with the idea that you are never coming back. That’s the Japanese way of looking at it.”

“In order to go out prepared and willing to die, expecting to die, you have to believe in what you are fighting for. If I am going to end the family line, if my father is going to lose his only son, it should be for some cause we respect. I believe in democracy as I was taught in school. I would have been willing to go out forever before evacuation. It’s not that I’m a coward or afraid to die. My father would have been willing to see me go out at one time. But my father can’t feel the same after this evacuation and I can’t either.”

This report is a rare occurrence, wherein a Japanese American was able to voice their views to a government authority. Moreover, the young man’s decision and statement represents radical protest by Japanese Americans against United States policy during the war. The young man was not alone; it is estimated that twenty percent of all Nisei responded “no” to Question 28. The WRA also found a sharp increase in the number of repatriation and expatriation applications from Nisei and Issei during this time. By refusing to serve the United States, these individuals were practicing the very democracy they had hoped to defend.

This post is contributed by Grace Knutsen. She is a student archivist at the Special Collections and Archives Research Center. She studies history, French, and German.

New Finding Aids: April – June 2023

SCARC completed 12 new finding aids April – June 2023!

These finalized finding aids are available through the Archives West finding aids database, our Archon finding aids interface, and the OSUL discovery system a.k.a. “the catalog” or “Alma/Primo” (note: “new” means that a finding is available via all three platforms). The links below are to the guides in Archon.

Twelve new collection guides were created this quarter; as of the end of June, SCARC has 1136 finding aids in Archives West!

College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Records (RG 320) ~ The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) Records document the activity and outreach of the Oregon State University CAMP office as well as its resources from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. CAMP is a federally funded program operating out of the OSU Educational Opportunities Program (EOP) to support first-year students from migratory and seasonal work backgrounds.

Ellen and Carolyn Dishman Papers, 1998-2014 ~ The Ellen and Carolyn Dishman Papers are the collected materials and photography by the Dishmans documenting their involvement at Oregon State University in the late 1990s to early 2000s. As OSU students, they were involved in prominent LGBTQ+ groups on campus and served as primary advocates for the establishment of the Queer Resource Center (QRC) in 2001; the QRC is now called the Pride Center.

Corvallis Queer Film Festival Collection, 2009-2019 ~ The Corvallis Queer Film Festival (CQFF) Collection documents promotional materials of the community-based, internationally-sourced, and queer-directed film showcase that ran from 2013 to 2019. It also includes promotional materials from related queer film festivals in Portland, Oregon.

Northwest Forest Plan Oral History Collection (OH 48) ~ The Northwest Forest Plan Oral History Collection consists of interviews conducted in 2016 and 2017 with thirteen scientists and others whose input proved crucial to the shaping of the Northwest Forest Plan, a monumental set of federal forest lands policies for the Pacific Northwest enacted by the Clinton administration in 1994. The sessions trace the personal and professional lives of these individuals, including their participation in one or more of the major efforts to provide policy makers with scientific information and perspectives. All interviews were collected by historian Samuel Schmieding. The collection is entirely born digital and available online.

Early Written Word Collection, 2046 B.C. – 1837 ~ This collection contains leaves separated from bound manuscripts and printed texts. Some leaves were included as parts of commercially sold leaf portfolios compiled by Otto Ege and Alfred W. Stites. Cuneiform tablets from Iraq, a Balinese palm leaf book, and an example of early Chinese block printing are also included.

Mount St. Helens Oral History Collection (OH 050) ~ The Mount St. Helens Oral History Collection consists of seven interviews conducted in 2015 by historian Samuel Schmieding with five scientists and one administrator who have played a leading role in the study and management of Mount St. Helens, a Cascades Range volcano that famously and catastrophically erupted on May 18, 1980. All of the interviews described in this collection have been transcribed and made available online.

Ninkasi Brewing Company Collection, 1999-2015 ~ The Ninkasi Brewing Company Collection includes materials generated by the Ninkasi Brewing Company that document the various types of beer produced at the brewery. It is primarily an electronic collection, with a much smaller number of printed materials. The Ninkasi Brewing Company formed in 2006 in Eugene, Oregon.

Phil Decker Oregon Crop Festival Photographs Collection, 2010-2016 ~ The Phil Decker Photograph Collection consists primarily of born digital images taken by Phil Decker, a Salem-based photographer, of various crop festivals in Oregon. Decker is an elementary school principal and documentary photographer living in Salem, Oregon.

Deschutes Brewery Collection, 1986-2007 ~ Deschutes Brewery was founded in 1988 by Gary Fish in downtown Bend, Oregon. The Deschutes Brewery Collection includes print and digitized materials related to operations, promotional campaigns, and photographs.

Art Larrance Papers, 1876-2000 ~ Art Larrance is the co-founder of Portland Brewing Company and the Raccoon Lodge & Brew Pub and Cascade Brewing. He co-founded the Oregon Brewers Festival and collects materials related to Northwest beer history. The Art Larrance Papers include digitized versions of materials held by Larrance, including articles of incorporation for Portland Brewing, company newsletters, and pre-Prohibition hops and brewing advertising and company materials. The digitized materials in this collection are available in Oregon Digital.

Oregon Black Pioneers Oral History Collection (OH 042) ~ The Oregon Black Pioneers Oral History Collection consists of two projects, both of which focused on collecting the stories of figures instrumental to the formation and growth of Black communities in Oregon. One project, conducted in 1993, was led by middle school students primarily interested in female elders in Eugene, Oregon. The second project, carried out from 2018-2020, was sponsored by Oregon Black Pioneers and featured community leaders from Portland, Eugene and Salem. All of these interviews have been transcribed and made available online. Founded in 1993, Oregon Black Pioneers is a non-profit organization that seeks to preserve and amplify the history of African Americans in Oregon

OSU Sesquicentennial Oral History Collection (OH 26) The Oregon State University Sesquicentennial Oral History Collection documents the history, culture and ambition of Oregon State University through interviews with alumni, faculty, staff, administrators, current students and supporters. Most of the items held in the collection take the form of life history interviews, their sole common thread being a given interviewee’s association, past or present, with Oregon State University. A total of 243 interviews were conducted for the project, summing to more than 350 hours of recording time. The contents of this collection are available online through a dedicated web portal.

Also of note are 8 findings that were updated/expanded and reuploaded to ArchivesWest: