Category: University History

New Exhibit | Oregon Spirit: The Legacy of Track and Field

And her spirit’s always loyal,
And we’ll have the world to know
That the bonds can ne’er be broken,
Formed in the dear old U.O.

—“There’s a Pretty Little Village,” circa 1910

University of Oregon Libraries is pleased to announce an exhibit titled Oregon Spirit: The Legacy of Track and Field, now on display from January 7th to March 22nd in the Special Collections and University Archives Paulson Reading Room.

The University of Oregon proudly celebrates over 100 years of track and field.  Led by illustrious coaches, student-athletes defied the limits of human performance before an audience of devoted fans. Drawing upon 20 collections, these curated items reveal a palpable spirit that transcends generations. The legacy of track and field is built on enduring tradition and dynamic innovation.

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New Acquisition: World War I Vignette Collection

In recognition of the upcoming 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, we are highlighting a recent acquisition of two short sketched vignettes in watercolor documenting University of Oregon student life during and after World War I.

“Over Here: A Striking Scenerio [sic] of Present Day Events,” 1918 (18 pages)

A vignette of a day in the life of a young woman living in Eugene during World War I. The sketches depict a morning routine, Villard Hall, the Rex Theatre.


“When the Boys Came Home: A Scenario in One Act,” 1919 (11 pages)

Depicts the expectations and realities of soldiers returning to campus. Each page contains a perception of those on the home front and the actual scenario of soldier reintegration into civilian life. The sketches include Eugene City Hall, and Obak Amusement Co. (a student favorite for billiards and bowling).


—Lauren Goss, Accessioning and Processing Archivist

Behind the Scenes: “Animal House” at 40

In the fall of 1977, John Landis and his Universal Pictures production crew came to Eugene, Oregon, to begin filming their college comedy Animal House on the campus of the University of Oregon. They recruited dozens of UO students as extras, and used many well-known campus buildings and landmarks as locations. The video above is a compilation of behind-the-scenes footage shot by local TV news crews, including the iconic parade scene shot in Cottage Grove, Oregon, as well as the demolition of the Delta house in the early 1980s. The news footage all comes from the KEZI-TV/Chambers Communications Corp. records (Coll 427), and the still images come from University Archives Photographs (UA Ref 3) in Special Collections & University Archives (SCUA).

Some of this same footage, plus additional clips and images from SCUA, is also available in a related video produced by the University of Oregon’s Communications & Marketing department to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the the film’s release. An article in the summer 2018 issue of the Oregon Quarterly explores the film’s local history and its ongoing impact as a cult favorite.

Both videos demonstrate how archival footage can be combined in different ways and recontextualized to tell new stories about history.

As a student delving into this archival collection of behind-the-scenes footage and outtakes, this project felt transportive as I immersed myself in images from the past forty years. It was also a learning experience in the context of the culture of UO, as well as the evolution of what we deem as socially responsible in relation to comedy. Archival video footage and images are unique in their ability to present the viewer with a view of the world as it used to be, which can lead to greater understanding of how the past influenced the present.

You don’t need to be a student at the University of Oregon to find something in KEZI-TV news collection to connect with. Parents, alumni, faculty members, fans of the movie, and all types of Eugenians will come across familiar sites as they stood forty years ago. From downtown Cottage Grove run amok to John Belushi finagling a horse through Johnson Hall, this collection provides us with a vision of our campus and the surrounding area through a retro, Hollywood lens.

For me, the image of Belushi playing his guitar in a booth at the EMU fishbowl resonates strongly. To see a Hollywood star sitting by the same windows many of us have gazed through while working on a project or getting lunch with friends makes the connection between then and now all the more palpable.

Of course, the film isn’t without certain problematic tendencies. While I’m not excusing the myriad punchlines that come at the expense of a variety of social communities, I will say that this archive is a fun look into the loose atmosphere of the film set. Furthermore, this film still serves as the largest vehicle for the city of Eugene’s representation in Hollywood lore, as it grossed over $140 million and spawned an entire generation of knock-offs. Because of this, our archival collections serve as an important look into the creation of Eugene and the University of Oregon’s Hollywood immortality.

Local celebrations will peak in August when Cottage Grove hosts a 40th anniversary parade, toga party, film screening, and other festivities. The historic Hollywood Theatre in Portland will screen a 35mm print of the film on August 17.

–Michael O’Ryan, Curatorial Assistant

A Look Into the Past: The Debate Clubs Everyone Wanted to Join

Laurean and Eutaxian Society Meeting, University Archives Photographs, UA Ref 3

Campus societies are a large portion of any university history, older universities such as Harvard or Yale pride themselves on their societies. The men and women who have participated in literary societies historically have found lucrative jobs and connections due to the unique experience that these societies provide to undergraduates. Literary societies were regularly founded in pairs in order to foster competition and growth. This history often brings to mind older institutions on the east coast. However, the University of Oregon is no stranger to the benefits of literary societies on its campus.

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Progress With Limits: President Olum’s Quest for Change

This is the ninth of a series of blog posts highlighting the ongoing work of the Documenting UO History Project within the University Archives. A major part of this project is researching and documenting the often untold and hidden histories of the university’s diverse and underrepresented communities. This year our focus will continue to highlight Black history on campus, specifically Black student activism from the 1960s to present. Prior posts can be seen here.

The Governor — and others — have complained that President Olum can’ t have it both ways — continue to assert that the University of Oregon is of the quality of some of the best public universities in the United States and argue at the same time that faculty salaries at the University of Oregon are abysmally low compared with other institutions, and that this makes it extremely difficult to compete in the hiring of the best young faculty and in retaining our leading senior faculty against very large offers from various universities. Now, the truth is that it really is both ways. Our salaries are terribly, dangerously low and yet we are surely among the best 20 public universities in the United States and, in a number of areas, significantly better even than that.                            -President Olum, State of the university Address, 1987

Wartime ID badge photo of Paul Olum, courtesy  Los Alamos National Laboratory

Paul Olum stepped into the role of university president at Oregon with decades of academic experience. Having just served as provost at the University of Oregon, Olum had been groomed to take over for President Boyd (see previous post on Boyd).  Olum started his illustrious academic career in mathematics, even working on the Manhattan Project at one point.  He earned his bachelors in physics from Princeton in 1940, an M.A in physics from Princeton in 1942, and a PhD in mathematics from Harvard in 1947. Olum later served as a very popular and distinguished professor of mathematics at Cornell, and had a short stint at the University of Texas before beginning his tenure at Oregon.

Olum quickly developed a positive repoire with both students and staff.  Politically progressive, Olum publically called for nuclear disarmament and fought to make the University of Oregon more inclusive for all students. Although Olum’s tenure avoided the contention that filled the 1960s and 1970s, Olum faced recurring budget restraints and struggled to recruit more minority students to the Eugene campus.

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