The Duniway Years: Early Organizational Challenges

The State Archives opened its doors in the basement of the State Library Building in January 1946. The modest furnishings included several large tables, chairs, two typewriters, and two transfer cabinets. Waiting there also were the 406 cubic feet of unprocessed records that had accumulated over the years. Although a second floor office was provided for the State Archivist, he soon moved down to the basement in order to provide professional direction to his newly hired untrained assistant.6

Duniway devised an ambitious agenda to get the archives program underway. The agenda for 1946 included establishing rules for the description of records; analyzing supply and equipment needs; training his new assistant; visiting and studying state agencies; budgeting for the next biennium; and undertaking an inventory of records already in the custody of the State Archives.7 By the end of the year approximately 5000 entries had been prepared for a catalog of State Archives holdings.8

State offices transferred more and more records to the State Archives as agency heads and employees became aware of its existence. Duniway helped increase awareness through an aggressive schedule of agency visits during the first few years of operation. But with more records came more headaches. Often unidentified boxes of records were found on a table in the State Archives without any warning or explanation. This led to a stepped up effort to coordinate transfers before their arrival and the use of a simplified records transfer receipt. Still, "orphaned" records plagued the State Archives for years.9

Duniway maintained a careful, hands on approach to the appraisal of records for destruction. His experiences seemed to justify the caution. One time he was looking over some apparently mundane records of the Secretary of State in the Capitol basement related to taxes on motor fuel. Mixed in with the soon to be destroyed records were historically valuable county records from Oregon's territorial period. On another occasion he was in a six foot square basement of a county building performing a routine destruction appraisal of some volumes of tax receipts. As he pulled a volume off of the shelf along one wall, he noticed paper piled from floor to ceiling behind the shelving. The room was actually twenty feet deep! After a month of unpacking and sorting, he identified many records of enduring value.10

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