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Narcissa Whitman's hair
Winter 2014

Hair and history

On the first day of class this semester, Kristine Leier, a senior majoring in history and anthropology, returned one of the more macabre items owned by the WSU Libraries: a lock of hair from the murdered missionary, Narcissa Whitman.

Hair is not something we at WSU’s Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections still collect. And how it came to be here, and where it has been for the last half century, turned out to be an intriguing story.

Narcissa Whitman’s name is familiar to many in the Northwest. She and her husband, Marcus, established their mission to the Cayuse Indians near Walla Walla in 1836. … » More …

WSC Powwow from 1945
Fall 2012

Chinooks and Powwows at your fingertips

If you’re searching for a photo of a long-lost college friend or you want to dig into the rich history of Washington State, visit the WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collection’s website to browse WSU’s yearbook The Chinook up to 1986 and most issues of The Powwow, the alumni magazine from 1910 to 1969.

All texts are searchable and can be printed, shared online, or downloaded to your own computer. You can also browse the books online and let serendipity guide you to unexpected corners of the University’s history.

“You can find not only pictures of family or friends, but what they did … » More …

Summer 2012

The Collectors

A tale of tenacity, obsession, and ancient texts

The papers were yellowed, fragile, and disorganized, but in December of 1941, on a search for rare books and documents in Mexico, Spanish professor J. Horace Nunemaker found his treasure.

A long-time collector who spent many hours searching for old Spanish texts and papers through booksellers and dealers in Spain and the United States, Nunemaker had just turned his efforts to Mexico City. There he made the find of his life, a collection that dated almost as far back as the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire and contained the business dealings of one central elite family … » More …

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 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 …