Ask an Archivist!

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Don’t try and kid me. You know that you’ve always wanted to ask an archivist something. Probably because you know that archivists know things. A lot of people have this misconception that archivists like to hide in some dark, dusty basement hording a pile of records — sort of like Gollum and his precious.

Not true, gentle readers! Archivists are lively, congenial, and desire more than anything else to connect people with things that they want or need to know. It might be how best to care for that box of grandma’s photos you found in her attic. Or where to look for information about estuary health. Or how to know whether your great uncle really did live at the Poor Farm.

To ease your conversation, there will be an Ask an Archivist table at the Central Library location of the Archives Crawl on October 18th. Between noon and 2pm you can sign up to chat with either Terry Baxter or Jenny Mundy of the Multnomah County Archives about whatever archives questions are keeping you up at night. They’ll have basic preservation supplies on hand and decades of experience to share with you.

Inserting Yourself into History

One of the great values to archives is their ability to extend the arc of human comprehension. We have such short lifespans. If we try to understand our present world — both individual and common — based solely on our own experience, we often miss all of the lives and stories that have brought us to this point.

Never fear, though! The Archives Crawl will provide you with an opportunity view past and present at the same time. Whether you start at Central Library, Oregon Historical Society, or Portland Archives and Records Center, make sure and pick up a set of the postcards below. While walking from venue to venue, postcards in hand, visitors are invited to revisit those locations as they “crawl,” taking photographs and uploading them to social media with the hashtag #ArchivesCrawl.

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All Archives, All the Time

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As much as we Portlanders like to think that the world ends somewhere around Powell to the south, maybe Foster, in our hearts we know that isn’t true. Oregon encompasses so much more. So although we are having a fancy Archives Crawl here in Portland on the 18th (that’s this coming Saturday!), its not the only fun event happening this week.

In celebration of Oregon Archives Month, the Department of History at Western Oregon University (WOU) will host an “Archives, Museums, and Historical Societies Exposition” from 10:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m., Oct. 15 on the second floor of the Werner University Center on the WOU campus, 345 N. Monmouth Ave., Monmouth (map and directions). The event will feature repositories from throughout the mid-Willamette Valley, including the Albany Regional Museum, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Independence Heritage Society, Keizer Heritage Center, North Santiam Historical Society, Oregon State University Special Collections, Polk County Museum, State of Oregon Archives, Western Oregon University Archives, Willamette University Archives, and the Willamette Heritage Center. For further information, email Bob Reinhardt.

Five Reasons Why You Need to Get to the 2014 Oregon Archives Crawl

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Like anyone needs a reason to hang out with archivists. But in case you’ve been sitting on the fence about the best way to spend October 18th, from 10 am to 3pm, these should get you out to the Oregon Archives Crawl.

It’s a once a year experience! Unlike pub crawls, which you can do in Portland every day, evening, and night of the year, the Oregon Archives Crawl only happens once a year, during Archives Month. But like a pub crawl, The Oregon Archives crawl will fill you with happiness and leave your head swimming with knowledge.

The beauty of the south park blocks in Fall! Whether cloudy or sunny, roaming Portland’s arts and culture district, visiting archivists from all over the state, and snapping now-and-then photographs to share with friends sounds like a lot more fun than sitting in your living room fretting about whether the Ducks’ late game will result in loss number two. Plus you can pick up some goodies at the Portland Farmer’s Market as you travel from venue to venue.

Archivists are the bacon of the heritage world*. They sizzle, they pair well with almost anything, and they smell great. Well, maybe not the last one; but by making all of the diverse, unique, and fascinating collections they maintain available to you, they do spice up all of our lives. Just like bacon.

The stuff! Whether it’s Geoff Wexler’s perceptive and beautiful exhibit Worth/Worthless: Valuing our Collections or century old police dockets from the City of Portland Archives or some Henry Dosch photographs from 1905, our host institutions are just the start of your journey through the wildly varied archives you’ll see and hear about. And they’re right here in Oregon!

It feeds the head and the heart. And I’m not just talking about the artifacts that you can see and hold from the OHSU Archives table. Archives have the power to provide us with information that we need to understand why the present exists as it does and how we got to this point. Archives also have the power to connect us to past and alternate human experience. The archivists you’ll meet at the crawl are both knowledgeable and passionate about archives. Come catch the magic!

* archivists are not literally bacon. So vegans and other non-baconeers need not fear. For you, archivists are the seitan of the heritage world.

Door Number Three: Oregon Historical Society

OHS Museum 207 2nd Street.  George Himes next to post.

The Oregon Historical Society (OHS) is the subject of this third and final post about the host venues for the 2014 Oregon Archives Crawl. OHS was established in 1899 and has operated in downtown Portland continuously since then. It maintains one of the most extensive collections of historical material about Oregon, including artifacts, books, and archives.

Whether you start here, end here, or sandwich your trip to OHS between Central Library and Portland Archives and Records Center, make sure that you visit on October 18th between 10am and 3pm.

The Oregon Historical Society will host ten archives in our Pavilion and will offer free admission to everyone throughout the day. Most of the galleries will be open, with exhibits including Worth/Worthless: Valuing our Collections, curated by Geoff Wexler; and Plastics Unwrapped, which will travel to us from the Burke Museum and will open just days before the Archives Crawl.

Visitors to OHS will also be able to take a behind-the-scenes tour of our Research Library, have their passports stamped, and collect postcards showing historic views of places between the Crawl locations. With their postcards in hand, visitors are invited to revisit those locations as they “crawl,” taking photographs and uploading them to social media with the hashtag #ArchivesCrawl.

The following organizations will be located at OHS:

Door Number Two: Multnomah County Central Library

Construction of Central Library in 1913

Construction of Central Library in 1913

The second installment in the series of descriptions of host venues is about Central Library. Sometimes called Portland’s Crown Jewell, Central Library was built in 1913 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It serves as the hub of the Multnomah County Library system, the second busiest system in the United States.

Whether you start here on October 18th or arrive after a short walk from either of the other two Archives Crawl locations, visitors to the Central Library location have all sorts of options. The John Wilson Special Collections room will be open for tours from 10 until 3. These tours, led by librarian Jim Carmin, are a treat not to be missed.

If you’ve ever wanted to ask a question about archives (and who hasn’t, really) you won’t want to miss the Ask an Archivist table. Whether it’s a broad question about why archives matter or a practical question about preserving grandma’s photographs, drop by and get some expert knowledge.

And finally, you can visit with representatives of ten different organizations that create, manage, or use archives and find out about their collections and missions. The organizations at Central Library are:

Door Number One: City of Portland Archives and Records Center

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View from the PARC reference room.

With the Oregon Archives Crawl just around the corner, I thought it might be nice to get a little look at each of the three host venues and what you can expect to see at each one. Make sure and look here for descriptions of the other two venues this week and visit all three on October 18th.

Portland Archives and Records Center (PARC) is located in the heart of the Portland State University campus in downtown Portland. Its Magnificent Seven provides a full suite of archives and records services to both City of Portland employees and the research public.

On October 18th, from 10am  until 3pm, the PARC host site will highlight collections covering aspects of the diverse communities within Oregon.  In addition to table top exhibits, activities will include facility tours; talks focused on projects, research, activities, and collections. Door prize drawings will be held throughout the day.  Refreshments and cookies will be available.

The organizations participating at PARC include: