History of Special Collections and the Paulson Reading Room
Special Collections grew from the work of the History Department, which began collecting materials about Oregon history shortly after the University was established in 1875. The Oregon Collection was developed for the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition and formed the nucleus of the Rare Book collections augmented in the 1930s by the Burgess manuscripts. The Library was named official repository for University records in 1948; Archives rejoined Special Collections in 1998.
Special Collections is housed in the 1937 portion of the Knight Library. Librarian M.H. Douglass campaigned for construction of the building, as Fenton Hall had become woefully inadequate. Designed by architecture dean and campus architect Ellis Lawrence, and built under the auspices of the WPA, the structure has been described as "one of Oregon's best examples of the integrated art and architecture that characterized that last great surge of public building." The original structure was expanded in 1950 and 1966, and expanded, renovated and renamed in 1993-1995. The Knight Library is on the National Register of Historic Buildings.
The main space, which features a high ceiling and fine natural light from the ample north-facing windows, has always been used as a reading room. When the building opened in May 1937 it was the Open Shelf Reading Room, and later the Upper Division Reading Room (shown). At each end are cedar panels carved by Art Clough, with the assistance of Ross McClure and Jim de Broekart. In 2006 the room was renamed in honor of a donor, the Paulson Investment Company, Inc.
The "University Collection," shown above at left, included items now in the Archives. Other collections managed by the department were the Oregon Collection, which originally included materials in all formats, and the League of Nations, now part of Documents.
The Burgess Collection was first housed in a room on the first floor (right), which now houses the Lucille Ogle collection. During the 1980s it was referred to as the "Blimp Room" as the Cole Lighter-than-Air collection on display there included models of dirigibles.
Martin Schmitt (far left) was a scholar and historian, and in 1947 became the founding curator of the department. He set a standard for scholarship and professionalism that continues to drive the department. Ed Kemp (left) was a master of acquisitions and brought in many of the important materials that shape our collection strengths. Kenneth Duckett (not pictured) wrote an award-winning guide to the UO collections that was a major contribution to the profession. Today the department has a staff that embraces change and continues to honor the founders.