Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Treasure hunt leads to treasure trove

I've been into most of the spaces here in the Old Library/Auditorium, and while I know there are some utility closets that remain unexplored territory, I had no idea that the building housed a large trove of art until this past Friday, when I was invited on a tour of Room 460A.

[Cue dramatic music.]

Room 460A turns out to be the old projection room, and so is accessed through a door at the back of the auditorium balcony. And then through a short hall. And then up a flight of stairs. Flipping on the single dim bulb, our small group was greeted with the sight of... frames. Frames in three directions, stacked against the walls. And then a milk crate spied under the sink. And rolls of something beyond the toilet (the projectionist apparently required some creature comforts, hence the old plumbing).

Unfortunately, we had only planned a 30-minute look-see (which shows how unprepared we were for what we encountered) and the available floor space wasn't large enough to permit close examination of all the room contents. Most of the materials appear to be works of art, from oil paintings to velvet paintings to wood carvings to glass sculpture. In the archival category, we did identify the bas-relief bust of Kenneth A.J. Mackenzie designed by A.P. Proctor (but not the accompanying text plaque, which may very well be up there somewhere), and a large architectural model of campus (circa 1956?).

Unable to walk away empty-handed, I did bring down a large framed certificate of commemoration (shown here). It reads: "In commemoration of those members of the personnel of United States Army Base Hospital Number 46, University of Oregon Medical School, who died in their country's service: Norene M. Royer, Ernest D. Stout, Kenneth M. Welshons," followed by a complete listing of the officers, nurses, civilian employees, and enlisted personnel of Base Hospital 46, the volunteer medical unit organized out of the medical school in 1917. The certificate is in a hideous blue wooden frame and bears signs of silverfish nibbling. We'll need to get it out of the frame to examine it more thoroughly, but it's not clear whether the piece dates from the immediate postwar period. It's possible that it was created for a later anniversary event--which must nevertheless have been some time ago, judging by the accretion of dust and the antiquity of its companion pieces in 460A.

Some days, life really is like a Noah Wyle Librarian movie. And this is why we are thankful for wash-and-wear.

No comments: