Written by on January 21, 2014

Preserving Cal Poly’s history for faculty and future

Special Collections and Archives houses interesting things from one-of-a-kind artist’s books to original, historical documents, films and audio recordings. Yet many of these films and audio recordings are on mediums that rarely can be viewed or listened to in today’s world. With this in mind, it’s good news that 37 recordings from Cal Poly will be soon be digitized and viewable on the Internet Archive.

Preserving Cal Poly’s history

In October, 2013, Zach Vowell, the library’s digital archivist, submitted 50 recordings and films to the California Audiovisual Preservation Program (CAVPP). The CAVPP, in partnership with 75 libraries, works to digitize and make make available audiovisual recordings that show the history of California. Of the 50 recordings Zach submitted, 37 were selected to be digitized. Once the recordings are digital they will be shared on the Internet Archive, preserving these pieces of Cal Poly history and making them available to everyone.

Because digitizing older formats, like 16 mm film, takes a lot of time and money, Zach focused on preserving formats that would no longer be playable in the near future.

As an example of interesting recordings that were chosen to be digitized, Poly Royal artifacts and recordings with Julian McPhee were selected, along with a film called “sheep field trip.” These recordings and films haven’t been viewed by Special Collections and Archives, so there might be a few surprises!

"Sheep Field Trip" Film

“Sheep Field Trip” Film

Archives for faculty and curriculum

Digitizing these historic recordings is just another example of how Special Collections and Archives is making Cal Poly’s history more accessible to be used in the curriculum at Cal Poly. Faculty can use these recordings in their classes to share campus history.

Currently, a History 303 class visits Special Collections and Archives to practice researching and writing about historical documents, Zach said. Now, University Archives will have a wider variety of historical research materials with these digitized recordings.

A list of the selected recordings:

Zach Vowell with the recordings.

Zach Vowell with the recordings.

  • “Ornamental Horticulture field trip, San Francisco area, 1948,” (16mm)
  • Pictures of student farming programs at Cal Poly in 1932, (16mm)
  • Voorhis Unit Field Trip, (16mm)
  • Couper’s footage of Cal Poly in 1932, (16mm)
  • “McPhee and party looks over Kellogg Ranch, 1948-1949,” (16mm)
  • Pictures of the campus taken in the air b/w, (16mm)
  • Sheep Husbandry in the 1940s – original Kodachrome, (16mm)
  • Governor Reagan at Cal Poly, (16mm)
  • Kennedy Inauguration with Governor Reagan, (16mm)
  • 1960 California Library Association recording of Linus Pauling speaking, (1/4 open reel)
  • “Relationships with the Chancellor and How They Affect Cal Poly, 1962,” (1/4 open reel)
  • Motion picture of the Unlaying of the Cornerstone of the Original Administration Building, (16mm)
  • Mexican Relief Project, (16mm)
  • Cal Poly Fire 1970, (16mm)
  • Football – Cal Poly vs. Pepperdine, (16mm)
  • Football – Cal Poly vs. San Jose State, (16mm)
  • Football – Cal Poly vs. San Francisco State, (16mm)
  • X-Group [footage of a fair?], (16mm)
  • Cal Poly Rose Parade Float: “The Mouse that Got Away,”  (16mm)
  • “Traffic Survey, Oct. 6-7, 1969, Grand Ave.,”  (16mm)
  • “KSBY-TV film on history of Cal Poly, includes interview with McPhee,”  (16mm)
  • Couper FFA story / Modesto FFA, (16mm)
  • Sheep Field Trip to Winters, CA, (16mm)
  • Poly Royal 1937, (16mm)
  • Early Poly Royal, band leading parade of animals, (16mm)
  • President McPhee’s 1st Annual Alumni Tour – 1953, (16mm)
  • Interview with Julian McPhee, Bob Kennedy, and Bob Regan, KGB Radio (San Diego), 2/11/55, (transcription disc)
  • “From Pencil to Press”: A training film on the production of the California Future Farmers Magazine (Senior Project)”, (16mm, 2 reels)
  • Interview – Dr. Glenn S. Dumke – Chancellor, C.S.C., 1967,  (1/4 audio)
  • Interview – Raymond A. Rydell – Exec. Vice Chancellor, C.S.C., 1967, (1/4 audio)
    Tape and picture from the collection.

    Tape and picture from the collection.

  • Interview – Harry R. Wellman, (1/4 audio)
  • Interview – Roy Simpson, Vernon Sturgeon, Louis S. Merrill, (1/4 audio)
  • “As I Remember: John Perozzi, Cal Poly student, 1909-1912,”  (1/4 audio)
  • Poly Royal 1955, (16mm)
  • “The Greatest Popular Songs of Xmas, 1979 (with Weird Al),”  (1/4 audio)

From the California Fairs Collection

  • San Diego Frog Town, California Fairs Collection, (16mm)
  • Black and White Rodeo Shots / Indios Arabic Stage in Color / B & W Parade Shots, California Fairs Collection, (16mm)

The recordings should be available in 6-8 months on the the Internet Archive.


Read more on California Audiovisual Preservation Program, CAVPP, Internet Archive, Kennedy Library Special Collections, university archives, and zach vowell.

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