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Helen M. Gilkey Papers, 1910-1974

By Trevor Sandgathe

Collection Overview

Title: Helen M. Gilkey Papers, 1910-1974

ID: MSS GilkeyH

Primary Creator: Gilkey, Helen M. (1886-1972)

Extent: 2.1 cubic feet. More info below.

Arrangement: The Helen M. Gilkey Papers are arranged into three series: Series 1. Correspondence, 1910-1971; Series 2. Research Materials, 1919-1964; and Series 3. Speeches and Written Works, 1911-1973.

Languages of Materials: English [eng]


The Helen M. Gilkey Papers are comprised of materials generated and assembled by Helen Gilkey, an American mycologist, alumnus and professor of the Oregon State College Botany Department, and curator of the OSC Herbarium (1918-1951). The materials include personal and professional correspondence; notes, research materials, and drafts of publications authored by Gilkey; specimen photographs; and scientific illustrations created by Gilkey.

Reference use scans of box-folders 4.6 - 4.12, 6.5, 6.10, 6.11, 6.13, 6.16, 6.17, and 7.1 are available upon request.

Scope and Content Notes

The Helen M. Gilkey Papers are comprised of materials generated and assembled by Helen Gilkey while attending Oregon Agricultural College as a student and during her professional career at OAC (later Oregon State College). Much of the content generated by Gilkey focuses on plant identification, management of noxious weeds, and the study of Tuberales (predominantly truffles).

Much of the collection is comprised of correspondence with friends, colleagues, organizations, and members of the public, including numerous requests for assistance in plant identification. Box-folders 4.6 through 4.12 from the Correspondence series have been digitized and are available upon request.

The collection also contains several research notebooks including record of a 1924 research trip to The Dalles, Oregon; notes comprised largely of species identification data and partial draft publications; specimen photographs; scientific illustrations created or traced by Gilkey using pencil, ink, and watercolors; documentation of research funding received by Gilkey; and materials recording the history of the greenhouses at Oregon State College from 1919-1960.

The collection also includes drafts and research materials related to Gilkey's publications, Tuberales of North America (1939) and Weeds of the Pacific Northwest (1957); her master's thesis "Oregon Mushrooms" (1911); numerous other scientific and popular publications; a notebook of botany-related poems; transcripts from several radio talks; and several articles and a memoir about Gilkey's life and work. Box-folder 6.10 and 6.11 have been digitized and are available upon request.

Biographical / Historical Notes

Helen Margaret Gilkey was born on March 6, 1886, in Montesano, Washington. She moved with her family to Corvallis in 1903. She received her bachelor's degree from Oregon Agricultural College in 1907 and her master's degree in 1911. Gilkey earned her PhD at the University of California Berkeley in 1915. After completing her doctoral work, she worked as a scientific illustrator at Berkeley until accepting a position as curator of the Herbarium and professor in the Botany Department at Oregon Agricultural College in 1918.

Gilkey remained at Oregon Agricultural College (later Oregon State College) until her retirement in 1951. During this time, she established herself as a leading authority on mycology with a particular emphasis on truffles (order Tuberales). Gilkey coauthored several books; produced more than 40 scientific publications; generated educational content for popular audiences; and was recognized for the quality of her scientific illustrations, which she created both for her own publications and those of other scientists and researchers. She also oversaw the development and growth of the OSC Herbarium, including the production of an unpublished history of the Herbarium.

She continued her research and writing efforts well into retirement and was recognized for her contributions to the field by various professional organizations including the Oregon Academy of Sciences and the Northwest Scientific Association. The genus of fungus, Gilkeya, is named in honor of her efforts. Gilkey passed away in 1972 and the age of 86.

Author: Trevor Sandgathe

Administrative Information

More Extent Information: 7 boxes, including 1 oversize box, 8 photographic prints, 6 photograph negatives, and 1 glass transparency.

Statement on Access: This collection is open for research.

Acquisition Note: Portions of the Helen M. Gilkey Papers were transferred to the University Archives from various sources beginning in 1975. The latest accession was received in 2015. The collection now resides in the Special Collections and Archives Research Center.

Related Materials:

The History of Oregon State University Oral Histories and Sound Recordings (OH 003) includes a 1966 interview with Gilkey and her sister, Beulah. Photographs of Gilkey can be found in several collections including Harriet's Photograph Collection (P HC), the Herbarium Photographs (P 093) and the President's Office Photographs (P 092). Other materials pertaining to Gilkey's work are located in the Herbarium Records (RG 117), the Botany and Plant Pathology Department Records (RG 054), and the OSU Memorabilia Collection (MSS MC). Publications by Helen Gilkey can be found through the Oregon State University Valley Library catalog.

