Author Archives: Shelby Bremigan

Linus’ Lost Marbles – The Issues in Preserving Space-Filling Balloon Models

Among the wide variety of items in the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers is the collection of
molecular models, which sit serenely on display in the back shelves of the archives. These
models were created by Pauling throughout his career; the earliest dates to the 1920s, and the
later ones to the 1980s. Each piece is testament to how incredibly useful the visualization of
molecular bonding and 3D space can be for scientific comprehension, particularly before
computer modeling was commonly available. Pauling himself was an early and vital proponent
of using these models in a classroom setting, and would often use them during his own lectures at Oregon State University and Cal Tech.  From paper to aluminum, wood, plastic, and wire, the collection of Linus Pauling’s molecular models is diverse, and shows the progression of Pauling’s various interests in molecular chemistry, as well as advancements in the understanding of these concepts. Understanding the materials comprising an artifact and how those materials degrade is extremely important for a conservation team, as no two materials will deteriorate in the exact same way in similar environments. One of the more problematic pieces within this collection of models is the close- packing hard sphere models, which are comprised of latex balloons and marbles. After filling balloons with water, Pauling would insert the appropriate number of marbles and then drain the water and tie off the balloons. The final product is a small, globular object which was meant to demonstrate how atoms arrange themselves in solid crystalline patterns. While in its time this was a unique and useful tactic to show these chemical structures, the materials of these models have posed many issues with regards to archival use and display. Today, the balloons that once were elastic and held together the shape of the molecular model, have all but completely degraded. Some of the balloons have become brittle, flaking away with the slightest touch or movement. This rendered two of the balloon and marble models unstable- as soon as the balloon encapsulating the marbles breaks away, the marbles lose their structure and tumble down, spilling across the display stand. Many of the marbles themselves have degraded significantly, shattering into a dust-like consistency. The models, once practical and pristine, have been reduced to  a pile of fractured rubber and glass, and it is almost impossible to understand what molecular form they once took.

Pictured above: Molecular Models 1 (left) and 2 (right)

Obviously, this poses significant issues in terms of display. Aesthetically, it is unappealing, this
mass of aged, pale latex and yellowed marbles. Additionally, the original function of the objects
as educational tools has been lost. In a classroom, molecular models are meant to be held,
turned over in the hands so that a student can understand the symmetry, geometry, and space
of atoms bonded together. In their current state, these balloon and marble models cannot be
touched at all without further damage to the fragile pieces. 

Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to piece together these models. Any physical
treatment option would certainly only cause more flaking of the latex balloons and marbles.
Simply leaving these items on display can further exacerbate these issues – even the gentle
breeze of a passing staff member could cause the marbles to topple. The best approach,
therefore, is to make or purchase appropriately sized enclosures to safely house the models. 

When choosing or creating enclosures for irregularly sized items, there are multiple things to
consider. Choosing enclosures that meet archival standards ensures the materials used to make the enclosure will not degrade and release harmful vapors or chemicals that will further harm the object it is encapsulating. It is important that the enclosure, or box, fit the item snugly,
but allow for easy removal if necessary. For unique items, such as the molecular models, it can
be difficult to find enclosures with matching dimensions. To fully enclose the circular display
stand and molecular model, I created boxes out of folderstock and mylar. On its own, folderstock can be somewhat flimsy, but with the box structure and the support of the display
stand, it is structurally sound. The mylar display allows us to see the molecular model without
interacting with it, and helps to prevent further damage. A drop front box is necessary in this
case,  it allows for easy removal from the enclosure in case the need arises. Acid-free tissue
was used as padding around the display stand to prevent the pieces from shifting in transit. For
now, the molecular models will return to the display case with the other Linus Pauling models. 

Pictured above: the enclosure without marbles

Pictured above: a single enclosure with the marbles (left) and all of the enclosures with their marbles (right)

While it is impossible to stop the inevitable deterioration of the materials, it is important to keep the parts together. Additionally, a note detailing the materials, origin, and method of creation of these items is important for context, and allows these items to return to their original use as a tool for education. While the original form of the models no longer show the complexities of atomic packing, the information of how Linus created and used them can still be valuable for researchers of the history of science today. 

