Tag Archives: SCARC

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

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: https://oregonstate.edu/150/events.

[2]“An Oral History of OSU,” Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University, http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/oh150/,

[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, http://osupress.oregonstate.edu/peoples-school-book-launch.

[5] “Licensing Agreement Reached on Brilliant New Blue Pigment Discovered by Happy Accident,” Oregon State University Newsroom, https://today.oregonstate.edu/archives/2015/may/licensing-agreement-reached-brilliant-new-blue-pigment-discovered-happy-accident.