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The Potlatch piece of history

A very nice Christmas gift for historians of Idaho and the Inland Northwest: A treasure trove of material from within the Potlatch lumber operations, over a period of decades, donated to the University of Idaho. Significant parts of the region’s history may be rewritten as researchers dive into it.

UI said in a release:

The University of Idaho has received a gift of 521-cubic-feet of historical archives to the Library’s special collections from the Potlatch Corporation, acknowledging the university’s long-standing relationship with the company.

The documents include many from Potlatch Forests Inc. and Potlatch Lumber Company, and personal manuscripts from the George Jewett family from 1986-95. The records document not only the business history, but the environmental history dating back to the late 19th century of the American forestry and paper industry.

Environmental history is a real strength of the collection, with records of the earliest days of forest surveys. The collection details not only what the very early forest look like, but also the change over time for particular locations. Photographs of the forests, including aerial surveys, showed these changes. Other documents also showed the development of forest harvesting work as muscle power and steam engines were replaced with gas and diesel powered vehicles and machinery, as well as the introduction of electricity into forest work camps and mills.

The Potlatch Corporation Archives are considered to be a foundation collection for the university’s Special Collections and Archives, and are dedicated to the cultural and environmental history of Idaho, the northern Rockies and Columbia Plateau region.

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