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The Oregonian: PSU Digital Gallery archives memories of campus life, city scenery from the last six decades
Author: Becca Stanek, The Oregonian
Posted: August 9, 2013

Read the orginal story here in The Oregonian.

From bellbottoms and beehives to scrunchies and side ponytails, the Portland State University Digital Photo Gallery documents changes of styles and the times at the university and in Portland over more than six decades.

For the past eight years, PSU library's university archives team has been compiling, organizing, scanning and posting photos of campus life through the decades to create an extensive online digital photo gallery. The team has compiled a gallery of more than 8,000 images. Now it is inviting the public to visit the collection and contribute to it.

The photographs, taken by PSU campus photographers, are divided into two groups: faculty portraits and a historic image archive, which includes all the other images from campus. The collection is free and open to the public, and the images can be downloaded.

"We've decided to be pretty open with letting people use the images because it seemed more important to share the history," said Cris Paschild , Head of Special Collections & University Archivist, who is leading the archiving project. "Most people have some kind of connection to this campus, so there's a broad range of people involved in PSU's history. This is a way for them to go back and reconnect and look up memories."

The collection dates back to 1946, when PSU was Vanport Extension Center. Lunches in the park blocks, grins at the Sadie Hawkins dance, football practice, the College Bowl competition and the Vanport flood are just a few of the multitude of moments stored in the digital archive. 

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In addition to scenes of campus life, the gallery also shows the slow growth and transformation of the city, which is often the backdrop of the photographs.

"You can see the construction on Broadway and the old houses and business there that are now gone," Paschild said. "You can see the Park blocks when you could still drive up and down them, so you can see the changes to the city over time."

PSU student Rhiannon Cates , 20, helped compile the most recent batch of photos to upload. As a women's studies major, Cates finds the archive to be a useful academic resource. She used the gallery photos for a recent presentation for a Women's Studies classes.

"I guess what's really interesting to me about the archive is that a handful of students were given these cameras," Cates said. "It's interesting to look through the lens of others and see how those students saw the world. It makes me nostalgic for a time I didn't participate in."

In the rapidly changing digital age, archivists are concerned about what the future holds for collections such as PSU's. The university no longer has a centralized campus photographer. Now the cameras are in the hands of many people, which Paschild worries will make it difficult to compile images for archiving purposes.

Despite such concerns, Paschild acknowledges that modern technology is helping to fill in historical gaps in the university's gallery. The archive has an information box where people can send in tips about the photos, such as who is pictured, what the event is and when the photo was taken. Although the campus photographers left a complete, well-ordered collection of photos, most captions only provide basic information.

"We would love to hear more from people about what they see in these photos, such as who they know or what's going on or things like that," Paschild said.

The archive continues to grow. Last week a collection of photos from the 80s was put up. In the fall, photos from the athletic department will be added.

"Because PSU is a public university I think we have a really special relationship to the community," Paschild said. "We don't have boundaries with the community. The city is (the university's) campus. We're proud of that, and we want to encourage that. The reason we're sharing is because we think Portland State's history is the city's history."

Visit the digital gallery at https://archives.pdx.edu/digitalgallery/pages/home.php to view and download photos and to contribute caption information.

Pictured above: A shot of the Portland State Vikings' football practice on September 13, 1968. PSU Archives Digital Gallery