OOS 50-7
Untangling the tangled bank: Locating, preserving and interpreting the archival history of the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest

Wednesday, August 12, 2015: 3:40 PM
317, Baltimore Convention Center
Samuel Schmieding, Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
Background/Question/Methods: The H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest (HJA) evolved over its 67-year-history from a traditional U.S. Forest Service experimental forest to a noted Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site that has greatly influenced forestry, ecosystem science, public policy, and land management.  This history produced an enormous amount of historical “detritus” – logbooks, field notebooks, memos, letters, reports, proposals, manuscripts, photos, maps, computer data, instrumentation records, and audio-video recordings – that were dispersed, disorganized, and unusable for scientific or administrative purposes.  Motivated by concerns over historical preservation and knowledge about what an organized collection could mean for the HJA’s scientific and programmatic needs, we located and inventoried the Andrews’ historical materials and are working with the Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) to create a professional research collection at their facility.  Methods include old-fashioned detective work, locating materials at U.S. Forest Service Forest facilities, the Andrews Forest, Oregon State University, and in personal files, creating an inventory with sufficient information to help archivists process the collection and for researchers to use during the curation process, all while carefully working with old, often fragile records.  The work also involved planning with stakeholders about disposition of materials that are multi-institutional in origin.

Results/Conclusions: Results are creation of the collection, compilation of an interim category/subject guide, scanning of important materials, and continuation of oral history collections, a corollary to the archival project. This large cache of materials represents the entire history of the H.J. Andrews, as U.S. Forest Service experimental forest and IBP/LTER site, illustrating how it became a leader in forestry, ecosystem science, environmental education, interdisciplinary programming, data management, and inter-institutional collaboration.  Future benefits from the archives will be tremendous, as researchers can analyze historical materials from the HJA’s diverse programs, looking at original data, methods and observations, to check, re-calibrate, or modify theories and results.  The collection will also help proposal/funding processes, as PIs and administrators can easily reference an organized past, and having the collection in a prominent university archive will aid research on the history of science, ecosystem science, the Pacific Northwest, forestry, and land management. We also believe this project can be a model for ecosystem science, especially long-term, place-based research, demonstrating how historical preservation and archiving are essential for long-term scientific research programs and sites (LTER/ILTER and otherwise), and which can help them remain successful long after their founding generations have moved on.