Video shares the twin histories of Monmouth, university

Statesman Journal
By Barbara Curtin
February 1st, 2014

MONMOUTH — This city and its university have literally grown up together since 1856, when early pioneers included land for a college on the town’s first map.

Now residents and students can easily learn that story, thanks to a new video by Western Oregon University University Archives and Digital Production Services. It’s posted on YouTube (

“Living History: The Early Years, Monmouth & Western Oregon University” covers the period from 1853 to 1911. It shares tales such as:

• How the town got its name (Mayor Ira Butler cast the deciding vote to honor his family’s Illinois roots; “Dover” was the runner-up);

• How the school kept changing its name (Monmouth University, Christian College and Oregon State Normal School — and that was just up to 1911);

• Why money troubles are nothing new (businesses chipped in to keep the school open in 1905; it closed from 1909 to 1911).

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Erin Passehl-Stoddart, university archivist and digital collections librarian, came up with the idea of a video to raise her department’s visibility.

“I’m trying to do more outreach; a lot of people don’t know we exist,” she said. “I thought, what would be a good visual way to reach a lot of different people?”

She wrote the script with Deborah Rezell, who heads WOU’s Digital Production Services. Jerrie Lee Parpart, archives assistant, helped choose a wealth of photos — early sports teams, class pictures, and then-and-now shots of downtown and campus. Kyra Cardella, an intern from University of Washington, helped with the research.

Passehl-Stoddart enlisted local historian Scott McArthur and Monmouth Mayor John Oberst to share narration duties with her.

She tried to tell the story of both town and WOU, since Monmouth and its college grew up together, she said.

The Polk County Cultural Coalition provided major support with a $1,500 grant.

The video was designed for most to view online.

“We sent hard copies to the library and some schools, so kids can start to be aware of the history of where they live,” Passehl-Stoddart said.

She hopes to pick up the story after 1911 in a future video.

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