What's Happening in Special Collections and University Archives

Oregon Cultural Trust Grant Awarded to Special Collections: Preserving Historic Newspapers of Oregon’s African American Community

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The PSU Library is pleased to announce it has received a $5000 grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust to preserve and make accessible its historical collection of local Black-owned and published newspapers. The newspapers were donated to Portland State in 2012 by Charlotte Rutherford as part of the Verdell Burdine and Otto G. Rutherford Family Collection. The collection documents over one hundred years of Black community history in Oregon and includes photographs, scrapbooks, organizational records, personal papers, and publications. Its newspapers, dating from the 1910s through the 1980s, are a unique window to the national, regional, political and cultural context of their time. With photos and announcements of local events and ads from businesses, they also capture the vitality of the community over time. While in high demand by researchers, educators and students, regular use puts the original newspapers, many the only known print copies, at great risk. This grant will support the digitization of the collection to preserve it and make it available online. It will also fund the printing of full-size color facsimiles that can be safely shared at community events and in classrooms. The project will be overseen by the Library’s Head of Special Collections.

More Information:

PSU Library Special Collections & University Archives
African American History in Oregon: the Rutherford Family Collection

Spring 2016 Exhibit: The Personal Is Political

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Kafoury Exhibit Poster
Photograph of Gretchen Kafoury by Israel Bayer, Street Roots

PSU Library Special Collections’ spring exhibit features Portland politician and activist Gretchen Kafoury (1942-2015). Through a wide range of materials curated from Kafoury’s papers, the exhibit connects the passion she brought to the causes she fought for to each role she played in Oregon politics, whether organizing local actions or holding elected office.

Committee to Defend the Right to Protest letter 1975Political Pin CollectionHighlights include Kafoury’s activism in the women’s rights movement in Portland and in state government; her efforts locally as County and City Commissioner to establish and support social programs for those in need, particularly women and the homeless; and the part she played in legislating equal rights in Oregon. The exhibit offers an inside look into the workings of both official and unofficial politics through Kafoury’s unflagging dedication, principles, and humor.

Outtake of Multnomah County Board of CommissionersCorinne Rupp, a PSU Honors College student, curated the exhibit as part of her Honors thesis project, which also includes processing part of the Gretchen Kafoury Papers collection to make it available to researchers. PSU Library Special Collections is proud to present Corinne’s work in honor of Gretchen Kafoury’s life and achievements, and as a collaboration of local leadership, student research, and the Library’s unique collections.

The exhibit will be on view in the Library first floor elevator lobby throughout Spring 2016. For more information about the exhibit and the Gretchen Kafoury Papers at PSU Library Special Collections, please contact specialcollections@lists.pdx.edu.

In Honor of Otto and Verdell Rutherford: Congressional Internship Available This Summer

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We are excited to announce the Otto and Verdell Rutherford Congressional Internship, an undergraduate internship opportunity to work with Senator Jeff Merkley and his staff in Washington, DC this summer!

From the Senator’s press release:

“Senator Merkley is offering a $5,000 stipend for a summer internship position, based in his Washington, DC office. The Otto and Verdell Rutherford Summer Congressional Internship provides an opportunity to an undergraduate student from Oregon who seeks to experience public policy-making up close and to further the causes of economic and social justice.

“The ideal candidate is inquisitive, adaptable, rooted in community service, and possesses a keen interest in advancing social and economic justice issues.”

Verdell and Otto Rutherford

This internship is named in honor of Otto and Verdell Rutherford, prominent Portland civil rights leaders whose efforts were key to the success of the passage of Oregon’s Public Accommodations Act in 1953. The Rutherfords held leadership positions in the Portland NAACP and worked with numerous community organizations throughout their lives. Portland State University Library Special Collections is proud to make the Rutherford Family Collection, a rich resource documenting the personal, political, and community life of the Rutherfords and African Americans in Portland during the twentieth century, available to the public.

Applications are being accepted immediately! For more information and how to apply:
The Otto and Verdell Rutherford Congressional Internship

Women in Library History: Jean Black, Portland State University’s First Librarian

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Dr. Jean P. Black in 1953.
Dr. Jean P. Black in 1953.

