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University History Research: Home

A short guide to resources on researching the history of Washington State University, be it student life, departmental or building history, or other topics.

Introduction to Researching WSU's History

Washington State University was authorized in March of 1890 and began teaching classes in January of 1892.  The history of the school over the subsequent 125 years is a common topic of interest to students, community members, and researchers of all types.  This page is intended to list a few starting points for your research.

The serious research materials for in-depth papers are usually held in the Washington State University Libraries' Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, also known as the MASC.  However, the more common materials can also be found duplicated in the libraries' bookstacks, and ongoing digitization projects are making many of these resources available online.   

Research here is broken up into several categories.  Center top is a listing of the few general books written on our university history, with links to help you get access to them.  Below that are three categories of research: campus life, departmental or organizational histories, and building histories.  In each case, we'll try to provide links to some basic, easily accessible resources, followed by information on more in-depth research.

General University History (Published Books)

If you need a very basic introduction to our University History, we advise you to start with the three books published circa 1989/1990 for the University centennial:

Creating the People’s University, by George Frykman.  Link to digital copy.  Looks at the academic and administrative development of campus.
Going to Washington State, by William Stimson.  Looks at student life at WSU.
The Crimson and the Gray, by Richard Fry.  Looks at WSU athletics.

Two other books cover the earliest days of campus history, though both focus more on the administrative/academic side:

Historical Sketch of the State College of Washington, 1890-1925, by E.A. Bryan.  Link to digital copy.  While the original physical copy has no index, we host online an index to the Historical Sketch.
E.O. Holland and the State College, by William Landeen. Link to digital copy.

Researching Campus Life

If you’re looking at campus life, a number of publications from those periods can be very useful, and we’ve been working on digitizing many of these.  The best are:

The Evergreen.  The campus newspaper, dating back to 1895, and preceded by the College Record in 1892-1893. These can be found on microfilm in the regular stacks, physically in MASC (call number WSU 1), and online (1892-2016).
The Chinook.  The campus yearbook.  The first issue was published in 1899, the second in 1901, and they’ve been published every year since. These can be found physically in the regular stacks, physically in MASC (call number LD5731 .W65), and online (1899-1986).
The PowWow / Washington State Review / Hilltopics / Washington State Magazine.  These publications are all aimed at keeping alumni and other off-campus WSU friends up to date on campus events, so they’re a great resource on significant campus events and people. These can be found physically in the regular stacks, physically in MASC (call numbers WSU 25, 147, 174-175), and online (1914-2000 and 2001-present).

Regional newspapers can also be invaluable resources; digital historic papers include the Pullman Herald, the Pullman Tribune, the Spokane Chronicle, the Spokane Spokesman-Review, and the Moscow-Pullman Daily News.  If issues or years you need are missing online, please check the WSU Libraries' catalog for microfilm holdings.

City of Pullman and the Palouse Digital Photographs Collection.  If you're looking for imagery, this collection of online photographs includes about 2,000 images, about 3/4 of which come from campus.  Be aware that this is a small percentage of the 2,000,000 photographs physically held in the MASC - if you don't see what you need there, please do contact the MASC.

 

The MASC collects and maintains numerous collections of papers, documents, and photographs from individuals, departments, and organizations which are generally much more specific, and also much harder to identify. For help searching for MASC materials please visit the MASC's Access to Materials page or contact MASC at 509-335-6691 / mascref@wsu.edu.

Researching Departmental Histories

If you’re doing research into the history of a department, program, or other element of campus, take a look in MASC's digital collection of every known campus departmental history.

Assuming your research topic isn’t already in there, or if you want more information, there are a number of potential resources in the University Archives:

Course Catalogs
   These can be found online in Research Exchange as well as physically in the regular stacks, or physically in MASC (call number WSU 4).  They include information on courses, programs, and faculty.  MASC created a spreadsheet of programs offered year-by-year from these volumes.
Fussers Guides
   These campus directories compile addresses and phone numbers for individuals and departments, and are useful for identifying where things were located over time.  Found physically in MASC (call number WSU 135).

The MASC collects and maintains numerous collections of papers, documents, and photographs from departments and organizations which are generally much more specific, and also much harder to identify. The majority of these collections can be browsed from our listing of University Archives collections.  Organizational names recorded there reflect the organizations' name at the time their papers came to the archives, so please also browse under older departmental names.  These guides can also be full-text searched; for help in doing so please visit the MASC's Access to Materials page or contact MASC direct at 509-335-6691 / mascref@wsu.edu.

Researching Building Histories

If you’re doing research into the history of a campus building or other physical campus feature, MASC has created a WSU Buildings history page which will give you the basic starting information.  The bottom of that page compiles a list of relevant resources for campus building history research, and so we won't repeat that information here!

University Archivist

Mark O'English's picture
Mark O'English
Contact:
509-335-2739
Website / Blog Page

Old Wazzu (1981)

1981 promotional video for WSU.  The MASC holds similar videos from the 1950s to 1990s, plus other school films dating back as far as the 1916 Rose Bowl.

WSU Libraries, PO Box 645610, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-5610, 509-335-9671, Contact Us