Chris Peterson, Linus Pauling’s Molecular Models and the Stories that they Tell,

Author: Hannah Lawson

An Enclosure for the Scroll of Esther

The SCARC vault contains many of the rarest, most fragile, and most valuable items held in our collections. Babylonian cuneiform tablets, dating back to 2500 BCE, detail trade transactions involving sheep and goats. Charles Darwin’s expedition and experiences while aboard the The Beagle are detailed in a first-edition of The Voyage of the Beagle, published in 1836. The vault also contains historical manuscripts – including letters from famous scientists, a 13th century Bible on vellum, and Linus Pauling’s Nobel Prizes. There are many vault treasures – most of which are accessible to visiting patrons by request, and many of which are regularly used in class visits or SCARC events. One of the more unique items housed in the vault is the Scroll of Esther.

                Tucked into an ill-suited document case, wrapped in tissue paper, lies the Scroll of Esther, which was probably made in the 18th century. The scroll consists of a single wooden roller, handle, and the rolled pieces of parchment, onto which the Hebrew book has been transcribed in handwriting, as per the Jewish tradition. While delicate, the scroll is in generally good condition – each part remains intact, the ink is still dark and visible, and the scroll can be read somewhat easily, with gentle handling. The document case housing and tissue paper wrapping, however, was decidedly inappropriate, and I was tasked with creating a more suitable enclosure for the scroll.

The previous enclosure for the Scroll of Esther

                When designing a custom enclosure for an object such as a scroll, it is important to note where the object is most fragile, and thus needs the most support. The handle and top of the wooden roller are most subject to damage due to their precarious attachment. In some areas, the handle has just started to crack, as wood expands and contracts with the changing of its environment. Therefore, protecting these portions of the scroll was of utmost importance, and I needed to find a way to create a structure that would prevent the handle from becoming loose and breaking off within the box itself, in the case of careless transport or further degradation of the wood.

                Before I began, I found it necessary to do a little research on the subject of scroll enclosures. An article detailing the acquisition of a large Torah scroll by the Rubenstein Library at Duke University explains how enclosures were modified to add frames to hold and support the handles of the Torah scrolls. I used this as inspiration for an enclosure that would suit the needs of our much smaller Esther scroll, which only had one handle and roller, as opposed to two, as many Hebrew Bible books traditionally contain. The design was relatively straight-forward: a box, a lid, and a structural frame for the wooden parts. Through my rather chaotic construction plans, you can generally see the process of manipulating the flat e-flute.

The new design plans

                After the necessary measurements were made, I began the construction of the box. Each section was cut from e-flute board, folded, and shaped to form the parts. Through trial and error, a structurally sound box was created, with the appropriate dimension to enclose and protect the scroll. A label was added, and the scroll was placed back into the vault, where it will remain until it is of academic or intellectual use.

The finished project!

This blog post was authored by Hannah Lawson, a student archivist and chemistry major at OSU.

Four New Finding Aids Added – January 2020

January is finally over!  Throughout the course of last month, four new or updated finding aids (a.k.a. collection guides) were completed by SCARC staff.  These collections are now fully processed and described and available for researcher use.  Two of the guides are for new collections received since 2015 that were previously unavailable to researchers (the Zigler Papers and Summer Session Records).   The other two guides are substantial updates to incorporate additions and reflect full processing and description.  Descriptions of more than 1300 SCARC collections are available on the SCARC website; 1029 SCARC collections are now described in Archives West.

Finding Aids for new collections:

Gilbert Zigler Papers, 1962-2014 (MSS Zigler)

The Gilbert Zigler Papers document the career of Gilbert “Gil” Zigler, a nuclear engineer who specialized in reactor safety and monitoring. The collection is comprised of items collected during his education at the United States Air Force’s Institute of Technology and career as a reactor diagnostic engineer, spanning from 1962-2014.  The collection includes scientific publications, reference materials, notes, and memorabilia from his career, and highlights Zigler’s professional expertise primarily through documents relating to his role in diagnosing and solving problems during the Three Mile Island reactor incident. Much of the collection addresses the field of reactor safety in its various applications and aspects.