Dr. Jean P. Black (1903-1992), Portland State University’s first librarian, had already led a national and international academic career before she arrived in Portland in 1946. Born in Duluth, Minnesota, she spent most of her childhood in Europe until she was compelled to return to the United States during World War I. By 1932, she had earned four degrees from three colleges, including a Ph.D. in History from the University of Michigan and a B.S. in Library Science from the University of Washington. She studied in Rome, Italy, for her doctorate and worked as a research librarian for numerous American institutions on her return to the U.S., including Stanford’s Hoover Library and the Iowa Historical Society.

Her desire to return to the West inspired her to contact William Carlson, the director of libraries for the Oregon State System of Higher Education, requesting consideration for placement in any library in the system that might have an appropriate vacancy. Carlson correctly perceived that Black was capable of being an “independent operator” and recommended her to Vanport Extension Center director Stephen Epler, who hired her to establish and direct the library for the brand-new college, which opened in September 1946.

Library Studying 1947
Students in the Vanport Extension Center Library in 1947.

The conditions at VEC quickly proved Dr. Black’s mettle. The college, founded on the site of a federal housing project adjacent to the Columbia River Slough, cobbled its campus together from buildings left after Vanport’s community of wartime workers began to disperse. The Library had its own building—part of a vacated shopping center, which was considered one of the new college’s most pleasant indoor spaces—but had “not a single volume to its name ten days before 1,300 students began their work” on the opening day of fall term. “Almost immediately,” wrote PSU Professor of History Gordon Dodds, Dr. Black “assembled a small reference collection in a twelve-by-fifteen-foot office she shared with the director of student activities; this office served until a more adequate library was opened at the end of the fall term. By the date of the flood that ended Vanport [in May 1948], she had amassed a collection of 3,461 books and 151 periodicals in a thirty-six-hundred-square-foot room.”

Aware that the incoming student body was made up almost entirely of young men returning from military service who had little experience with scholarly reading and research, Dr. Black made it a priority to teach students how to use library collections while responding to their needs to develop Vanport’s library holdings. All this she accomplished virtually single-handedly and as one of the few women on the faculty.

She anticipated that Vanport College and its library would have a brief existence, ending in a few years after its first students took their credits to four-year colleges or graduated into their postwar careers. The city of Vanport itself was planned to be temporary, although it continued to provide much-needed housing. But the Columbia River flood of May 1948 brought the “U on the Slough” and the the rest of Vanport to an early end. All that was left of the library Dr. Black had started from scratch were the books that were checked out.

Dr. Black in the library in "Old Main" (Lincoln Hall), 1951.
Dr. Black in the library in “Old Main” (Lincoln Hall), 1951.

Undaunted, she began again in two more temporary locations before the college, now called Portland State, settled permanently in downtown Portland in 1952. Dr. Black was one of only four professional librarians on staff when the college achieved degree-granting status in 1955. Professor Dodds summed up some of the challenges she faced throughout her career at Portland State: “On the eve of four-year status, librarian Jean Black pointed out three great problems that harassed library patrons: there were too few trained librarians; there was inadequate storage for periodicals and inadequate funds to bind them; and there was crowding in the reading room, where students maneuvered for passage between shelves and tables (‘a heterogeneous lot, battle-scarred and ugly’). Black obtained no secretarial help until fall 1954, but received support in the form of the first library faculty committee, which relieved her of the burden of selecting all the books herself.” Dr. Black also oversaw the collection’s reclassification from the Dewey system to the Library of Congress in 1958.

The new lobby of the Portland State College Library in 1960.
The new lobby of the Portland State College Library in 1960.

By 1960, Portland State College opened its first “modern” library building specifically designed for the purpose. Rising enrollment and expanding academic programs set a fast pace for  librarians and library staff, as Dr. Black observed in the early 1960s: “You have to catch on quickly and be ready to take on something new at a moment’s notice to keep pace here.” The busy Library quickly outgrew its container, which also shared walls with the noisy and bustling College Center.

