Category Archives: OHS

Trip report: “Local Treasures — Special Collections and Archives in the Portland Area”


Who doesn’t love a guest blogger? Monique Lloyd, who staffs our desk 2 days a week and is a prolific blogger in her own right, sent me this report on her journey to Portland last Friday to attend the “Local Treasures — Special Collections and Archives in the Portland Area” workshop. sadly, I couldn’t go — happily, Monique could and she’s written a wonderful post (yes, with pictures attached).

First off, always the archivist, I have to establish the historical context by answering the question “What was this event?”

Workshop Description: The Portland area is rich in primary documents and historical records. Learn about the wonderful resources available in local archives and special collections, and their availability to the public, in this training at Multnomah County Central Library. Archivists and librarians will be available to talk about their collections.

I had the pleasure of attending this workshop, sponsored by PORTALS (Portland Area Library Association for Continuing Education), and held at the Central Branch of the Multnomah County Library on December 4th. The three hour program was organized by Roberta Richards, and the discussion was moderated by Bob Kingston, who are both librarians at Portland Community College. Presenters from archives, museums, libraries, and special collections discussed their institutions and treasures.

The Oregon Historical Society Research Library

Shawn Gandy informed us that the Library was founded in 1899 and began as a way to collect stories related to Oregon and Oregon Country. She explained how OHS is involved in the Oregon History Project which is online and organized around subject searches and that 100% of their books and 95% of their serials are cataloged online.

The City of Portland Archives and Records Center

Diana Banning shared that the archives began in 1851 beginning with mayoral records and the collection now includes a quarter of a million photographs, many of which are contained in project records.

The Multnomah County Archives

Terry Baxter told us that records were first kept by the County Clerk, mainly on microfilm, and in the late 1970’s began using records management. Most records began in 1915 and there are some large gaps. They are considering using targeted digitization in the future.

Central Library’s John Wilson Special Collections

Jim Carmin described the Special Collections as having six primary collections: the history of the book from mid 13th century to the present; children’s literature, both contemporary and historical; Oregon history; natural history with a focus on ornithology and roses; English literature, and Native American literature. The collection began in 1964, has over 10,000 items and their primary goal is increasing access. They are also in the process of pulling books, as appropriate, from the library collection and putting them in the archives.

Oregon Jewish Museum

Anne Prahl explained that this museum is 20 years and started with volunteers showing exhibits in different locations. In the 1970’s they merged with the Jewish Historical Society. The museum collects art and artifacts that illustrates the story of the Jewish experience in Oregon. They have 350 oral history interviews of Jewish community members going back to 1880. Their focus is on exhibits and they work often with Portland schools. The collection includes photographs, correspondence, scrapbooks, ephemera, diaries, minute books, ledgers, and family papers as well as organizational records.

Oregon State Library

Dave Hegeman began with discussing the OSL in general, stating that it was founded in 1906, and that its mission is to preserve Oregon documents and serve state officials as well as citizens. Their Special Collections include historic Oregon documents and WPA federal worker’s projects including manuscripts, photographs, and local histories. They also house historic photographs, with more than 5,000 online, the Oregon Index which is card index to Portland and Salem newspapers from 1900-1986, as well as maps of Oregon and the Northwest from the 1850’s to the present.

Lewis and Clark College Special Collection

Robyn Ward (for Doug Erickson). Robyn is a Serials Technical Specialist at Lewis and Clark and a fellow Emporia Oregon-7 graduate who earned an Archives Studies Certificate as well as her MLS. She graciously offered to fill in for Doug at the very last minute. Lewis and Clark has a large collection on the Lewis and Clark expedition as well as collections of Pacific Northwest poetry and literature, and the William Stafford archives.


The workshop ended with a discussion about digitizing and the importance of developing a collection policy to determine what to accept and what not to accept. Following the workshop, Jim Carmin invited participants to tour the Central Library’s collection. Special treats included Beatrix Potter’s scarce first illustrated book, the exquisite A Happy Pair, held in only a dozen public collections worldwide, and The Birds of America by John James Audubon.

A wonderful resource page for the workshop is available on the Northwest Central webpage and can be found here.

What’s on the way?


Oregon Is Indian Country Exhibit: April 2, 2009 through April 26, 2009

Learn about Oregon’s Native American heritage with Oregon Is Indian Country, a traveling exhibit produced by the Oregon Historical Society in partnership with Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes.

Oregon Is Indian Country represents a groundbreaking project bringing all nine Oregon tribes together to present information never-before-assembled in one exhibit on contemporary indigenous cultures. Oregon’s Indian traditions will be illuminated by many art forms including native voices, historical artifacts, photographs and more, producing a powerful exhibition. Oregon Is Indian Country is currently scheduled for showing in several museums throughout the northwest, including The Valley Library!

To read more about the exhibit, visit the Oregon Is Indian Country website.

To inquire about hosting the exhibit at your museum or library, call 503.222.1741.

Malheur County: Women in the Fields


We don’t know much about the woman in this picture, apart from the fact that it was taken in 1946 and she is a Japanese American field worker in Ontario, Oregon.

In general, people working the land in Malheur County came from diverse backgrounds. During World War II, when many American farm workers left the farm for the battlefield, OSU Extension agents traveled through Oregon with large-format cameras to document wartime farm workers. We are quite lucky to have their pictures in our Extension and Experiment Station Communications photo collection (P120).

During World War II, the federal government forced West Coast Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans to leave their homes for internment camps or inland states. Because of an acute agricultural labor shortage, Malheur County was the only place in Oregon where Japanese were allowed to live outside of internment camps. So, in May 1942, Malheur County became one of the first counties to recruit Japanese American evacuees for farm work. Some of the evacuees remained in Eastern Oregon after the order excluding them from the West Coast was lifted in January 1945; the 1960 census reported that 1,136 people of Japanese heritage were living in Malheur County.

In the spring issue of Oregon’s Agricultural Progress magazine, the magazine of the OSU Agricultural Experiment Station, Bob Rost wrote an excellent article on Malheur County, featuring a piece about WWII workers.

Prisoners of war, primarily German, worked the fields in Malheur County and were largely responsible for planting and harvesting 7500 acres of potatoes, 3500 acres of onions, and 3000 acres of lettuce in 1945.

Braceros were Mexican citizens who provided most of the international migrant labor in Oregon through a wartime labor agreement between the U.S. and Mexico.

Japanese American citizens who had been forcibly removed from their homes during World War II were welcomed to Ontario by the city’s mayor, Elmo Smith, at a time when other communities around the nation shunned them because of their Japanese ancestry. Most of the displaced Japanese Americans lost their homes and businesses during their internment, but many remained in the Ontario area following the war to rebuild their lives, becoming leaders in the community and the agricultural industry, and giving Malheur County the state’s largest percentage of Japanese Americans.”

There is also a great article on the Oregon History Project page!

Great news for the Oregon Historical Society Library!

Coming on the heels of last month’s announcement that the Historical Society was cutting the equivalent of 15 full-time staff positions, most of those cuts at the research library, the board of trustees for OHS has approved funding for two positions in the library through June.

The library is considered to be a vital resource for anyone researching the history of our state, holding a vast collection of historic photographs, films, manuscripts, and oral histories about Oregon.

To read more, see the OPB news piece “Oregon Historical Society Funded To Keep Research Library Open Through May.”