Archives News

Myra Albert Wiggins

The Myra Albert Wiggins papers are an avenue into the life of a female artist in the early twentieth century. Myra Albert Wiggins (1869-1956) was a successful photographer, painter, and poet who grew up in Salem, Oregon and attended Willamette University. She showed natural artistic talent at an early age, spending hours drawing and painting in her home and in fields around Salem. She won the first of many awards for painting at the Oregon State Fair when she was 17. Between 1886 and 1907 she won a total of 94 more state fair awards for her art.

Between 1891 and 1894, Wiggins studied at the Art Students League in New York. In the early 1900s, Wiggins also engaged in pictorial photography, which involved using the camera to creating images intended to evoke emotional expression. Using artwork as an artistic medium was a new phenomenon at the time. Wiggins’ took pictorial photographs as she traveled throughout Europe, Egypt and Turkey.Wiggins Scrapbook

Wiggins was one of the first women to become a member of The Camera Club of New York. In 1903, Alfred Stieglitz, one of the most important photographers of the time, admitted her as a member of Photo-Secession, a movement of photographers united to promote photography as art. Wiggins continued as a painter, photographer and poet in Salem, Oregon, and Seattle and Toppenish, Washington. She co-founded the Women Painters of Washington in 1930, and was featured in exhibitions throughout the United States including the National Gallery in Washington, D.C and the National Academy in New York. She also taught and wrote on topics of photography and painting.

The Willamette University Archives and Special Collections is home to the Myra Albert Wiggins papers, a collection of correspondence, photographs, and artwork. Her papers contain correspondence with family and friends as well as business correspondence about her artwork. The Wiggins papers also contain memorabilia and Wiggins’ diaries written between 1936 and 1944. Thanks to a recently awarded Hewlett Grant, these diaries will soon be digitized and transcribed.

For more information on Wiggins, researchers can see the Bonnie and Roger Hull collection on Myra Albert Wiggins. This collection is a compilation of photographs, correspondence and research materials assembled by Bonnie and Roger Hull for their exhibition and article honoring Wiggins.

Travis Cross papers now open to researchers

The Willamette University Archives is excited to announce that the Travis Cross papers are now open for used by researchers. These papers contain a variety of materials related to the work Cross did for Mark Hatfield as well as personal materials that cover the years 1950-2004. Because Cross filled a variety of roles in his work with Secretary of State and Governor Hatfield, the materials in the collection are wide ranging in scope. Correspondence and memos covering the years 1950-1968 detail campaign strategy, office procedures for the governor’s staff, detailed analysis of contributor approaches and personal reflections.

Additionally there are copies of speeches given by Hatfield, campaign materials for the different campaigns Cross worked on for Hatfield, transcripts of talk programs and audio and visual recordings of interviews and speeches given by Travis Cross.

Materials covering the years 1968-1975 include correspondence with clients Cross worked for as a public relations consultant, his work as a volunteer on the 1972 campaign for President Richard Nixon and for various Republican fund raising campaigns. Correspondence from this time contains letters from Governor George Romney, Nelson Rockefeller, John Lindsay and Gerry Frank.

Renovation of Archives and Special Collections

Willamette University Archives and Special Collections will be closed for renovations during the month of June. If you know that you will need access to specific records/collections during the month of June please let Mary McRobinson know before June 4th so that the materials can be pulled and made accessible before renovations begin.

The offices of University Archivist Mary McRobinson; Archivist and Records Manager Rose Marie Walter and Administrative Assistant Veronica Ramos will be relocated on the first floor of the library during this time. Please direct questions to Mary McRobinson at or 503-370-6764. Information will be provided when the archives is open again.

Independent minds

As Oregon marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote with various events, we have been looking through our collections for examples of women who were role models and leaders in their time. A wonderful collection of letters and autographs provides several examples of such women.

Viola Price Franklin, whose husband was a Willamette University professor and university librarian from 1918 to 1936, had collected letters and autographs from well-known literary and political figures for many years. When she died, her sister donated this collection to our archives. Getting these letters ready for researchers to use, I discovered letters by Louisa May Alcott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Alice Mary Longfellow. Each of these women was a leader during her life time. These letters reflect the strong wills and independence of thought they possessed in the late 1800s and early 1900s, a time when women were not generally encouraged to think of anything but house and home.

Anthony and Stanton, of course, were major leaders in the movement to obtain the vote for women; Alcott was an author whose female characters provided positive models for young women; Longfellow, daughter of poet Henry W. Longfellow, started an educational institution that allowed women to get the equivalent of a Harvard education, complete with degree, at a time when Harvard did not admit women.

These letters, along with the others in the collection, can be read and studied at the university archives between the hours of 9 to noon and 1 to 4, Monday through Friday. Many of the letters can also be read by clicking on Viola’s name earlier in this post and looking through the Contents List. Explore the literary and feminist roots of the nineteenth century and discover the real people whose names you see in history books. We look forward to seeing you at the archives.

Rose Marie Walter, Archivist