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Our Collections

The holdings of Special Collections and the University Archives include:


Rare books and manuscripts


Portland State University’s historical records


Archival collections

  • Search the finding aids for over 32 unique archival collections open for research
  • Browse brief descriptions of our collections below:


John Eliot Allen Papers, 1923-1994

This collection includes Oregon geologist John Eliot Allen's correspondence, course and class materials and syllabi, descriptions of minerals, date books, diaries, field notes, photographs, publications, and reports.  Allen was a professor with Portland State from 1956 to 1974.  He was a specialist on the geology of the Columbia River Gorge and the author of a column on local geography for the Oregonian.

Charles White Americanism Collection, 1940s-1980s

The Americanism Collection, as established by PSU History professor, Charles White, was to document political groups promulgating the views of the extreme right.  It is comprised of books, leaflets, magazines, newsletters, newspapers, pamphlets, and mailings from a variety of far right political organizations throughout the country from the mid- to late 1950s until the early 1980s.

Ernie Bonner Papers, 1919-2003

Ernie Bonner Oral History Collection, 1994-2004

Ernie Bonner came to Portland in 1973 and served as the city's planning chief. He also served as a METRO councilor, as president of Sunlight Energy Systems, as a distributor of solar equipment, and then as energy conservation manager for the Bonneville Power Administration. More recently, he served on the Portland Planning Commission.  The Ernie Bonner Papers includes notes, clippings, and reports concerning housing, waterfront development, the downtown Park Blocks, the east bank of the Willamette River, city hall, Portland Development Commission projects, and other documents relevant to Portland planning policies and history.   The Ernie Bonner Oral History Collection includes 80 oral histories, interviews and speeches completed or collected by Bonner for the Planning Portland in the Seventies project.

Chinook Jargon Collection, 1863-2004

Comprised primarily of dictionaries, pamphlets, books, and journal articles documenting the etymology, grammar, history, origins, and use of the Chinook Jargon trade language, this collection was brought together by Charles W. Bushaw.  It also includes a comprehensive vocabulary compiled by Bushaw using “all Sources, However Questionable, circa 1954-1958.”

Elsa Coleman Papers, 1939-2006

These papers document Elsa Coleman’s career as a citizen activist and public servant, including her work with the citizen’s group Sensible Transportation Options for People (STOP), which was committed to preventing the Mt. Hood Freeway proposed to run through the center of Southeast Portland.  She also played significant roles in the development of Pioneer Square, the Portland Transit Mall, the Portland Downtown Plan, and was named Woman of the Year by the Women in Transportation council of Portland in 1994.  Her papers also cover her work with the Tri-Met Board of Directors and the Portland Department of Transportation (PDOT). 

Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area Collection, 1957-1998

This collection is comprised of research material used by Carl Abbott to write the book Planning a New West: The Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. The book was co-authored by Margery Post Abbott and Sy Adler.  The material in this collection consists largely of reports, economic data, newspaper clippings, interview notes, journal articles, and publications concerning the Columbia River Gorge generally and the proposal and implementation of Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area specifically.

Dark Horse Comics Collection

This gift provides copies of all materials produced by Dark Horse, resulting in a complete and preserved collection of the Dark Horse corpus. It is a unique research and browsing collection of comic books, graphic novels, collected editions, related books, statues, figures, and other materials.

Eleanor R. Davis Papers, 1971-2001

Eleanor Davis helped form the Oregon Council for Women’s Equality in 1971, and became a chief advocate for the advancement of women in Oregon.  Through her social activism and political advocacy, Oregon passed the Equal Rights Amendment, after which Davis went on to serve the state in a variety of volunteer capacities.  Her passions for women’s equality and social justice led her to service on the Task Force on Sex Discrimination in Education, the State Advisory Council on Sex Discrimination in Employment, the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women, and a variety of other civil rights-related commissions and task forces. 

Thomas L. Ferté Papers, 1961-2000 

Thomas L. Ferté Memorial Collection, 1963-2006

The Thomas L. Ferté Papers are comprised largely of correspondence, photographs, and poetry from contributors to the Calapooya Collage, a literary journal of note in the Pacific Northwest. The Thomas L. Ferté Memorial Collection includes additional materials on Ferté’s life and career as editor and was donated by Kenneth Bolf, a former student, co-editor, and mentee of Ferté.

