Science History in Archives

Mention archives and often people think about the humanities and social sciences. Given its land-grant roots, however, it should be no surprise that University Archives preserves material about the University’s involvement in agriculture, astronomy, and other scientific endeavors.

Lake Tahoe Region Tree-Ring Borings

Lake Tahoe Region Tree-Ring Borings

Among Archives’ artifacts is a set of tree borings obtained from the Lake Tahoe region documenting that the current drought in the region is hardly a new concern. Back in the 1930s, George Hardman and Orvis Reil of the University of Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station conducted a multi-year study of precipitation via tree ring analysis in the Lake Tahoe area. Field workers for the project were obtained through the Nevada Emergency Relief Administration during the Great Depression. Tree borings were harvested at sites in the Charleston Mountains, Clear Creek Road, Franktown, Juniper Flat, Kingsbury Grade, and Washoe Grade. This project caught the attention of Henry A. Wallace, Director of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (1933-1940), who was interested in cyclical changes in climatic conditions. The Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation in Denver and the U. S. Forest Service, California Region, also wrote to the University to obtain a copy of the report: The Relation of Tree Growth to Stream Run Off in the Truckee River Basin. Archival records include the borings, correspondence, and raw data sheets.

1939 4-H Camp Attendees

1939 4-H Camp attendees during a tree identification session

University Archives also has many records from the Nevada Agricultural Experiment Station, which was established in 1887. Its collection AC 0288, for example, includes several boxes of county farm maps providing crop inventories for the decade before World War II, including the names of farm owners and/or operators. Elsewhere in the same collection are reports on Nevada’s wartime agriculture and post-war production reports.

The history of Nevada’s 4-H Camp at Lake Tahoe is included among the many archival records for the Nevada Cooperative Extension Service. Scrapbooks and photographs capture the programming and recreational activities enjoyed by generations of young Nevadans from the 1930s to the present day. Projects such as insect study and tree identification were interspersed with summertime fun first at the Farm Bureau Camp in south Reno and later up at Lake Tahoe, where a permanent 4-H campsite was acquired in 1938. The photograph of children during a tree identification session is from a 1939 4-H Camp scrapbook (AC 0043).

On Orbit Nov 04 Cover

Representing the other end of the scientific spectrum, Archives holds material about the history of the Fleischmann Planetarium and Science Center, along with a run of its publication OnOrbit. Records include an inventory of a time capsule to be opened in 2061.

These are just a few of the archival resources helping document the history of scientific pursuits at the University.

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