In 1967, Dr. Black participated in the design and groundbreaking for the first phase of Portland State’s current library building, which was still undersized for its staff and collections when it opened in 1968—the Library’s Technical Services, Audio-Visual, and Reserves departments moved gradually over the years after Dr. Black’s retirement in 1969. Her successor as head of the Library recalled, “It was not easy, following Jean Black. She was a legend already. With good reason…she created a wonderful library out of nothing against all odds.”

At her retirement in 1969.
Dr. Black celebrating her retirement in 1969.

Dr. Black is best remembered for her dogged success in creating and maintaining an academic library through repeated relocation and budget, space, and staffing constraints, but equally important is her legacy of support for the status of librarians as faculty. In a 1961 memorandum, she urged Portland State’s subject librarians to keep records of “specific instances of what constitutes teaching in the Library,” to prove that librarians gave necessary instructional support to students beyond what departmental faculty could provide. “We know that what we do is just as important to student learning as their end, for if the student stopped with lectures, laboratory and text book he’d have a most meagre education, while with a good library and librarians he could give himself a very sound education if he had the gumption to do it.”

March is Women’s History Month! Women of Library History 2016 is a project of the American Library Association Feminist Task Force honoring women in librarianship. Portland State University Archives is proud to take part! Follow Women of Library History throughout March for more stories of women’s contributions to their communities through libraries.


Black, Jean Phyllis. Memorandum to Library Faculty, November 2, 1961. Library History Collection, Portland State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Portland, Oregon.

Black, Jean Phyllis. Interview with Karen Wingo, May 7, 1980, transcript. Library History Collection, Portland State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Portland, Oregon.

Black, Jean Phyllis. “Vanport Starts Them to College.” Library Journal, December 1, 1947.

Dodds, Gordon B. The College that Would Not Die: The First Fifty Years of Portland State University, 1946-1996. Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 2000.

Portland State University Library. Portland State University Archives Digital Gallery. http://archives.pdx.edu/digitalgallery

Rodgers, Frank. Interview with Sharon Elteto and Kristen Kern, [2006?], transcript. Library History Collection, Portland State University Library Special Collections and University Archives, Portland, Oregon.

University of Michigan. “News from the Classes.” The Michigan Alumnus 45 (1939). https://books.google.com/books?id=ACNYAAAAMAAJ Accessed February 2016.

Library Participates in SEI Black History Month Celebration

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PSU Library Special Collections is pleased to participate in the Black History Month celebration at the Center for Self Enhancement in North Portland, run by Self Enhancement, Inc (SEI). On display are exhibits from PSU Library, the Oregon Black Pioneers, and the World Arts Foundation.

SEIexhibit2PSU Library Special Collections has archival collections, digital exhibits, oral histories, and online resources dedicated to African American history in Oregon and nationwide. Our contributions to the exhibit include materials from the Verdell Burdine and Otto G. Rutherford Family Collection as well as the Senator Avel L. Gordly Papers.

According to SEI, “SEI Academy students are studying the exhibits and incorporating their research into their creative writing classes.”

SEI is a nonprofit organization supporting urban youth in Portland. They run a middle school in North Portland and serve at-risk students from throughout North and Northeast Portland.

Learn more about the Black History Month exhibit at SEI.

Learn more about African American history collections in PSU Library Special Collections.

Winter 2016 Exhibit Highlights 40th Anniversary of Women’s Studies at PSU

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Image from 1976 Women's Studies Course Catalog
Image from cover of PSU Women’s Studies Course Catalog, 1976

PSU Library Special Collections and University Archives is honored to present its Winter 2016 exhibit, Ever Forward: Forty Years of Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Portland State University. The history of WGSS at PSU is a story of the energy and passion of generations of students and faculty dedicated to the foundation, survival, and growth of feminist and queer scholarship at Portland State. The exhibit celebrates that history through selections from University Archives’ Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Collection.

Women’s Studies at Portland State originated with the work of students, faculty, and community volunteers. The first feminist-oriented group at PSU, “University Women,” organized in late 1969 to work toward women-centered goals such as free childcare on campus, and by the following year, University Women had formed the Women’s Union (today’s Women’s Resource Center) and were addressing wider issues concerning the status of women. As the Women’s Union evolved to become a community-wide advocacy and resource center, women working with the center and students and faculty that had formed an ad hoc committee known as the Women’s Studies Institute collaborated to create the Women’s Studies Union (WSU) to examine, envision, and enact equitable and inclusive instruction and hiring and to bring feminist academics to Portland State. The WSU founded the office that became the Women’s Studies Department.

