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Library and museum studies

Winter 2003

New Deal at the library

The Works Progress Administration (WPA), established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 as part of his New Deal reforms, was designed to put Americans back to work at a time when the country was suffering massive unemployment from the Great Depression. Now the results of one WPA program can be found on Washington State University’s Web site.

Historians working for the WPA in the 1930s and 1940s clipped and archived more than 300,000 newspaper articles dealing with issues and events in the Pacific Northwest from the 1890s to 1940. But it was the inspiration of Ingrid Mifflin, system librarian with the WSU Libraries, … » More …

Winter 2006

When trash reveals history

From October 2005 through March 2006, I worked with ephemera in one of the great libraries of the world, the Bodleian at the University of Oxford. A cheeky person might say that “ephemera” is just a fancy term for trash. However, given the passage of time, even trash can become terribly interesting.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ephemera as something that has a transitory existence. Printed ephemera may be items, such as broadsides, chapbooks, bus tickets, menus, playbills, and lists, to name just a few categories, that were not intended survive their immediate use. As most printed ephemera were not saved, what does remain can … » More …

Winter 2001

Two million volumes and counting

IN APRIL 2001 the WSU Libraries celebrated the acquisition of their two millionth volume. At a reception in the Owen Science and Engineering Library, botany and biology faculty, library faculty, and longtime friends gathered to thank Edith, Julia, and the late Adolph Hecht for this volume and many others.

Out of their love of plants and gardens, their appreciation of the importance of sharing information and knowledge, and their allegiance to WSU, Edith and Julia Hecht established the Hecht Family Fund for the Support of the Botanical Sciences prior to Adoph Hecht’s death in December 2000. Professor Hecht was with the WSU Department of Botany … » More …

Winter 2007

WSU's rarest book? Frederick Meserve's Historical Portraits

One of the great joys of my job at Washington State University is the time I spend in the rare books vault in Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections. “Rare books vault” is a romantic way to describe two large, secure, climate-controlled rooms located on the ground floor of the Terrell Library, but it’s fitting, given the treasures held within.

I’ve been aware for years of our 28-volume set of Frederick Hill Meserve’s Historical Portraits, a terrific source for locating photographs of leading Americans of the Civil War era. The collection’s gilt-tooled, crimson, Morocco-leather spines cry out “open me.” In addition to its beauty, the set … » More …

Summer 2002

The Dynamics of Change: A History of the Washington State Library

Who better to write about the Washington State Library than Maryan Reynolds, state librarian from 1951 to 1974? She also played an important role in procuring the State Library building constructed in 1959 on the Capitol grounds in Olympia. The library moved to Tumwater and was opened to the public January 2, 2002 in its new location.

The Dynamics of Change is an original and valuable history of the Washington State Library from its territorial beginnings in 1853 to the late 1990s. Reynolds provides a personal account of the library’s expansion since the 1940s, when she joined the staff.

The author chronicles the development of … » More …

Fall 2002

One hot link: Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections

Archives? Stuffy. Boring. Dusty. Right? Ah, then you haven’t logged on to Washington State University’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC) Website. This site packs in a ton of fascination.

For sheer quirkiness and creativity, for example, nothing beats the Frank S. Matsura Image Collection. A Japanese immigrant who lived in Okanogan, Washington, until his death at age 32 in 1913, Matsura broke all the rules of portrait photography in pursuit of his personal vision. In the process, he revealed the souls of his subjects, whose images speak to us after nearly a century with a sometimes unsettling immediacy. I can only wonder … » More …