The Oregon Historical Society exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of Oregon State University’s founding will be permanently available online in an interactive format where it can be viewed by students, alumni, and generations to come.
Spreading over more than 3,000 square feet, “Oregon State University: A Legacy of Transformation” showcased the history, accomplishments and legacy of OSU through documents, artifacts and other displays in the OHS museum from Feb. 10 to Sept. 9, 2018.
Before it closed, more than 42,000 people toured the exhibit at the historical society’s downtown Portland museum as Oregon State’s land grant mission, including education for all, took center stage.
In addition, portions of the exhibit reached an additional 20,000 people through road shows that encompassed county fairs, other community events and regional history museums.
“The exhibit is a celebration of the anniversary of the state designation as a land grant university,” says Larry Landis, archivist and director of OSU’s Special Collections & Archives Research Center.
Congress created the land grant system in 1862 with the passage of the Morrill Act, which gave states federal lands to sell to raise money for higher education. Land grant colleges were forbidden from discriminating on the basis of race, and they quickly became important centers for scientific research as well as education for the masses.
A boon to “A Legacy of Transformation” was OSU’s rich photographic history, thanks to for-credit courses in the then-nascent medium being offered as early as 1890.
“And not just as art,” Landis said. “They were focusing on the scientific applications of photography, too. It was very progressive thinking at the time.”
The vast archives gave rise to a historical photography book, a book of collected history and an online oral history project, as well as being fuel for the Oregon Historical Society exhibit.
Other tales told through the exhibit came from students, alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the university and resulted in 150 of the most iconic and fundamental stories about the university and its accomplishments.
Some of the stories are well known; others had largely flown under the radar of many.
“Many people may not realize that Dick Englebart, an OSU alumnus, invented the computer mouse,” Landis said. “In 1968, he gave a talk at the university about word processing and other ways he envisioned that the computer could impact daily life. Another alumnus invented the personal computer – although his was never commercially viable – five years before Apple.
“There’s also a lot of about athletics,” Landis said. “Multiple baseball national championships; 55 Olympians; Terry Baker, the only college athlete to win the Heisman Trophy and play in a Final Four basketball game in the same year; Dick Fosbury, whose engineering mind changed track and the high jump forever.”
And the exhibit is not just about history – it’s also about where OSU’s students and alumni will take the university, what it will contribute to the state, nation and world, in the years and decades ahead.
“Everything that has happened in the past and is happening now has an impact on what happens in the future,” Landis said. “We as a university could be accused of being too modest. This exhibit gives us the chance to brag a little bit.”