Students meeting in the Women's Union in Smith Center, 1972.During the 1971-72 academic year, over four hundred students enrolled in courses offered through the WSU, which were taught by faculty across academic departments. In April 1973, the Women’s Union hosted a public Hearing on Sexism to call attention to inequity and discrimination in hiring and in the curriculum, and to build a case for an academic program in Women’s Studies. As examples of testimony demonstrate, women from all areas of the campus community put their personal experiences on the record, while academics and students worked together on a program proposal that showed how a university education and administration which perpetuated gender inequality failed to meet the needs of both the institution and society. Women’s Studies at PSU was approved by the Oregon State Board of Higher Education as a certificate program in 1976.

Book sale group shotThe program and its allies stood up to the slow process of accreditation and to profound funding challenges during its first two decades. In the early 1980s, when the certificate program was threatened by proposed budget cuts, Women’s Studies students mobilized demonstrations and a letter-writing campaign that enlisted support from legislators and community organizations around the state. Their efforts provoked budget revisions that protected the program, but significantly reduced its allotment. To counter these losses, throughout the 1980s students, faculty and community partners held bake sales and fundraising drives to sustain the department until it was slowly refunded by the University as the program continued to expand into the 1990s. Women’s Studies was finally approved as an undergraduate minor in 1987 and a major in 1998, nearly thirty years after the formation of the PSU Women’s Union.

8th_annual_poster_croppedAs the program has grown, its students have worked with faculty to ensure that course offerings and curriculum reflect their priorities and are adaptable to evolving academic and political discourses of power and identity. In 2008, after several years of research, curriculum development, proposal drafting, and fundraising conducted by volunteer students and faculty, PSU Women’s Studies offered a minor in Sexuality, Gender and Queer Studies, the first program of its kind in Oregon.

In the spirit of the history of the program, Women’s Studies hosted a series of public conversations with students, faculty, staff, and community members to consider a change in nomenclature which would better reflect the purview and philosophy of the program. In 2010, Women’s Studies at PSU became Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and was also approved to become an academic department. Current and upcoming developments in WGSS demonstrate the vibrancy and future of feminist and queer activism and scholarship at PSU.

Grads 2015
Ever Forward
was curated by Rhiannon Cates, PSU Library Special Collections staff and WGSS alumna. The exhibit will be on display through Winter 2016 in the first floor elevator lobby of the PSU Library.

Introducing the “Traveling Scriptorium”

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Historical model of a medieval binding.
Historical model of a medieval binding.

What does an etched cuneiform tablet have in common with a sixteenth-century printed page? What natural materials were used to make inks and paints during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? How is parchment made into a writing surface? How has the form of the book changed and stayed the same for almost two thousand years?

Replica of an early codex, circa 250 CE.
Replica of an early codex, circa 250 CE.

PSU faculty and students in the fields of art history, medieval history, book publishing, and graphic arts now have a new and engaging way to answer these and other inquiries about the material history of manuscripts with PSU Library Special Collections‘ “Traveling Scriptorium.”

Anne McClanan, Professor of Art History, was inspired by Yale University’s Traveling Scriptorium to create a hands-on resource at Portland State for teaching the art, culture, and science of medieval manuscripts and books. Like Yale’s project, PSU’s Traveling Scriptorium was designed to be portable for classroom use.

Art History student Normandie Holmes and PSU Library Special Collections collaborated with Professor McClanan to research and source historical book models, raw and powder pigments, oak galls and iron gall ink, parchment and vellum, and original examples of fifteenth-century manuscripts and printing for our own teaching kit. The kit is also packed with concise information on how manuscripts were produced by scribes and bookbinders, from pigments and parchment to calligraphy and gilding.

Text block sewn on split leather cords.

