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Guide to the Special Collections and Archives Research Center

A guide to SCARC services; for additional information, please see our website

SCARC: Its History, Holdings, and Staff

Black and white image of archivist Larry Landis assisting in recovery operations of the Mink Center records after a Animal Liberation Front break in.What is SCARC?
The OSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) stimulates and enriches the research and teaching endeavors of Oregon State University through primary sources. As part of the University's land grant mission, SCARC makes these resources available to the OSU community, Oregonians, and the larger community of scholars and independent researchers. We build distinctive and unique collections in our signature areas: the History of OSU, the History of Science, Natural Resources, Multiculturalism in Oregon, Hops and Brewing History and Rare Books. These collections encompass manuscripts, archives, rare books, oral histories, photographs, ephemera, audio/visual materials, and electronic and born digital records.

The Special Collections and Archives Research Center was formed in 2011 with the merger of the Oregon State University Archives and the OSU Libraries Special Collections. The Oregon State University Archives was founded in 1961 with the intention of acquiring and preserving historical materials relating to the University. The department was expanded in 1966 to include one of the first records management programs of its kind. After several locational and organizational changes, the University Archives joined the University Libraries on September 1, 2000. A quarter century after the University Archives opened its doors, the OSU Libraries Special Collections was established as a repository for the University’s growing rare book and manuscript collections and officially received its first major accession that same year. Over the following twenty-five years, the department grew to include a score of collections documenting the life and work of scientists and historians.

Today, the Special Collections and Archives Research Center spans the 3rd and 5th floors of the Valley Library, housing more than 1,300 archival collections and tens of thousands of rare books and fine bindings. SCARC is committed to promoting public access to the department’s holdings through educational opportunities and community outreach, and continues to support and develop a robust, publicly-available web presence including Oregon Explorer, the University History portal, and Linus Pauling Online, among other resources.

How did you become an archivist? What degree do you have?
People come to the archives from many different paths! Some start in entry-level archives positions and use on-the-job experience to advance in the profession; some pursue an advanced degree with the intention of working in an archives. These days, a Master in Library Science - or Masters in Information Science - with course work in archives and/or records management is becoming the professional standard, especially in academic libraries such as the Valley Library. That being said, employees in SCARC come from a variety of academic backgrounds and we believe that is one of our strengths!

What’s your oldest item?
Our rare book holdings include three ancient cuneiform tablets dating from between 1700 and 2500 BCE. It is unknown when these tablets were donated to the library, but we believe it may have been part of the original Mary McDonald gift.

How do you care for the materials you collect?
The approaches archivists take to preserve / conserve materials are different from collection to collection and item to item, and are predicated on a number of factors, including, but not limited to: the current state of the materials (e.g. are they very delicate? are they at risk for mold?); the cost associated with conservation / preservation measures (specialized enclosures or housing can be expensive to make, both in terms of time and materials); the staff hours required to complete conservation / preservation work; and anticipated frequency of use (e.g. will otherwise stable materials be damaged through frequent use, say, in teaching classes?). At minimum, we try to refolder and rebox materials that are not currently stored in archivally-safe containers into acid-free containers.

We approach the care of rare books differently as well. Depending on the condition, age, and value of the book in question, we may choose to do nothing except handle the book gently and store it properly. Some books, however, are valuable enough to be stored in our secure vault, and some need extra care, such as handmade, specialized enclosures.

Finding and Using SCARC Materials

Do I have to be a student / faculty member / staff member / associated with OSU / resident or Oregon / U.S. citizen to use the archives?
No, and that’s the best thing about SCARC! Any member of the public may use any of our open collections. We see researchers from right here in Corvallis, and halfway around the world - it’s one of the best parts of our jobs!

Isn’t everything digital now? Why isn’t all this online? Black and white image of students using an older model computer. Three students are seated in front of the computer monitor, and two students are standing behind the seated students.
Digitization can be a very time-consuming process. Materials are often fragile and sensitive, so scanners must be careful in handling. Each item must also be cleaned and prepared prior to scanning. Some formats take longer than others to digitize, and additional physical and/or digital processing and correction can add to this time. Assigning metadata, or descriptive information, to each item can also be time-consuming, as additional research is sometimes needed to accurately describe the material. When you add the time it takes to finalize and upload an item, digitization can take multiple hours - and that's for just one item. Like every archival repository, SCARC's collections are comprised of millions of items! We have been digitizing in SCARC since 1999, but have a very long way to go before everything in our holdings is available digitally.

Do I have to use your materials in the reading room? Why can’t I check them out like other materials in the library stacks?
Due to the unique, historical, and/or fragile nature of our materials, they must be used in our Reading Room, and cannot be checked out like other materials from the main part of the Valley Library. We will, however, place any items you're still using on hold for you, and can hold them virtually indefinitely (as long as you come in to use them consistently, generally every week or so). Materials can be repaged for you as well.

How do I find materials related to my topic?
We have a handy-dandy how-to guide that can help with that! This guide includes a section on finding SCARC materials relevant to your topic, whether in our rare books or any of our other collections. It also includes information that will help you navigate your first visit to SCARC, and learn how to use a collection guide and request the materials you find.

How do I schedule an appointment?
To schedule an appointment, you can email us at You can learn more about our by-appointment-only model on the "Engaging in In-person Research" tab in this guide.

Photographs and Citations

A black and white image of the "Campus Seat." Image shows a man sitting on a stone bench in a lower campus field. In the foreground is a contemporary camera; houses can be seen in the distance.

Can I take photographs of the material I look at?
Of course! You're welcome to use your smart phone or a digital camera to capture images of any of the materials of interest to you; we only ask that you not use flash. We do also have a BookEye, overhead scanner that is free for patrons to use in our Reading Room. You can scan materials as TIFFs, JPGs, or PDFs, and email them to yourself or save them to a flash drive. We're happy to provide a tutorial on use of the BookEye, if you'd prefer to go that route.

Can I use the photographs I take, or the materials I scan, in my story?
You may, and we encourage it! We do ask that you complete our Notification of Use form, and cite the source of the materials you use (see below for more information on our preferred citation format).

Can I take pictures in / of the Reading Room?
This is a trickier question to answer. Due to the uniqueness and value of many of our materials, our Reading Room is considered a “secure space,” and we safeguard our materials with a variety of security measures. Several factors affect a request for photographs of our space being granted, including but not limited to: the presence of researchers, the number of photographs you’d like to take, and what you’d like to capture in your photographs. If you think you might like to take a few photographs in and/or of our reading room, we require at least a week’s advance notice, in writing.

How do I cite the materials I use in the archives?
We’ve made this easy! Every collection guide - also known as a finding aid - includes our preferred citation format, for easy reference. This citation format is found in the “Preferred Citation” field towards the top of the collection guide. So, for example, the citation for the Benjamin F. Cook Papers would read:

Benjamin F. Cook Letters (MSS CookBF), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

If you’d like to include a title for the specific item you choose to use, let one of our Public Services Archivists know - they’d be happy to help you identify that information!

Contact Us!

Black and white image of participants in a science education class, 1953. A man stands at a chalkboard, with students seated in front of him at tables.




















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