UW News

October 8, 2009

A growing history: Preserving a century of Washington state agriculture literature

After a four-year process, the UW Libraries has completed a project to identify and preserve the most important Washington state agriculture, forestry and fishery literature published between 1820 and 1945.

The UW effort is part of a United States Agriculture Information Network (USAIN) project, Preserving the History of U.S. Agriculture and Rural Life Grant Project. For information on USAIN’s project, visit online here.

To identify all the relevant titles for preservation, the project created bibliographies that are now available online and consist of 2,323 entries. See them here.

Though the bibliographies are a useful resource on their own, their original purpose was to help rank which titles were most important for preservation. A panel of 10 scholars and subject experts was responsible for selecting the titles to be preserved since not all of the titles compiled for the bibliographies could be filmed. In the end, 129 of the journals and books were preserved. Pacific Fisherman, Timberman, Ranch, Better Fruit and Washington Farmer are some of the publications that help make up over 315,000 select pages.

Stephanie Lamson, project manager for the UW portion, said, “It was an interesting process because every expert ranked the titles differently, sometimes depending on their own subject expertise. But in the end there was definitely a consensus as to which materials were most important to preserve.”

Much time was spent searching for every issue of the publications, which involved piecing together parts from various organizations. As a result, users are now able to find the entirety of each publication in one place.

“One thing that makes this project different from most preservation projects is the effort to preserve the most important titles regardless of what institution owns them,” said Lamson. “This also made the project more challenging to complete. We had to make a lot of special arrangements to borrow materials from other institutions.”

The microfilm includes publications not only from the UW’s collection, but also from other institutions including Washington State University.

The microfilm allows researchers to see each page as it originally looked because both the textual and visual elements are retained. While looking through the microfilm, users may notice that often the selected titles are filled with accompanying illustrations. There are pages of black and white images: fish, fruit, lumber, machinery, tools, workers growing and harvesting crops. The original illustrations help users better understand the agriculture, forestry and fishery of the time.

The microfilm is now available for viewing on the ground floor of Suzzallo Library in Microform and Newspaper Collections. For hours click here.