Librarians showcase unique pacifist collection at Portland archive crawl

Photo courtesy of Watzek Special Collections

Special Collections at Watzek joins the long list of Pacific libraries sharing their work

By CalebDiehl///Editor-in-Chief

Historians and librarians seldom pull themselves away from reading about the dead, but on Saturday, a crack team from Watzek Library will wander all the way down to the Portland Archives and Records Center on 1800 SW 6th Ave to talk to the living.

As part of the fourth Oregon Archives Crawl, Assistant Archivist Zach Selley, Doug Erickson, associate director of Watzek Library for special collections, and special collections and archives librarian E.J. Carter will showcase Watzek’s civilian public service and pacifism collections. Visitors can study letters, publications, and photographs produced by conscientious objectors to World War II.

During the war, In lieu of military service abroad, 12,000 men registered as conscientious objectors. They took up residence in Civilian Public Service camps administered by historic peace churches—the Brethren, Friends, and Mennonites. There, the men devoted themselves to nonviolent disciplines such as medical work, agriculture or forestry.

“They were able to use their skills as pacifists to create a legacy beyond the war,” Selley said.

Before inspiring the beat movement and the San Francisco Renaissance, COs pioneered offbeat art forms in rural Oregon. At Camp 56 near Waldport, poet William Everson and other COs created a fine arts program that became an outlet for works of theatre, visual art and literature.

In addition to those works and the writings of William Stafford and Kermit Sheets, highlights of the collection include the paintings and publications donated by Kemper Nomland, wartime correspondence donated by Don Baker and photographs from Henry Blocher and Bruce Reeves.

The archive crawl features 27 organizations spread among PARC, the Central Branch of Multnomah County Library and the Oregon Historical Society. Other displays at Portland Archives and Records Center include Oregon State University’s hops and brewing program; Portland State University’s Architecture, Engineering, and Construction Archives and the Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education. Oregon Historical Society will feature Know Your City, the non-profit that sponsors Professor of History Reiko Hillyer’s tour of Portland’s immigrant and working class neighborhoods.

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