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Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories, 1979-1993

By Finding aid prepared by Chris Petersen.

Collection Overview

Title: Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories, 1979-1993

Predominant Dates: 1990-1991

ID: OH 022

Primary Creator: Horner Museum

Extent: 0.4 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The collection is arranged into three series: I. Audiocassettes; II. Transcripts; and III. Project Files. Each series is arranged chronologically or by material type, as appropriate.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories document Jensen's life and work as an important figure in the study and evolution of Alaskan Eskimo culture in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Under contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Jensen spent twenty-seven years establishing educational and cultural exchange programs with Alaska's Eskimo communities. Along the way he collected some 4,000 art pieces and artifacts which, in 1985, formed the nucleus of the Jensen Arctic Museum, currently housed on the campus of Western Oregon University, where Jensen served as professor of Education. All of the audiocassettes held in this collection, as well as the final draft transcript, have been digitized and these files are available upon patron request.

Scope and Content Notes

In May 1989, administrators at Western Oregon State College (now Western Oregon University) approached the Horner Museum with the idea that an oral history project be conducted with Paul Jensen. From 1989-1991, this project was carried out by the Horner Museum, with oral historian Jennifer Lee serving as interviewer and project manager. The resulting Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories collection is comprised of seventeen audiocassettes documenting the seven interviews that Lee completed with Jensen. The interviews trace the arc of Jensen's biography, from his youth growing up on a farm in Denmark to his educational pursuits in Norway, Canada and the United States. His later work for the U.S. government in Mexico and Alaska are also discussed in depth, as are his memories of interactions with Alaskan Eskimo communities and his opinions on Eskimo culture.

The collection also includes preliminary and final draft transcripts of each interview, though finalized transcripts free of annotations do not remain extant. Project files including correspondence, notes, research materials and permissions forms round out the collection.

All of the audiocassettes held in this collection, as well as the final draft transcript, have been digitized and these files are available upon patron request.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Paul Henry Jensen (1907-1994) was born to a farming family in Teestrup, Denmark on the island of Sealand. In 1928, after a two year period in Canada, he immigrated to the United States in search of educational opportunities. For ten years Jensen worked his way through school, receiving a bachelor's degree from Midland College in Fremont, Nebraska before moving on to the University of North Dakota where, in 1938, he took a doctorate in history and psychology. Following World War II, Jensen moved to Mexico for five years, during which time he helped establish multiple Universities of the Americas. He and his wife Arlene Munkres Jensen visited Oregon on holiday in 1958 and decided to move to Corvallis shortly thereafter. For four years Paul taught social studies at Highland View Middle School while Arlene worked as a librarian at Corvallis High School.

In 1962 Jensen visited Alaska for the first time, a trip which sparked a research interest in native Arctic culture that consumed him for the remainder of his career. Employed by what was then known as the Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) and working under contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Jensen spent twenty-seven years engaging with Eskimo populations throughout Alaska, establishing Eskimo schools and training native groups on techniques for adjusting to modern life. Jensen was also instrumental in creating a student exchange program wherein Alaskan Eskimo youth visited Corvallis, Monmouth and Dallas, Oregon for seven weeks of exposure to the culture of the Pacific Northwest. Jensen was likewise responsible for putting the Eskimo language of Yupik into print for the first time. During the peak of his activity, Jensen traveled around 80,000 miles per year, shuttling back and forth between Alaska and Oregon.

Over the course of his long exposure to Eskimo culture - and prompted by what he felt to be the degradation of that culture - Jensen collected a large volume of art and artifacts documenting various aspects of the traditional Alaskan Eskimo way of life. In 1985 these materials were made available to the public through the Jensen Arctic Museum, established in Monmouth, Oregon on the campus of present-day Western Oregon University. Under Jensen's curation, the museum's original collection was comprised of more than 4,000 items, including clothes, tools, children's dolls, interpretive signs, umiak boats and stuffed musk oxen, wolves and polar bears. The Jensen Arctic Museum remains the only museum on the west coast of the United States that is devoted to Arctic culture.

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 17 audiocassettes; 2 boxes

Statement on Access: Collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: The collection was originally created by the staff of the Horner Museum with support from the administration of Western Oregon State College. The materials were transferred to the University Archives upon the closure of the Horner Museum in 1996 and later described as part of the Horner Museum Oral History Collection (OH 10). In 2013 the materials were separated out and described as their own collection.

Related Materials: This collection is a component of the Oregon Multicultural Archives, which documents the lives and activities of the African American, Asian American, Latino and Native American communities of Oregon. Researchers interested in the history and culture of Alaska may wish to consult the William L. Finley Papers (MSS Finley) and the Gerald W. Williams Collection (MSS WilliamsG).

