The first (of five)
Resident Scholar lectures for 2015 is happening on Monday, August 10. Please
consider joining us if you are available.
Dr. David Benac, associate
professor of history at Western Michigan University, will be presenting his talk,
“Log Rolling, Ax Throwing and the Owl: The Heritage Legacy of the Timber
Industry in Oregon.” His talk on the 10th will be at 2:00 p.m. in the Willamette
East room on the Valley Library’s third floor.
David Benac has used his term as scholar-in-residence at the Oregon State
University Special Collections and Archives Research Center to advance his
research for his current book project. With this lecture, he will provide
an overview of his ongoing work with special attention to how the materials at the
Valley Library are helping to support and refine his book.
The Resident Scholar Program, sponsored by Oregon State University
Libraries, awards stipends of up to $2,500 per month, renewable up to three
months (for a total maximum grant award of $7,500). Stipends are awarded to visiting
researchers whose proposals detail a compelling potential use of the materials
held in the OSU Libraries Special Collections and Archives Research
Center. Historians, librarians,
graduate, doctoral or post-doctoral students as well as independent scholars
are welcome to apply, and the resident scholars do a talk about their research
topic at the conclusion of their residency.
to Dr. Benac, the timber industry occupies a near-incomparable place in the
heritage of Oregon, and no other industry can make a stronger claim to the
state’s development. Few other states tie their economic and cultural
development to the industry in such a strong way. Despite this, the timber
industry is glaringly absent in efforts to commemorate the history and heritage
of this corner of the Pacific Northwest. The reasons are rooted in
historical patterns and conflicts, the practice of nostalgia, the cultural role
of heritage and contemporary economic factors.
work sets out to explain the disconnect between the historical and ongoing
significance of Oregon’s timber industry with its relative insignificance in
contemporary commemorations. By investigating the history of a number of
company-owned sawmill towns, the nuances of the industry come to light as do
the ways that Oregonians commemorate and grapple with its relevance in shaping
their lives, the identities of their communities and the history of the entire
state. The timber towns of Bridal Veil, Gilchrist, Grand Ronde, Kinzua, Pondosa,
Powers, Wendling, Westfir and Wheeler make up the core of the community studies
portion of the manuscript, and Toledo, Valsetz and Vernonia serve as important
additional cases for the ongoing interpretation of timber heritage.
Dr. Benac would like to add that:
I would like to thank the Oregon State University Libraries
for supporting my work at this crucial juncture. As a public historian whose
research revolves around the issue of place, I am drawn to investigations of
how a distinct sense of place is created, interpreted and used. After several
years of visits to repositories and communities in Oregon, I had enough
material to formulate a theoretical analysis of these concepts for present and
past timber communities in Oregon. But key elements eluded me. With a full
month at my disposal, I have integrated large volumes of historical images and
maps, primarily from the Gerald Williams Collection, that will be crucial in
expanding my understanding of the cultural geographies of these communities. The
time has also proven invaluable in allowing me to collect a series of oral
histories and to visit some of the exhibitions of timber heritage that I was previously
unable to schedule. With this new material, the research for my next manuscript
is near complete.