OSU helps Tribes archive their history

10.01.2012 Ron Karten Culture, History, State government

By Theresa Hogue
Oregon State University
CORVALLIS - Oregon State University Libraries is helping Oregon's nine federally recognized Tribes preserve some of their most important historical records.
In August, OSU Libraries hosted the Oregon Tribal Archives Institute, a project created through a two-year grant from the Oregon State Library that focused on providing in-depth archives and records management training for Oregon's nine Tribal nations.
The institute was designed to help the Tribes establish an archives and records management program, or further an existing program. It also provided Tribal representatives with a chance to collaborate and identify ways to work together as they move to organize, preserve and make accessible to their Tribal communities key parts of their history.
David Lewis, Tribal Museum curator for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, participated in the five-day workshop. He said the Grand Ronde community is intimately involved in preserving its history, and many Tribal Elders assist by identify people in archival photographs or donate family papers for archiving. The archives are maintained by Tribal employees who are motivated by an interest in maintaining the Tribe's history.
"The training was a way that we at Grand Ronde could increase the skills of the staff and help them do their work better and more efficiently," Lewis said. "The institute gave them ideas and introduced them to a network of similar people and we will need these as we move into developing a museum at the Tribe. The training was amazing, better than I had hoped."
Oregon State already has a history of working with the preservation of multicultural archives from around the state. OSU Libraries houses the Oregon Multicultural Archives, which assists in preserving the histories and sharing the stories that document Oregon's African American, Asian American, Latino and Native American communities, as well as advancing scholarship in ethnic studies and racial diversity both on the Oregon State campus as well as statewide and regionally.
"This institute was a unique opportunity to bring together Tribal culture keepers from both records management and archival programs," said Natalia Fernandez, Oregon Multicultural Librarian with OSU Libraries. "While one of the main goals of the institute was to provide an opportunity for professional development, our other, and perhaps more important goal was to provide an opportunity for networking and community building."
The training included archival facility planning; disaster preparedness planning and recovery; best practices for proper care and storage of archival materials; audio/visual collections; electronic records management; records retention and collection development policies, access levels to Tribal records available online; grant writing; social media; professional development networks and project collaboration.
The group also took field trips to the Siletz and Grand Ronde communities and the Benton County Museum to look at their archival and museum facilities.
"To have participants from all nine Tribes in Oregon really tells me that there is a need," Lewis said, "and we have done the right thing to pursue this project."
Oregon State Librarian MaryKay Dahlgreen said she appreciated the collaborative effort of the institute. "I was delighted with the level of excitement and commitment I got from the group after a very full week of intense work," she said.
Institute attendees included members from all nine Tribal nations. Institute coordinators and facilitators were from the OSU Libraries, the University of Oregon Libraries, The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian, Benton County Historical Society and the Oregon Folklife Network.