Blowing the top off a hidden Mount St. Helens Collection

How to Paint Pictures with Volcanic Ash

Featured Collection:  University of Washington Mount St. Helens Collection

When our region was thrown into the global spotlight following the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, the UW Libraries staff sprang into action collecting a wide variety of documents and ephemera. An all-call for materials was put out to the UW community and items poured in.  Government reports, photographs, newspaper clippings, cartoons, tee-shirts, creative tributes in the form of poetry, jewelry made of pumice from the Mountain, and much more.

Materials were collected and organized by the University of Washington Mount St. Helens Action Group, who created a series list and painstakingly indexed the collection at item level!  Collecting went on for years, long enough for the the group to document the UW Libraries Mount St. Helens 10th Anniversary Party.

The ash has settled and decades have passed.  The document and ephemera collection was boxed, along with its meticulously typed index, and tucked away. The collection was unfortunately overlooked when we moved to an online finding aids database in the early 2000s.  It remained hidden until this year during the Mount St. Helens 35th anniversary commemoration, when we stumbled upon the 22 boxes in our closed stacks.  In the first box we discovered the type-written (pre-desktop computer) item level index!  It has taken a while to key it in and do a physical check on each and every item, but with determination we have been able to reveal this hidden treasure before the end of the year!

Wash the Ash
We recently published the finding  aid for the University of Washington Mount St. Helens Collection.  Browsing through the inventory is like stepping back in time, but go the extra mile and come to the Special Collections reading room to request a box or two and relive the emotion (and hype) of the era.

The UW Mount St. Helens collection is one of many that hold materials on the history of the eruption.  Search for published works in Library Search.  Find more primary sources in our finding aids database.  And check out the research guide on Mount St. Helens.


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