This teaching resource is available to Portland State faculty for three-day checkout directly from Special Collections, and is available to students by appointment. Please contact us at specialcollections@lists.pdx.edu for more information. For more on manuscripts in PSU Library Special Collections, please visit our Rare Books and Manuscripts page.

Pigments, azurite, lazurite, and small manuscript leaf.Madder Lake dye and madder roots.Oak gall nuts used for making iron gall ink.Scribe Jean Mielot, Brussels, circa 1450.

Meet Don Carlo, Vet and Editor of Original Vanport Student Newspaper

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Before Portland State was a university or college, it was the Vanport Extension Center (VEC), founded in 1946 to serve veterans returning from World War II and wanting to take advantage of the G.I. Bill. The first classes were offered in the city of Vanport, Oregon (now the site of Delta Park and the Portland International Speedway) in summer of 1946.

photo of Don Carlo in 1947The first edition of the student newspaper, the Vet’s Extended, was published just a few months later, on November 15, 1946. Headlines in Volume I, Issue 1 included “Dr. Epler Greets Students” and “Student Government Inaugurated Friday.”

The first editor of the student newspaper, Don Carlo (at right), was a remarkable man. Carlo started writing news stories as a child and worked on the student newspaper at Washington High School in Southeast Portland. In 1940, following high school graduation, he enrolled in the journalism program at the University of Oregon, but left after a year to work for the San Francisco Chronicle.

He was then called up to serve in the army, where he established and edited post newspapers. Carlo lost his vision in an accident in the army in about early 1945. He then attended the army school for the blind, based at a hospital in Connecticut, where he learned Braille in just a few months and started a newspaper for the hospital with an accompanying Braille edition.

By summer of 1946, Don Carlo was 24 and enrolled at the Vanport Extension Center back home in Oregon. An article in the Sunday Journal Pacific Parade Magazine says Carlo was able to live and study independently in Vanport: “Bed-making, cooking when he is inclined to eat at home, dusting, sweeping up, none of the household chores of a bachelor bother Carlo.” He carried a Braille typewriter to classes and listened to news and novels on record.

front page of Vet's ExtendedHe also founded and ran the student newspaper. According to the Pacific Parade,

“Editorial work of Veterans Extended, the Vanport student body paper, is done at Carlo’s apartment where the staff congregates several evenings a week. Carlo writes many of the stories and editorials, offers suggestions as others of the newspaper staff read stories to him for editing, and in general directs the paper’s editorial policies.”

And during his free time? He golfed! “On the putting green he has a golfing companion stand over the cup and talk to him so that he putts toward a voice. He shoots nine holes in 55,” wrote the Pacific Parade.

Just a few months after the first issue of the Vet’s Extended, the newspaper’s name was changed to The Vanguard, which remains the flagship student paper at Portland State today.

Don Carlo was remarkable in 1946 and remains so today. Thanks to Don Carlo and the many veterans throughout the years at Vanport Extension Center, Portland State College, and Portland State University.

Learn more about the early days of Portland State University at the Vanport Extension Center in a digital exhibit, The Vanport Extension Center, 1946-48, from PSU Library University Archives.
1946 article about Don Carlo


Dodds, Gordon B. The College That Would Not Die: The First Fifty Years of Portland State University, 1946-1996. Portland, OR: Oregon Historical Society Press, 2000.

From the University Archives: the Vanport Extension Center, 1946-48

Hammit, Don R. “Blind Veteran Doing O.K. at Vanport College,” Sunday Journal Pacific Parade Magazine, December 29, 1946.

Historical Note, Vanport Extension Center (1946-1955)

Black United Front Oral History & Digital Exhibit

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Portland State University Library Special Collections & University Archives announces a new oral history project focusing on the Portland Black United Front.

Avel_Gordly_Poster_Black_United_Front_Convention -- Instagram 04-24-2015
A poster for the Portland Black United Front convention in 1981, from the Avel L. Gordly Papers.

Portland State University public history students conducted the interviews in this oral history project in 2010. In winter 2015, with Professor Patricia Schechter, a second cohort of students reviewed the recordings and transcripts of the oral histories and created a digital exhibit containing audio and written excerpts from the interviews, photographs, and historical and biographical information.

