I wanted to share a little bit about a repository that’s literally just up the street from me, the Whitman College and Northwest Archives, located in Penrose Library on the Whitman College campus in Walla Walla, WA. The archives house materials that document the history of Whitman College and the Walla Walla region, as well as rare books and special collections pertaining to the history of the Northwest.
I have only used the Whitman College and Northwest Archives once, when I was working on an assignment for a genealogy course I was taking. I examined one of the special collections, the Stevens Treaty Council of 1855 Centennial Collection. This collection was of interest to me because I was researching various cryptically-labeled photographs in my grandmother’s scrapbook. One of these photos, dated June 1955, shows various individuals in Native American dress at the Whitman College amphitheater.
In 1855, the Nez Perce, Yakima, Cayuse, Walla Walla and Umatilla tribes signed a treaty with the U.S. government on what is now the Whitman College campus. In 1955, an event was held on the same spot to commemorate the centennial of the signing. The Stevens Treaty Council of 1855 Centennial Collection consists of two boxes, each holding 6-8 file folders containing various documents detailing the organization of the centennial. The program for the centennial was a half-sheet sized booklet outlining the schedule for the event and listing participants in the PE-WA-OO-YIT First Treaty Council pageant. The participant list was of the most interest to me, as it explained the photograph and helped identify those in it, which enabled me to then use other resources, such as city directories, to find out more about them and what happened to them.
And that’s just from one collection, not even one of the major ones. The Whitman College and Northwest Archives contains hundreds of collections, both physical and digital, and I have no doubt there is a wealth of information there for historians and scholars.