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.

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