The interviews focus on African American activists in Portland who led or supported the work of the Black United Front. The Portland BUF chapter was a branch organization of a national group founded and based in Chicago, which pressed forward a civil rights agenda during the 1980s. The BUF took on local issues from the earlier mid-century movement such as school desegregation and police brutality, as well as global ones like the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

Notable accomplishments of the Portland BUF involved education, and many of the narrators interviewed for this project highlight the transformational power of education in their lives as students, teachers, and advocates.

The online collection contains full transcripts of the interviews given in 2010.

Portland Black United Front Oral History Project Digital Exhibit

Portland Black United Front Oral History Project Interview Transcripts
images from black united front collection

University Archives Presents: The Portland State Library in 1963

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Returning overdue books to the library is certainly an act of good conscience, but it’s not usually newsworthy–unless the books were checked out over fifty years ago!

A PSU Library patron recently made news by kindly returning two books that had been checked out in 1963. The campus history experts here at Portland State University Archives got to thinking about what using the Portland State library was like in 1963, and how much the library’s building, catalog, contents, and services have changed–and stayed consistent–over the past fifty-two years.

In 1963, the core of the Portland State College campus around the Park Blocks was in the early stages of growth. From 1952 until 1957, the college’s first and oldest downtown building, Old Main (now Lincoln Hall) was the PSC campus, and contained the library, the cafeteria, the gymnasium, the science laboratories, the performance and lecture halls, and the classrooms. The Library in Old Main had a capacity of less than 50,000 books and could seat about 175 students! In 1960, PSC opened its new Library on the corner of SW Broadway and Montgomery streets (the northeast corner of today’s Smith Memorial Student Union). A brochure advertising its opening in October 1960 celebrated the new library’s size (130,000-volume capacity), modern design, technology (microfiche, reel-to-reel film and audiotape), and open-stacks design arranged by subject.

1960 Library Brochure back

The Library lobby and checkout area opened onto Broadway, and a large study hall also filled the first floor. It was a popular place to study and the collection was heavily used; the 1,000,000th patron, student Phil Rothrock, was celebrated in 1962.

Library study hall circa 1963
Library study hall circa 1963
Library lobby in 1960
Library lobby in 1960

The entire library catalog of books, periodicals, films, records, tapes, and fiche, was meticulously created and maintained on hand-typed, hand-processed catalog cards. Checkout records were also kept and revised manually on cards stamped with due dates.

One millionth library patron in 1962
The library’s 1,000,000th patron
Library staff and card catalog
Library staff member Helen Abbott assisting students with the card catalog in 1964

Reference and service desks were located on each of the Library’s floors. The basement (currently the home of the OIT Help Desk) housed A/V Services and part of the library’s technical processing staff; the second, third, and fourth floors (now the mezzanine levels of SMSU) held the circulating book collections, periodicals, and readers’ guides. Subject librarians, like Science Librarian Jolene Kuhns (pictured), staffed reference desks on each floor.

Catalogers in the 1960s
Part of the Cataloging department at work in the mid-sixties
Science Librarian Jolene Kuhns at the third-floor reference desk
Science Librarian Jolene Kuhns at the third-floor reference desk

Throughout the early and mid-1960s, Portland State College continued to expand. The Smith Memorial Student Union (then known as the College Center, which occupied the Park Avenue side of the building shared with the Library) received a half-block addition. Science I and the Peter Stott Center were built to meet desperate needs for laboratory and gymnasium facilities long outgrown in Old Main. A new freeway, the I-405, was constructed, bringing more students to Portland State College’s commuter campus. And the Library soon outgrew its early sixties location on Broadway. In 1967, ground was broken at the Library’s current location on Park Avenue, which in 1965 was still a partially residential street.

SW Park and Hall Streets in 1965
The tree in the upper right corner is the copper beech which stands in front of the library today.

All of this is just a brief snapshot of how the Library building, collections, services, and technology have changed since those recently-returned books were checked out in 1963. For more historic images of the Portland State campus, faculty, activities, and athletics, please visit Portland State University Archives’ Digital Gallery–and thank you for always returning the materials you borrow!