Materials documenting the work of other botanists and botanical illustrators can be found in the Donald B. Zobel Papers (MSS Zobel), the Marian Field Collection (MSS Field), the Oliver Matthews Collection (MSS Matthews), and elsewhere. The papers of Gilkey's sister, Beulah, are available in the Beulah Gilkey Collection (MSS GilkeyB).

Preferred Citation: Helen M. Gilkey Papers (MSS GilkeyH), Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Processing Information: The Helen M. Gilkey Papers were processed in 1995. Additional modifications were made circa 2000. The collection was reprocessed in 2018 to bring it into compliance with current processing standards and include recent accessions.

Finding Aid Revision History: This finding aid replaces the 1995 version of this guide that was encoded with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities in 2003.


Gilkey, Helen M. (1886-1972)

People, Places, and Topics

Botanical artists--Oregon--Corvallis.
Botany--Research--Northwest, Pacific.
Fungi--North America.
Gilkey, Helen M., 1886-1972
History of Science
Mycology--North America.
Natural Resources
Oregon State University. Department of Botany & Plant Pathology
Oregon State University. Herbarium
Truffles--Northwest, Pacific.
University History
Weeds--Research--Northwest, Pacific.

Forms of Material

Botanical illustrations.
Drawings (visual works).
Film negatives.
Glass transparencies.
Photographic prints.
Poetry--Women authors.
Scientific illustrations (images).

Box and Folder Listing

Series 1: Correspondence, 1910-1971

Series 1 is comprised of correspondence between Gilkey and professional associates, publishers, Oregon State College (OSC) administrators, and representatives of various educational and research organizations. The majority of this correspondence relates to plant species identification, specimen exchanges, and sharing of professional literature and includes correspondence from both professional botanists and members of the general public, both within the United States and abroad.

While most of the correspondence is organized into general files by correspondent's name and date, several files document prolonged exchanges with friends and professional associates including Binford & Mort Publishing, Inc., Patricia Peck (Gilkey's friend and coauthor), and Morton Peck (founder of the Peck Herbarium at Willamette University).

Reference use scans of the contents of box-folders 4.6 through 4.12 are available upon request.

Box-Folder 1.1: Correspondence: A, 1924-1964
Box-Folder 1.2: Correspondence: B, 1923-1951
Box-Folder 1.3: Correspondence: B, 1958-1974
Box-Folder 1.4: Correspondence: C, 1922-1952
Box-Folder 1.5: Correspondence: C, 1953-1957
Box-Folder 1.6: Correspondence: D, 1926-1964
Box-Folder 1.7: Correspondence: E, 1925-1967
Box-Folder 1.8: Correspondence: F, 1925-1966
Box-Folder 2.1: Correspondence: G, 1924-1965
Box-Folder 2.2: Correspondence: H, 1926-1967
Box-Folder 2.3: Correspondence: I, 1935-1964
Box-Folder 2.4: Correspondence: J, 1911-1967
Box-Folder 2.5: Correspondence: K, 1927-1970
Box-Folder 2.6: Correspondence: L, 1910-1970
Box-Folder 2.7: Correspondence: M, 1920-1966
Box-Folder 3.1: Correspondence: Mc, 1925-1963
Box-Folder 3.2: Correspondence: N, 1926-1963
Box-Folder 3.3: Correspondence: O, 1935-1965
Box-Folder 3.4: Correspondence: P, 1924-1964
Box-Folder 3.5: Correspondence: Q, 1957-1958
Box-Folder 3.6: Correspondence: R, 1925-1954
Box-Folder 3.7: Correspondence: R, 1955-1968
Box-Folder 3.8: Correspondence: S, 1911-1951
Box-Folder 3.9: Correspondence: S, 1952-1966
Box-Folder 4.1: Correspondence: T, 1924-1967
Box-Folder 4.2: Correspondence: U, 1949-1966
Box-Folder 4.3: Correspondence: V, 1949-1968
Box-Folder 4.4: Correspondence: W, 1917-1967
Box-Folder 4.5: Correspondence: X-Z, 1948-1965
Box-Folder 4.6: Correspondence: Binford & Mort, Publishers, 1950-1951
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 4.7: Correspondence: Oregon State College Friends of the Library, 1960-1962
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 4.8: Correspondence: Packard, Patricia, circa 1952-1971
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 4.9: Correspondence: Peck, Morton and Jess, 1925-1961
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 4.10: Correspondence: Washington Rhododendron Society, Inc., 1954-1960
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 4.11: Correspondence: Professional Organizations, 1924-1964
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 4.12: Correspondence: "Appreciations", 1952-1962
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Series 2: Research Materials, 1919-1964

