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166 afterword A Note on Collaboration and Method My personal connection to Avel Gordly began in Salem in the spring of 2007. I was lobbying the Oregon Legislature on behalf of the higher education budget as a Department of History unit representative for the Portland State University faculty union. After testifying before the committee, our team visited with legislators, including Senator Gordly. She had represented my electoral district in Portland for many years and we were acquainted socially through my husband’s political work. As it happened, a library colleague had recently alerted me to Avel’s joint gift of her personal papers to Black Studies and the PSU library and further hinted that the staff was shorthanded for processing it. As we wrapped up our conversation with Avel that spring afternoon in her Senate office—she was, of course, a great champion of our cause—I took a moment to mention that I was available to provide support for the processing of her papers. Her face just beamed. I had been talking with the chair of Black Studies, Dalton Miller-Jones, for some time about collaborating and we had not yet hit upon a project. This one seemed perfect. Thanks to the mentoring I’d received over the years from archivist friends, like Doug Erickson at Lewis and Clark College, I started working on the collection, sometimes just for an hour or two per week, during academic year 2007-2008. In the summer of 2008, with the help of Avel’s wonderful assistant, Meggin Clay, and two college volunteer interns, we worked full time together to finish the archive. Another key support was my Political Science colleague and dear friend Melody Rose, who had been leading a major effort to collect the personal papers and oral histories of women electeds in the state of Oregon and who had diligently laid the groundwork with PSU library to accommodate just this kind of project. The Gordly collection is now made up of fifty banker’s boxes of materials with a detailed, hundred-plus-page 167 finding aid. The aid contains folder-level description for the entire collection, item-level description for half of the correspondence runs, a users’ guide for teachers, and study outlines for middle school, high school, and college students. Avel already has been using material from the collection in her courses at PSU and we anticipate additional (including digital) outlets for the papers. We envision the Gordly papers as a model for community-based collection development and interactive learning. Shortly after I presented the finding aid to Avel at the end of the summer of 2008, she called me into her office in Black Studies for a meeting. After we chatted a bit, Avel looked at me with her kind and steady eyes and said: “I’m ready to tell my story. Will you help me?” I was thrilled, honored, and more than a little nervous but I said: “Yes.” And I’m so glad I did. I offered to record Avel’s story to create something that I believe we called, on that very first day, an “oral memoir” of her life. My students and I had conducted oral histories in the Portland community for over a decade, but we generally stuck to “snapshot” interviews of only one or two hours in duration. In addition, those earlier projects centered on generating primary sources and archives—that is, audio recordings and typed transcriptions—for individual women leaders and their organizations rather than on generating published narratives for general readers. I conveyed to Avel that I felt prepared for but not exactly experienced with what she had in mind, but she was willing to give me a go. I distinctly remember that our conversation included some sharing about life alignments. With her retirement from Senate imminent and already teaching in Black Studies at PSU on a three-year appointment, Avel was at a good career juncture to put her story together. I shared my own sense of the fleeting and precious nature of moments that allow busy women like her to take the time to preserve, order, and share their stories. That we were both PSU faculty made arranging time together very easy. In the coming months, we often mused together about the complex histories that made us neighbors in Portland, Oregon, even though our own mothers had been born on different continents and did not speak the same language and how it was 168 that we became faculty...


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