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Preserving 100 Years of Agricultural Resources: Creating the UC Cooperative Extension Archive

Thu, January 26, 2017

Welcome to the UC Cooperative Extension Archive blog.

My name is Lisa Vallen, I am the UC Cooperative Extension Project Archivist. I realize that not everyone is familiar with Cooperative Extension, so for this first post I’m going fill everyone in on the who, what, when, where and why of this special project!


Who is working on this project?

In 2015, the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the UC Merced campus signed a memorandum of understanding to launch the first phase of a project to preserve the history of the UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE). The Library’s Digital Assets unit is leading the project and I began my job as the project archivist in August 2016.

A little background about me:

I have my Masters of Science in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) with a concentration in Special Collections and Archives. While at UIUC, I worked in both Preservation and the Rare Book and Manuscript Library. I graduated from Lake Forest College with a BA in Art History and Politics.


What is UC Cooperative Extension?

The UC Cooperative Extension (UCCE) was established in 1914 by the passage of the Smith-Lever Act with the purpose to develop and provide science-based information around agriculture, youth development and natural resources to local audiences. This was done by establishing a Cooperative Extension office in almost every county in California! UCCE is still active today, with 57 local offices throughout California. Their goal to serve as a “bridge between local issues and the power of UC research” has not changed. If you are interested in a more in-depth look at the history of UCCE, these articles by Rose Hayden-Smith here and here are a great place to start.


What is the UC Cooperative Extension Archive?

Cooperative Extension has been active in California for over 100 years and our belief is that these county offices hold a cache of information that can be extremely useful to researchers and the public. Currently, these materials are not very accessible to researchers and the public, as there is no inventory or organizational scheme. In this first year, while we are in our pilot program stage, we are focusing on three county offices: Merced, Ventura, and Humboldt. Our goal for this year is to create an inventory for the three offices, assess and identify materials of historical value, preserve and organize historical materials, and make these materials accessible to researchers and the public.


Why is archiving the UC Cooperative Extension materials important?

The county offices hold valuable materials that highlight the work and research done by the farm advisors. These materials run the gamut from annual reports between 1915-1970, research reports and trial data, to 4-H scrapbooks and photographs. These materials also cover a wide range of subjects from water rights and the development of irrigation districts, climate data, pest management, a wide variety of information about crops and trees, to youth development and nutrition. Our job is to ensure that the information contained within these offices will not be lost and will be preserved for future generations of researchers.


What’s next?

The first half of this year we will finish our inventory at the Ventura County Cooperative Extension office and begin organizing and re-housing materials from the Merced and Ventura county offices. I will also be making a trip up to the Humboldt County office to begin inventorying their materials.

I’ll be posting a new blog post once a month with updates on the project progress. You may learn about my trip to one of the county offices, get behind-the-scenes glimpses into our work and progress, or the 4-1-1 on interesting material that we have uncovered.

Stay tuned!