Series 2 includes materials collected and generated by Helen Gilkey for research purposes. The series consists of several notebooks and a collection of research notes comprised of species descriptions, partial draft manuscripts and typescripts of numerous publications, bibliographic notes, and sketches. Of particular note is a field notebook documenting Gilkey's travels through central and northern Oregon during the summer of 1924. The notebook details Gilkey's travel, social and professional interactions, presence of various weeds and other vegetation, agricultural activities in the area, character of the landscape, and observations of Native Americans from the Wapinitia area near The Dalles, Oregon,

The series also includes specimen photographs, many of which may have been taken by Gilkey and other collected materials used as reference sources, including photocopies, two photographs of Oregon dendrologist Oliver Matthews, and a hand-tinted illustration of Lilium Washingtonianum. Also present is a relatively large quantity of scientific illustrations created by Gilkey or traced from Edward's Botanical Register, including ink, pencil, and watercolor works. Some of the illustrations appear to have been prepared for publication, including two pages containing border illustrations for Willis Linn Jepson's Manual of Flowering Plants in California (Box-folder 7.1; the border illustrations have been digitized and are available upon request).

Also present is a small group of materials documenting research funding received by Gilkey from Oregon State College, the American Philosophical Society, the Mycological Society of America, and other organizations. Additionally, the series contains collected records of the OSC greenhouses, possibly as reference material for Gilkey's unpublished "History of Botany at Oregon State College."

Reference use scans of the contents of box-folder 7.1 are available upon request.

Box-Folder 4.13: Notebook: [Central Oregon Research Trip], 1924
Box-Folder 4.14: Notebook: "Miscellaneous Notes", circa 1940-1943
Box-Folder 4.15: Notebook: "Bacteriology", undated
Box-Folder 4.16: Notebook: "Tuberales", undated
Box-Folder 5.1: Notebook: [Species descriptions], undated
Box-Folder 5.2: Research notes, undated
Box-Folder 5.3: Research notes, undated
Box-Folder 5.4: Research notes, undated
Box-Folder 5.5: Research notes, undated
Box-Folder 5.6: Research notes, undated
Box-Folder 5.7: Specimen photographs, undated
Box-Folder 7.1: Scientific illustrations, undated
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 7.2: Scientific illustration tracings from Edward's Botanical Register, undated
Box-Folder 7.3: Scientific illustration reference materials, undated
Box-Folder 6.1: Research funding, 1951-1964
Box-Folder 6.2: Oregon Agricultural College Greenhouse Facilities records, 1919-1960
Series 3: Speeches and Written Works, 1911-1973

Series 3 is comprised predominately of notes, correspondence, and drafts related to the production of numerous publications authored by Gilkey. Included are materials for two of Gilkey's books: Tuberales of North America and Weeds of the Pacific Northwest; a copy of Gilkey's master's thesis, "Oregon Mushrooms"; and several other publications mostly relating to Tuberales. The series also includes copies of a number of articles by Gilkey published in The Oregonian (many of which appeared as part of the "Outlawed Weeds" column) and transcripts of three radio talks given by Gilkey on truffles and plant identification.

Of particular note is a small notebook featuring more than a dozen one-stanza poems composed and hand-lettered by Gilkey. The poems are related to plant identification and appear to have been created as educational tools or mnemonic devices. The series also includes newsclippings about Gilkey's professional efforts and Dr. Helen Margaret Gilkey: Her Life, Her Family and Her Poems, a memoire edited and published by her sister, Beulah, which features other poetry by Gilkey.

Reference use scans of the contents of box-folders 6.5, 6.10 - 6.11, 6.13, and 6.16 - 6.17 are available upon request.

Box-Folder 6.3: Tuberales of North America, circa 1939
This publication is available online in ScholarsArchive.
Box-Folder 6.4: Weeds of the Pacific Northwest, 1952-1964
Box-Folder 6.5: "Thesis on Oregon Mushrooms," Oregon Agricultural College, 1911
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 6.6: "New or Otherwise Noteworthy Species of Tuberales", 1947
Box-Folder 6.7: "Taxonomic Notes on Tuberales", 1954
Box-Folder 6.8: "Order Tuberales", circa 1960
Box-Folder 6.9: "General Notes on the Tuberales, with a New Species of Tuber from Australia", 1962
Box-Folder 6.10: "History of Botany at Oregon State College", circa 1965
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 6.11: "Truffles in America", undated
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 6.12: Poetry, undated
Box-Folder 6.13: Articles published in The Oregonian, 1919-1920
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 6.14: Articles and publications re: Helen Gilkey, 1942-1973
Box-Folder 6.15: Radio Talk: "Truffles in America," Phi Kappa Phi, April 5, 1932
Box-Folder 6.16: Radio Talk: "Poisonous Plants, How to Recognize Them," KOAC, May 24, 1956
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.
Box-Folder 6.17: Radio Talk: [Species Identification], undated
Reference use scans of the contents of this folder are available upon request.

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