Julie Judkins started in October as department head of Special Collections and Archives Research Center (SCARC) at Oregon State University. A native Oregonian, she was previously the assistant department head of special collections with the University of North Texas Libraries and was a non-tenure track faculty librarian, which included scholarship, teaching and service. Judkins takes the helm from interim director Natalia Fernández, who is the curator of the Oregon Multicultural Archives and OSU Queer Archives.

During her time at UNT, Judkins focused on accessibility, translating finding aids and exhibits into Spanish, and increasing the library’s artists’ books collection, adding books focused on LGBTQ+ and artists of color. She also oversaw the acquisition and description of born-digital archival materials, and during COVID helped special collections adapt to a virtual environment for events and outreach

Judkins first became interested in documenting the past when she would receive the American Girls doll catalogue in the mail and pour over the period-accurate details of each historical doll.

“I’ve always been curious about the past and interested in the documentary record,” Judkins said. “I was a big historical fiction junkie growing up.” 

So when she discovered that being an archivist was a career she could pursue, she realized it combined many of her interests, including historical research, public service, teaching and lifelong learning. 

“And, not for nothing, it’s fun to read other people’s letters,” she joked

At UNT, she was especially interested in how the public reacts to and interprets archival materials.

“I was especially proud that we were able to encourage creative uses of our collections. Our grants supported poets using our collections for inspiration, students creating versions of medieval manuscripts, and an interpretive exhibit about a local community group, among other projects,” she said. “I had the privilege of curating the artists’ book collection at UNT. As the curator, I worked with many art students who used the collection to inspire their own bookmaking projects. It was also fascinating to see what they were drawn to and how it filtered into their work.

For Judkins, archives and special collections are a key element of university life.

“The primary sources (for example, diaries, letters, original documents, posters, photographs, home videos) found in special collections have fantastic potential for research and teaching and are an excellent fit with a university curriculum. I have witnessed how much more meaningful it is for students to interact with materials from a certain area, as opposed to just reading about a topic in a textbook,” she said. “Material culture has a tremendous ability to invoke curiosity and to help make connections.”

Judkins is excited about building upon SCARC’s already active role in preserving and sharing Oregon’s history.

“I love working with donors and I’m excited that I’ll have more opportunity to engage in that work as the SCARC department head,” she said. “I want to continue the ongoing excellent work in SCARC related to anti-racism, providing the context and tools to understand the breadth of Oregon’s history. I will also be looking for ways we can continue to fulfill OSU’s land grant mission by making our collections as accessible as possible through continued digitization, collaborations with faculty, transcription and translation, research funding, and beyond.

The Oregon State University Archives was founded in 1961 to acquire and preserve historical materials relating to the university. In 1986, the OSU Libraries Special Collections was established as a repository for the university’s growing rare book and manuscript collections. Building on its cornerstone collection, the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers, the department grew to include collections documenting the life and work of many scientists and historians.

The Special Collections and Archives Research Center was formed in 2011with the merger of the Oregon State University Archives and the OSU Libraries Special Collections. It is located on 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 also has a large digital presence including Oregon Digital, the University History portal, and Linus Pauling Online, among other resources.

~ Theresa Hogue