Gates Collection of African American History and Culture, 1820-1998

This collection was donated 1969 to Portland State University Library by Mr. and Mrs. Osly and Jeannette Gates to coincide with the establishment of the Black Studies program.  The collection consists of unique and rare documents and publications representing over 150 years of African American history including original copies of the Frederick Douglass’ Paper and an original letter of manumission for a slave in New York state. 

Avel L. Gordly Papers

This large collection documents the personal and political life of Avel L. Gordly, the first African American woman to be elected to the Oregon State Senate where she served from 1997 to 2009.  Prior to joining the Senate, Gordly was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives where she served three terms, representing parts of north and northeast Portland.  In 2008, Oregon Health and Sciences University opened the Avel Gordly Center for Healing in recognition to Gordly’s activism for community health resources.

Arthur Honeyman Papers, 1974-2008

This small collection is comprised primarily of Honeyman's writings as well as photographs and newspaper clippings related to his life and works.  Cerebal palsy afflicted Honeyman from an early age and his father had to seek special dispensation for Honeyman to attend Portland State in 1960.  During his lifetime, Honeyman was a prolific writer and a committed activist.  He burned his draft card, was arrested three times for protesting the Trojan Nuclear Plant, pushed his wheelchair from Portland to Salem to protest the lack of wheelchair access on buses, and ran twice for the Oregon State Legislature on a "Spastic Power" platform.  Of particular note are various manuscripts of his autobiography, tentatively titled Art for Art’s Sake: An Autobiography of a Spastic.

Japanese American Citizens League, Portland Chapter Records, 1930s-1980s

This collection includes the records of the local chapter of the Japanese American Citizens League (JACL) from its establishment in 1928 through the 1980s.  It encompasses the period leading up to the forced exclusion and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and the re-establishment of the local community following the closure of the internment camps in 1945.  The collection contains organizational records, scrapbooks, ephemera, publications and other printed materials and photographs. 

Joan Johnson Papers, 1985-1990

Friends of Nancy Ryles Records, 1990-2009

Joan C. Johnson managed longtime friend Nancy Ryles' successful campaign for the Beaverton School Board in 1972 and her first campaign for the Oregon House in 1978.  Johnson also worked with Ryles as her aide through two legislative sessions, and continued to collaborate with her throughout Ryles' political career.  Her papers are comprised of material related to Nancy Ryles’ time in the Oregon State Senate.  This includes Ryles’ correspondence, documentation of her work supporting aid-in-dying legislation, and ephemera and speeches from Ryles’ campaigns. The Friends of Nancy Ryles Records document the efforts by Johnson, Leslie Emery, and Jean Morton to establish the Nancy Ryles Scholarship after Ryles’ death from a brain tumor in 1990. The scholarship supports women whose education had been interrupted and who wish to return to college to earn a degree

Gretchen Kafoury Papers, 1968-1998

These papers are comprised of material from Gretchen Kafoury’s work with the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Equal Rights Association (ERA) and the Oregon Women’s Political Caucus (OWPC) and from her political career, beginning with her election to the Oregon State House of Representatives from 1977 to 1982. From 1985 to 1990 Kafoury sat on the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, and was then elected City Commissioner for Portland in 1991 and served there until 1998.  The collection also includes material pertaining to Kafoury’s work on a number of campaigns and elections, including political ephemera from the 1968 and 1972 presidential campaigns and Betty Roberts' 1974 run for the United States Senate.

James B. Knight Papers, 1962-2009

The bulk of this collection features material is from 1974 to 2003 documenting Jim Knight's long career with the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD).  Knight was involved with drafting the Statewide Planning Goals and with preparing and submitting the state's application for certification under the federal Coastal Zone Management Act.  Knight was also one of the DLCD's first field representatives to the Columbia Gorge, Portland Metro, and Willamette Valley regions.

E. Kimbark MacColl Collection, 1891-2006

 This large collection consists of reports, brochures, bulletins, maps, photographs, handwritten notes, speeches, correspondence, articles, meeting notes and minutes, and materials, and newspaper clippings accumulated by E. Kimbark MacColl, historian and educator, in support of his writing and his teaching.  MacColl was the author of three books on the history of Portland:  The Shaping of a City, The Growth of a City, and Merchants, Money and Power. 