Summer Session Records, 1913-2018 (RG 270)

The Summer Session Records document the operation and administration for courses and special programs and activities offered at Oregon State during the summer beginning in the 1910s. The records specifically pertain to academic courses and special programs and activities; enrollment and demographics for summer students; finances; and promotion and marketing. Summer courses were first offered at Oregon State in 1908.

Finding aids for collections that were only minimally described and are now fully processed and described:

College of Science Records, 1880-2015 (RG 024)

The College of Science Records document the administrative activities of the College of Science at Oregon State University from its founding in 1932. The records include administrative records, biographical files for select faculty and staff of the college, correspondence, department histories, college publications, newspaper clippings, photographs, and microfilmed correspondence and reports. The College of Science was first established as the School of Science in 1932; it became the College of Science in 1973.

Materials from this collection have been digitized and are available in Oregon Digital.

Russell and Katherine Tegnell Scrapbook, 1931-1941 (MSS Tegnell)

Russell and Katherine (Smith) Tegnell were students at Oregon State College who met on campus and married in 1934, just before their fourth year of college. The Russell and Katherine Tegnell Scrapbook was compiled by the couple, and contains numerous newspaper clippings as well as a smaller number of photographic prints. Much of the material included in the scrapbook is related to Russell’s time as the President of the Memorial Union as well as Katherine’s academic achievements. Initiation and award certificates, and a blank class officers ballot are also included.

Three New SCARC Finding Aids Added in December 2019

The three new collections added were received by SCARC in 2015 and are now available to researchers through the Archon finding aid database. Additionally, two out of these three new collections are electronic, as they were born-digital and digitized, representing 38.4 Gigabytes of new archival material. The addition of these finding aids brings the total number of collections available through the Special Collections and Archives Research Center to 1,026 as of January 1, 2020.

Read more about these new collections below:

Raul Peña Collection, 1968-2005 (MSS Peña)

The Raul Peña Collection consists of Peña’s personal scrapbook and a compilation of video-recorded news stories depicting the struggles of migrant farm workers in Oregon during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Peña served in the U.S. Army and Oregon Army National Guard in the 1970s and 1980s, and advocated for migrant worker rights through his work for the Bureau of Labor and Industries in the late 1980s and 1990s.  This collection consists of digitized versions of the scrapbook and video content.

Roy Philippi and Beth Miller Philippi Scrapbooks, 1915-1943 (MSS Philippi)

The Roy Philippi and Beth Miller Philippi Scrapbooks were assembled by Oregon Agricultural College student Roy Philippi and his daughter-in-law, Beth Miller Philippi, herself an alumna of Oregon State College. The scrapbooks document student life at Oregon State College during World War I and the beginning of World War II, primarily through candid snapshots and newspaper clippings.

The Beth Miller Philippi scrapbook is in fragile condition and a digital surrogate should be consulted as a primary source of access. This surrogate is available in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center Reading Room, or remotely upon request.  The collection includes 232 photographs.

Oregon State University Libraries and Press Oral History Collection, 2018-2019 (OH 041)

The Oregon State University Libraries and Press (OSULP) Oral History Collection primarily consists of audio-recorded interviews conducted with current employees of the OSU Libraries and the OSU Press, all of which were structured using a set script of interview questions. A smaller subset of the collection is comprised of more individually tailored interviews with former employees of the OSU Libraries. Members of each OSULP branch and department are represented in the collection, which includes interviews with library faculty, staff and student workers. Online access to the interviews, as well as a promotional video, is provided through a dedicated project homepage.  The collection includes 50 oral history interviews.

