By Gail Oberst
You probably haven’t heard of Tiah Edmunson-Morton. She doesn’t brew beer, she doesn’t run in brewing circles, and she hasn’t published anything of note about the beer world.
But someday, if you live and breathe beer, you will want to visit some of Tiah’s work. Tiah and her cohorts at Oregon State University Library’s new Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives (or OHBA) are quietly gathering the artifacts of the drama that has become Oregon’s modern and vibrant brewing Renaissance.
OSU – a land grant university with a long agricultural past – has been keeping records on brewing and hops-growing for at least a century. This summer, Tiah began to hone collections for OSU’s archives in a way that was “more deliberate,” she said. These archives can put an archivist’s stamp of authenticity on Oregon’s brewing Renaissance.
Although she’s been working at OSU for seven years, Tiah’s work on OHBA has just begun, so she’s looking for help. To kick it off this fall, she staged several community events – including a cooking with beer event that featured beer-based foods made from historic recipes gathered and archived in the OSU Libraries. The recipes are now listed online, ranging from a 1914 rye beer gelatin to Depression-era egg beer and dozens of other beer dishes.
Creating an archive dedicated to documenting and preserving Oregon’s brewing past and present is not just an archivist’s work, it’s the community’s work, said Tiah. The more people know about the archives, the better the potential for collecting materials that may now be gathering dust in someone’s attic. Already, supporters have produced photos, event records, coasters, letters, postcards, stories and recordings related to people, places and beers we now see as “historic” in their importance.
And Tiah is moving into a new branch of archiving, born of the digital age.
“How do you preserve a website or a blog?” she said. “People are writing and talking about really amazing stuff at an unheard of level. They’re growing hops, brewing and visiting breweries and writing about it!”
You might mistakenly assume from her enthusiasm for social networking that she is new to this internet thing, but she is not. In addition to web archiving and working in virtual boxes to collect what people are producing, staff at OSU are also digitizing their historical photo collections and putting them online. She’s also blogging about her adventures in archiving Oregon’s beer history at http://thebrewstorian.tumblr.com. Thanks to the recipe event, OHBA now has a collection of old and new beer cookbooks, and her blog adds a few notes about new recipes being added, such as those at Deschutes’ www.deschutesbrewery.com/brews/pub-recipes. And, as a true librarian should, she indexes things to make it easy to access.
But Tiah also said she hopes that beer history events will bring people to the collections, not only so they’ll donate materials, but also so they’ll learn from them. “I’m hoping for a hands-on way to engage people,” Tiah said.
Those who are interested in the archives can start at http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/ohba.html, which has links to photos in Flickr and Tiah’s blog.
How can those of us who love beer help?
“We’re asking people to see their place in this history and see that we didn’t come to this place in history without a connection to the past,” Tiah said. “But we can also ask people to archive right now, so that researchers in the future will get it right about us. Think in the future,” Tiah said.
Beer writers, farmers, brewers and company owners need to consider how their information is being saved. “Think about your place in history, and record it. Be intentional and deliberate.”
That means taking the pictures off your phone and organizing them into accessible files with dates and identifications. That means backing up your files! For writers, it means doing real research, with information gathered from the source, not just repeated from blogs or other publications. For videographers, it means talking to people who have played a part in Oregon’s beer history, no matter what their role was. “Did they have any idea at the time they started that any of this would happen? I don’t think so,” Tiah said.
Tiah can be reached at 541-737-7387, or by e-mailing email@example.com.
Stories from the print edition of the Oregon Beer Growler.