Pacific University exhibit of late governor's artifacts goes online

by: COURTESY PHOTO: PACIFIC UNIVERSITY - Former Gov. Vic Atiyeh spoke last October at Pacific University, during an event honoring him and celebrating the opening of The Victor Atiyeh Collection. Since the death of former Oregon Gov. Victor Atiyeh on Sunday night, Pacific University archivists and scholars have been working harder than ever to make the Washington County native’s political papers and memorabilia accessible to the public.

“Right now we’re digitizing the entire collection,” said archivist Eva Guggemos, referring to the university’s Victor Atiyeh Collection, an assortment of documents and artifacts ranging from the momentous to the mundane.

It includes an unsigned order declaring martial law in two counties following the Rajneesh cult crisis, and an ornate Japanese helmet awarded Atiyeh during one of his frequent trips to build trade between Oregon and east Asia, as well as a pack of candy Jelly Belly beans from Ronald Reagan and campaign buttons reading “Nixon’s the One.”

The former governor donated it all to Pacific for a temporary exhibit that opened last October in the lobby of the Pacific University library and a permanent exhibit online.

“I think he [Atiyeh] wanted the collection here because he knew we would honor it like a crown jewel instead of treat it like just another collection as a larger repository might do,” said Guggemos. Atiyeh’s eight years on the university’s board of trustees might also have had something to do with it.

Although the temporary exhibit closed in December, Guggemos still has two student interns scanning artifacts and putting images online.

But the sheer volume of the collection’s photographs, news clippings, campaign buttons and audio-video tapes makes digitizing a lengthy process.Pacific professor Jim Moore stood with Atiyeh last fall.

“We have to write a description and find a date for each photograph, and we have to type up all of the handwritten notes,” said Guggemos. “There’s about 80 cubic feet of material and our full-time intern has only covered about three after working all summer.”

“It’s hard to take the time to physically visit an archive,” said Guggemos. “We want to serve a much bigger audience of users, so that if high school or college students want to do a paper on Atiyeh we have the material available.”

The university has been in touch with Atiyeh’s friends to help fund digitizing during the school year, when student interns are less available. Guggemos hopes the entire project will be completed within two years.

by: COURTESY PHOTO: PACIFIC UNIVERSITY - The Victor Atiyeh Collection at Pacific University includes artifacts reflecting his close relationship with Oregons tribes, such as an eagle-feather headdress and this scarlet, embroidered jacket. The Pacific archives are not alone in their effort to preserve Atiyeh’s legacy. Jim Moore, assistant professor of politics and government at the university, is writing the former governor’s biography, though Moore himself could not be reached for comment.

“Atiyeh was not just a governor and a legislator,” said Joe Lang, the media relations director at Pacific. “He was an ambassador of good will. We’re sad at his passing but we’re certain his legacy will live on through our collection.”

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