by Laura Cray
As a graduate student, I find myself in archival reading rooms with increasing frequency. This summer, however, I jumped the reference desk and worked behind the scenes helping to coordinate the Oregon Tribal Archives Institute. The Oregon Multicultural Archives and OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center hosted the week long institute at the end of August. The Institute brought together members from all nine of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes as well as instruction staff from OSU Libraries, University of Oregon Libraries, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, Benton County Historical Society, and the Oregon Folklife Network for a week of hands on instruction in archival and records management.
After working on various aspects of this project over the last two years, it was rewarding to see it all come together. The main goal of the institute was to address the lack of accessible archival training in Oregon, particularly for the specific cultural needs and concerns of tribal communities. The real value of the gathering, however, was that it gave the tribal representatives and other attendees the opportunity to step back from their daily work and network with people doing similar work in other communities. By the end of the week a seed was planted, and with future gatherings tentatively in the works, that seed will hopefully grow into an active community of Oregon tribal archivists and records managers.
With only a few weeks left until fall term starts back up again, I am really appreciative of the experiences that I gathered working on this institute. I firmly believe that understanding how an archives is structured and how collections are processed will help me to be a better researcher. Further, spending so much time around people as excited about history as I am left me feeling re-charged and ready to dig back into the history of entomology and the many archival collections around the country that will help my dissertation come to life.
*Laura Cray is pursuing a Ph.D. in History of Science at Oregon State University. She is the one of the recipients of the History of Science program’s University Graduate Laurels Block Grant for 2011-2012.