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Public Event: Colonial Books

“Colonial Books: The Fenton Collection at UO from a Critical History of the Book Perspective”

Wednesday, March 2, 2022
12:20 p.m.–1:20 p.m.
Knight Library, DREAM Lab (1st floor)

William D. Fenton (1853-1925), general counsel for the Southern Pacific Railroad in Oregon, was an avid book collector and one of the founders of the Oregon Historical Society, whose publications of primary sources in Oregon history (“Sources of the History of Oregon”) were once produced out of UO’s Department of Economics and History and printed in Eugene. Fenton’s library is currently part of UO’s Special Collections, and UO’s Fenton Hall is named after him. However, the ways in which this cultural activity in textual editing and book collecting intermeshed with social injustice have been largely forgotten. The many historical works of exploration in Fenton’s collection were not primarily practical guides to settlement. Rather, they served to buttress a cultural view of the white pioneer which in turn justified claims to territory. The editors of “Sources of the History of Oregon” explicitly framed the accounts of settlement they published as documents of the “’war of the races’ in the Pacific Northwest.”

Through student presentations on individual books in the Fenton collection, Vera Keller‘s seminar in the History of the Book will take a collective, critical look at the role that editing and collecting historical sources served in Oregon settler society.

This course is supported with a Coleman-Guitteau Teaching Professorship from the Oregon Humanities Center.