Preferred Citation: Courtesy of the Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories (OH 022), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Processing Information: Arrangement and description by Chris Petersen


Horner Museum
Lee, Jennifer A.

People, Places, and Topics

Eskimos--Material culture.
Eskimos--Social life and customs.
Holm-Jensen, Paul Henry, 1907-1994.
Jensen Arctic Museum
Lee, Jennifer A.
Oregon Multicultural Archives
United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs
Western Oregon University
Yupik Eskimos--Cultural assimilation--Alaska--History.
Yupik Eskimos--Education--Alaska--History.

Forms of Material

Oral histories (literary genre)

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Audiocassettes, 1989-1990
Horner Museum accession numbers are included with each set of audiocassettes. All interviews were conducted by Jennifer Lee. Each of the cassettes described in Series 1 have been digitized and are available upon patron request.
Extent: 17 items

Box-Folder 1.1-1.4: Jensen, Paul H., November 20, 1989
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9a-b and 893-4-3347-8. The latter two cassettes are duplicate copies. Interview topics include: Jensen's youth in Denmark; family background and dynamics; the family farm; education within the family; early travels; World War I; Jensen's siblings.
Box-Folder 1.5-1.7: Jensen, Paul H., January 27, 1990
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9c-e. Interview topics include: family background and dynamics; interest in travel as a boy; move to Norway for school; move to and settlement in Canada; working in Canada; decision to move to the U.S.
Box-Folder 1.8-1.9: Jensen, Paul H., March 10, 1990
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9f-g. Interview topics include: personal health habits and philosophical approach to life; immigration to the U.S.; traveling and working in the U.S.; talent as a singer; enrollment at Spokane College and Pacific Lutheran University; enrollment and education at Midland College; enrollment and education at University of North Dakota; move to Seattle during World War II; becoming a citizen of the U.S.; travels in Turkey and North Africa; Jensen's children; move to Mexico; decision to move to Oregon.
Box-Folder 1.10-1.11: Jensen, Paul H., April 11, 1990
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9h-i. Interview topics include: settling and working in Corvallis; first exposure to Alaska; employment at the Oregon College of Education; birth of Alaska student exchange program; exposure to Eskimo language and culture.
Box-Folder 1.12-1.13: Jensen, Paul H., May 2, 1990
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9j-k. Interview topics include: living in the Arctic; nomination to the Native Council of Elders; an Eskimo wedding; trips to Punic Island; Eskimo diet; research colleagues; collecting Eskimo artifacts; Jensen's Eskimo name.
Box-Folder 1.14-1.15: Jensen, Paul H., May 16, 1990
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9l, 989-1-9n. Interview topics include: artifacts at the Jensen Arctic Museum; documenting and publishing the Yupik language; survival techniques in the Arctic; the Bureau of Indian Affairs Eskimo education program; dangers of Arctic travel.
Box-Folder 1.16-1.17: Jensen, Paul H., May 23, 1990
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9m, 989-1-9o. Interview topics include: willing by an Eskimo woman of her son to Jensen; Alaska student exchange program; Eskimo diet; Eskimo shamen; meeting Arlene Munkres; raising children; reflections on Alaska and on Eskimo culture.
Series 2: Transcripts, 1991
This series is comprised of annotated preliminary draft transcripts (4 parts) and final draft transcripts (2 parts). Folders in this series have been scanned and are noted below. The collection does not include finalized transcripts free of annotations. Most or all of the transcripts were typed by Bonnie Humphreys.
Extent: 6 folders

Box-Folder 2.1: Preliminary Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H., 1991
Pages 1-96.
Box-Folder 2.2: Preliminary Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H., 1991
Pages 97-160.
Box-Folder 2.3: Preliminary Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H., 1991
Pages 161-210.
Box-Folder 2.4: Preliminary Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H., 1991
Pages 211-271.
Box-Folder 2.5: Final Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H., 1991
Pages 1-115. This folder has been scanned and is available upon request.
Box-Folder 2.6: Final Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H., 1991
Pages 116-194. This folder has been scanned and is available upon request.
Series 3: Project Files, 1979-1993
This series consists of materials gathered or generated as a function of the administrative and research components of conducting the Jensen oral history project.
Extent: 4 folders

Box-Folder 2.7: Correspondence, 1989-1991
Box-Folder 2.8: Interview and Project Notes, 1989-1993
Box-Folder 2.9: Paul H. Jensen Historical File, 1979-1991
Folder includes newspaper and magazine clippings, programs and brochures used in researching Jensen's background as well as that of the Jensen Arctic Museum. Of particular note is an undated pamphlet authored by Jensen, "Hunters of the Arctic Rim."
Box-Folder 2.10: Permissions Forms, 1990

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.