OSU 150: Archives in the Making

            In 2017 and 2018, Oregon State University commemorated its 150th anniversary with the OSU 150 celebration.  This experience consisted of several events over the course of the year, recognizing the abundant contributions made by OSU, including festivals recognizing OSU’s land, sea, space, and sun grants. [1]  Though the celebrations wrapped up in 2019, memorabilia left behind will be preserved in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC), as well as online through the Sesquicentennial Oral History Project.[2] 

            The materials collected from the OSU 150 celebration represent years of planning from many different individuals and departments across campus.  The anniversary opened in August 2017 and continued through October 2018 with the goals to, “celebrate and commemorate OSU and its unique land grant mission; inform, inspire and engage diverse audiences; and distinguish what makes OSU unique now and in the future.”[3]  Special Collections hosted its own cache of events, including the book launch of The People’s School: A History of Oregon State University, with a lively discussion by author William G. Robbins and SCARC Director Larry Landis.[4]  With events such as this hosted all over campus, archival material collected for SCARC to preserve.  Karl McCreary, OSU Collections Archivist specializing in campus history, is managing the accession process for this collection – which alongside documental material includes memorabilia from the celebration.

Crayola’s newest color, Bluetiful, based on a new blue pigment discovered by OSU Chemist Mas Subramanian[5]

These glasses were distributed before the 2017 solar eclipse, where Oregon experienced totality

A selection of some of the OSU 150 memorabilia to be preserved in the collection

            This material, having been primarily accessioned by SCARC, will be fully described in an online guide at a later date.  At that point, these treasures will be available to the public!

[1] A list of events can be found here:

[2]“An Oral History of OSU,” Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University,,

[3] “OSU 150: Celebrating Oregon State University’s 150-Year Legacy of Transformation, Anniversary Final Report,” University Relations and Marketing.

[4] “The People’s School: Book Launch,” Oregon State University Press,

[5] “Licensing Agreement Reached on Brilliant New Blue Pigment Discovered by Happy Accident,” Oregon State University Newsroom,

Kali Furman, Resident Scholar

During the month of August, the Resident Scholar Program at the Special Collections & Archives Research Center hosted Kali Furman, a PhD candidate in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies here at Oregon State University. During her term of residence, Furman conducted a case study analysis of the formation of the Difference, Power, and Discrimination program at Oregon State University. The program was instituted by the university in the 1990s to promote diversity and social justice education in response to a string of racist incidents involving Oregon State students. While conducting the case study, Furman focused on what historical, contextual, and institutional factors come together to enable critical social justice education programs to take root and find success in higher education.

Kali Furman at the OSU Leadership Conference

Furman’s presentation of her research, titled “Student Activism and Institutional Change: A History of the Difference, Power, and Discrimination Program,” provided an overview of the social climate on Oregon State’s campus and the surrounding Corvallis community in the 1990s. Furman specifically documented a span of a few days in 1990, when multiple students of color were verbally assaulted by white students, leading to public protests and other forms of unrest on campus.

OSU President John Byrne responded to these high-profile incidents by tasking a commission to investigate them and to provide him with recommendations for moving the university forward. Furman’s research indicates that student leaders were not satisfied with this course of action, and that they demanded that the university implement required coursework related to issues of multiculturalism and diversity. Initially the administration was slow in its adoption of this idea, but by the 1991-92 school year, the Affirming Diversity Course Development Committee had been formed, which ultimately grew into the Difference, Power, and Discrimination program that exists at OSU to this day.

The creation of the program was a major success for student leaders and concerned faculty, but obstacles remained throughout the course of the decade. In particular, budget cuts enacted for the 1997-98 academic year threatened the existence of the program, which again caused protests and dissatisfaction among the student body. This time around, both students and the community rallied around the DPD program, publicly expressing their feelings about the value that the program brought to the student experience and the broader culture of Oregon State University. In response to this outcry, the OSU Provost’s Office provided interim budget support for the program, which finally received more stable funding in 2002.

For nearly thirty years now, the Difference, Power, and Discrimination program at Oregon State University has worked to develop a comprehensive curriculum that promotes diversity and social justice, while addressing institutionalized systems of inequity. A component of the university’s Baccalaureate Core, the DPD program also sponsors guest speakers, film festivals, informal workshops and seminars, and other special events.