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.


PNW Historians Guild Event – New Research Lectures – Jan. 15

New research on the history and landscape of the Pacific Northwest will be presented by three graduate students from UW’s History Department and College of the Built Environment.

Wednesday, Jan 15, 2014 6:00-8:00 pm at the University of Washington – Suzzallo Library Maps/Special Collections Classroom, B89.  Call 206-543-1929 for information.

The event is free and open to the public.

Gig Harbor Grange #445 in Pierce County. Photo: Holly Taylor

Holly Taylor, a graduate student in the University of Washington College of the Built Environment’s Interdisciplinary PhD program and principal of Past Forward, a consulting company specializing in historic preservation projects in the Pacific Northwest, will be sharing findings from her recently completed Master’s Thesis, “Grange Halls in Washington State: A Critical Investigation of a Vernacular Building Type.”

Her presentation will examine Progressive-era history of the Grange, consider why Washington State has more Grange members at present than any other state, and explore preservation issues related to the Order’s rural and small-town community halls.

Ross Coen, a graduate student in the History Department at the University of Washington and the author of Breaking Ice for Arctic Oil The Epic Voyage of the SS Manhattan Through the Northwest Passage (University of Alaska Press, 2012) will present a paper entitled “Owning the Ocean: Environment and Identity in the Bristol Bay (Alaska) Salmon Fishery, 1930 to 1938.”

Patricia Gauthier, also a graduate student in History at the University of Washington, will share her work “Far From the Center of Charities: Chemawa Indian School and the Gendered Display of the ‘New Indian’, 1880 to 1905.”

Richard Wagener Lecture and Related Exhibits in Special Collections

The Book Arts Guild and University of Washington Libraries present


An Afternoon at Mithras Bookstore and a Sierra Journey, a lecture by Richard Wagener.  This talk will trace his development as a wood engraver and his involvement in the world of fine press books.

Thursday April 11, 2013, 7-9pm (doors open at 6:45)
Maps/Special Collections Classroom
Suzzallo Library Basement Room B69

Richard Wagener grew up in southern California spending a lot of time with his grandfather in remote parts of the desert and up in the Sierra. Early art classes introduced him to Maynard Dixon and Edgar Payne. After school activities included selling the evening newspapers at the Disney studios where he met many of the illustrators and animators. Richard has an undergraduate degree from the University of San Diego and a graduate degree from Art Center College of Design. He has been engraving wood for over thirty years and his work has been in a number of fine press editions. He currently lives and works in northern California.

There are two related exhibitions that feature relief printing which are on display in Special Collections.  This will be an opportunity to view them.  Both Conor Casey, curator of Images of Labor and Social Justice: The Art of Richard V. Correll and Sandra Kroupa curator of Lasting Impressions: Relief Prints Over 500 Years, will speak briefly and will provide access to the exhibitions.


Cheers to MOHAI

Aerial view of MOHAI, October 10, 2012
Aerial view of MOHAI, October 10, 2012

Just a very quick announcement before the holiday weekend descend to serve as a reminder that tomorrow is the official grand opening of the Museum of History & Industry (MOHAI) at its brand new location in South Lake Union. Housed in a former naval training station (often referred to as “the Armory”), this old/new facility offers increased exhibit space of over 50,000 square feet.

Look for “reviews” in the fullness of time. For now, heartiest congratulations!

For the sentimentalists among us, here are some eerie and wistful pictures of the “new” MOHAI under construction in 1937 (from the Seattle Municipal Archives):

Lake Union Naval Training Station under construction, 1937
Lake Union Naval Training Station under construction, 1937

and the Paul Thiry-designed original MOHAI building in the Montlake neighborhood still under construction in 1951;  this image is  from the Calvin F. Todd photograph collection (PH Coll 232) in Special Collections:

Exterior of MOHAI under construction, 1951
Exterior of MOHAI under construction, 1951



The World of Tomorrow Continues

Image of the Space Needle at night taken during the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair by an unknown photographer

As the long weekend approaches and the end of the season draws ever closer, why not try to prolong that summertime feeling for at least a little while longer by planning a visit to The World of Tomorrow: Looking Back at the Seattle Worlds Fair next week? The exhibit, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Century 21 exposition, has been extended through September 14, 2012.

You will find the exhibit installed in cases on the Allen Library North balcony and the Special Collections lobby. Both areas are accessible to the public whenever the building is open. Please check the current hours of opening as the library is operating on an interim break schedule.


Get the Party Started at SPL!

Werner Lenggenhager photograph of what was billed as the "World's largest cake," in the Food Circus of Century 21 Exposition (Seattle World's Fair)

To kick off the citywide 1962 Seattle World’s Fair 50th anniversary celebrations, the Seattle Public Library will host an afternoon of events this Friday, November 19, 2011, at the Central Library in downtown Seattle. These include an author reading by Paula Becker and Alan Stein, as well as a chance to take a test drive of SPL’s new Century 21 Digital Collection.

Complete information about Friday’s programs is available here.


New Special Collections Web site Sneak Peek

Screen shot of new Special Collections homepage

At last Wednesday’s Division meeting, the redesigned Special Collections Web site was unveiled to staff.  Feel free to send in your comments or other feedback during this testing period.  The new site is scheduled to go live on October 19, 2011.