A recent grant from the Center for Research Libraries’ Project CERES will allow Washington State University Libraries to digitize some 41,000 documents of early Washington State College Extension home economics publications as well as reports of the then-named Tree Fruit Experiment Station, today’s WSU Wenatchee Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center.

Early Extension publication explains how to construct a laundry cart on wheels.
An early 20th-century WSU Extension publication explains how to construct a laundry cart on wheels. Image courtesy of WSU Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections.

The digital collection will be of interest to farmers, nutritionists, historians and cultural studies researchers looking for Extension material from the first half of the 20th century.

“These materials provide not only a wealth of agricultural scientific knowledge, but they also provide a window into what life was like over the last century in the state of Washington,” said David Luftig, WSU agricultural sciences librarian and principal investigator of the digitization project. “Furthermore, we are also pleased that this collection will include most, if not all, of the early 20th-century home economics and gardening publications that have yet to be digitized.”

“Although the early Extension publications often provide a homogeneous voice, the home economics publications were typically written and edited by women and provide a unique voice regarding life in Washington that is seldom heard,” he added.

The project is a continuation of two previous Project CERES-WSU collaborations in 2013 and 2014. The result of these digitization efforts is housed in the WSU Extension Publications Archive. WSU Extension materials are currently cataloged and located within locked library storage due to the fragility of the items, Luftig said.

“It is expected these items will be more widely utilized once they are more accessible and have the appropriate metadata assigned,” he said.

Along with Luftig, the digitization project will be managed by Gayle O’Hara, manuscripts librarian in Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections (MASC). Other staff from MASC and WSU’s Owen Science and Engineering Library have contributed efforts as well.

In 2012, the Center for Research Libraries formed Project CERES with the U.S. Agriculture Information Network and the Agriculture Network Information Collaborative to support the ongoing preservation and digitization of collections in agriculture. Project CERES has two primary goals: to sustain consensus-based, cooperative archiving of primary serial collections in agriculture and to expand electronic access to digital and print resources from all world regions to support agricultural research.