Betty Niven Papers

These papers are comprised of materials representing Niven’s career in public planning in Eugene, Oregon including her service on the Eugene Planning Commission from 1959 to 1973.  Niven was noted for her encouragement of citizen involvement in the planning process.  In 2000, the Eugene City Club named her “the Mother of Modern Planning in Eugene” while the city of Eugene named a street for her in front of a new low-income housing complex.

Barbara Roberts Papers

This large collection of personal papers, newspaper clippings, campaign materials, memorabilia, photographs, and public speeches documents over thirty years of Governor Barbara Roberts' public life and complement her official papers held by the Oregon State Archives. Roberts served as the secretary of state and was elected as the first woman Governor of Oregon in 1990

Betty Roberts Papers, 1905-2009

The Betty Roberts papers are comprised primarily of paper records, photographs, sound recordings, and a videotape documenting Betty Roberts’ political and judicial careers from approximately 1965 to 1986.  Betty Roberts served in the Oregon House of Representatives and in the Oregon Senate.  She ran for Oregon governor in 1974 but lost in the democratic primary.  The same year, she was also the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate, though she ultimately lost the election to Bob Packwood.  Roberts was also a judge in the Oregon Court of Appeals and the first woman to be appointed to the Oregon Supreme Court. 

George A. Russill Papers, 1969-1976

The George A. Russill Papers consist exclusively of documents and printed material relating to the Committee on City-County Consolidation, a failed merger of the Portland metropolitan area with Multnomah County in 1974 that predated the formation of Metro. 

Verdell Burdine and Otto G. Rutherford Family Collection, 1880s-1980s

This collection documents three generations of the Rutherford family and one hundred years of African American community life and culture in Oregon. It includes significant holdings related to the Portland office of NAACP, the oldest west of the Mississippi; local black chapters of fraternal organizations including the Masons and the Elks; the Culture Club and other women's social clubs and organizations; the Bethel AME Church; railroad and restaurant workers unions;local African American businesses; and regional mobilization regarding issues of national impact such as the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Arno Schmidt Collection, 1950-1983

Portland State’s Arno Schmidt collection is primarily comprised of the writings and translations of noted German writer Arno Schmidt. There is also a small amount of material consisting of items Schmidt mailed to his sister Lucy in the United States, including ephemera, newspaper clippings, programs, promotional material, and magazines by or about him.

Sensible Transportation Options for People (STOP)/Citizens for Sensible Transportation Records, 1980s-2000s

STOP was a grassroots organization in 1989 to oppose the Western Bypass Freeway proposed for Washington County.  Their efforts not only stopped the Western Bypass Freeway, but helped institute Oregon’s Transportation Planning Rule, changed the region’s approach to building more freeways, and were the foundation for the pioneering LUTRAQ (Land Use Transportation and Air Quality) study that transformed transportation modeling and planning in the Portland region and nationwide.

Sumner Sharpe Collection, 1965-2009

This collection includes materials accumulated by Sharpe in his capacity as an urban planner in Oregon and Washington. The bulk of the material is comprised of published reports by various planning agencies including Cogan Sharpe Cogan/Cogan Owen Cogan, Pacific Rim Resources, and Parametrix.

Tom T. Taylor Collection, 1967-2003

This collection includes materials from the career of Tom Taylor III, a lifelong filmmaker and instructor at Portland State University.  Taylor’s involvement with the pivotal Center for the Moving Image founded at Portland State by his friend and mentor, Andres Deinum, is well represented in the collection.  The collection also includes films and videos created by Taylor and by CMI students and associates. 

Women’s Care Foundation Records, 1923-1990 

The Women’s Care Foundation Records feature materials documenting the history of this citizen-activist foundation dating back to 1923 when it was founded as the Women’s Convalescent Home Association.  The collection is comprised of administrative records, correspondence, news clippings, photographs, scrapbooks and promotional material created by and for the Women’s Care Foundation and documenting the organization’s evolution from a provider of convalescent care to a community granting agency.

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