WWU Board of Trustees Historical Records - Revisited!

WWU Board of Trustees Historical Records - Revisited!

September, 2019
University Archives

University Archives has featured the Western Washington University Board of Trustees records in a previous selection of the month, but at that time, minutes from 1895-1920 were not yet online. In this update, we celebrate the addition of the oldest Board minutes to the digital collection, as well as the digital collection's move to a new platform.  

The earliest Board minutes are the only extant records produced by the Normal school that eventually became Western Washington University, at least until the school opened for its first classes in the Fall of 1899. The early minutes chronicle the organization of the Board and the establishment of the site for Old Main as well as its construction, which included twists and turns familiar to modern readers: budget setbacks from the state legislature, labor disputes, and a lawsuit involving the building contractor that went all the way to the state Supreme Court. 

The online digital collection of Board records now includes a complete set of minutes from first meeting on July 12, 1895 through 2012. The remaining minutes, up to the current year, will be added soon.  The entire collection is now available in our new digital assets platform, MABEL

Because the earliest Board minutes are either hand-written or are poorly type-written, the records needed to be transcribed in order to create text that could be readable (and thus searchable) by computers. The transcription project was a group effort carried out mostly by student employees Amelia Grant, Christoph Winter, and Alisan Keesee.  Over the period of about two years, these student employees transcribed over a thousand pages of minutes during surplus shift time after they had completed their primary tasks in support of the University Records Center. Without their dedication, these records would not be as useable and accessible as they are now. 

Board of Trustees minutes

Additionally, in order to protect the original minute books and pages, University Archives opted not to digitize the original pages for the online collection. Instead, since the minutes had already been microfilmed in the 1980s, and the master copies of the film were stored in the State Archives microfilm vault, we ordered digital images of the pages off of the microfilm. The total bill for all 1,414 images was about $76, and they were delivered within a couple of weeks.  

The minutes can be difficult to read—which makes the transcript doubly useful—but within their pages is a continuous record of the Board's official actions and stewardship of the school as it has pursued its educational mission for over 120 years.  All original bound minutes are stored in the University Archives and are available for inspection upon request. 

Tony Kurtz
University Archivist