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April 12, 2014 / Charlie McNabb

Collaborating to Promote Collections

Last night, I attended the opening for Springfield’s Kesey at the Springfield Museum, an exhibit showcasing Ken Kesey’s Jail Journal and assorted memorabilia.  It was an incredible display of some really interesting and culturally significant materials.  And because I’ve always got librarianship on my brain, it got me thinking about the power of collaboration to promote collections.

The Ken Kesey papers, including drafts of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and other novels, letters to and from other famous authors and counter-culture figures, memorabilia, and his famous Jail Journal, are located at University of Oregon Special Collections.  This collection was in danger of leaving Eugene, but fans, community members, local businesses, and University of Oregon President Gottfredson were able to raise enough money to purchase it from the Kesey family and keep it at UO.  I think that this outpouring of support from the community and across the UO campus could not have happened without significant efforts to promote the collection and communicate with stakeholders.

And now that the collection is safely at home at UO, promotion and collaboration have continued.  I’m merely an audience member here and have no inside information, so I’m unsure who is doing what, but it’s clear that there is a positive collaborative relationship between UO Special Collections and the Springfield Museum.  Kesey’s Jail Journal has been digitized and pages are being shown on a loop on a large screen at the exhibit.  I stood in front of the screen, spellbound, watching the doodles, paintings, and handwritten text flash by.  The exhibit has been promoted via social media, local news, and flyers, and will surely draw folks who have never stepped foot in an archive.  Visible collections like this are a stepping stone to folks visiting archives.

My takeaway from visiting the exhibit is that libraries, museums, and archives can really help one another, in terms of visibility, promotion, and project collaboration.  Exhibits, presentations, workshops, film viewings, and tours are all fun strategies to make collections more visible and show patrons our value.  Working together to promote events and collections through social media and collaborative projects strengthens us all.

Update!  I spoke with Nathan Moore (of the Low Tide Drifters) and he had some more information about the collaboration: “The Springfield Museum collaborated with SCUA and the Kesey family to get the materials for the exhibit. The exhibit was curated by Tina Casebeer of the Museum and Kyle Swartzlender, a UO student who just wrote a thesis on Kesey’s Jail Journals. Also, funding was generously provided by Oregon Humanities. It’s an awesome collaborative project. We’re also collecting “Kesey Stories” from folks in Springfield and the surrounding area and that’s also a collaborative project supported by the Museum and Oregon Humanities. The ultimate goal of all of this is a permanent Kesey exhibit in the museum that focuses on Kesey’s small town roots and includes the voices of regular community members. I should also mention that Jim Cupples, Director of the Springfield Museum, really cultivated all of these relationships and put together these collaborations. He came up with the original idea and has kept in touch with the family and the other organizations.”

So there it is–amazing and far reaching collaboration between many people and organizations that came together and brainstormed to share and curate ideas and artifacts.  Collaboration like this makes a truly engaging exhibit and also nourishes relationships and networks for further research and projects.  This is good for the community!

Here are some photos I took at the exhibit- if you’re in the area, stop by and see it for yourself!

Writing Sweater and Typewriter

Writing Sweater and Typewriter

Super Washboard

Super Washboard

Ventriloquist's Puppet

Ventriloquist’s Puppet

Further

Further

Further Close-Up

Further Close-Up

Further Detail

Further Detail

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