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.
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.
Restrictions on Access :
Collection is open for research.Preferred Citation : Preferred Citation
Courtesy of the Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories (OH 22), Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries
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.
Acquisition Information : Acquisition Information
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.Processing Note : Processing Note
Arrangement and description by Chris PetersenRelated Materials : 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 and the Gerald W. Williams Collection.
Detailed Description of the Collection
The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.
Horner Museum accession numbers are included with each set of audiocassettes. All interviews were conducted by Jennifer Lee.
This series is comprised of annotated preliminary draft transcripts (4 parts) and final draft transcripts (2 parts). The collection does not include finalized transcripts free of annotations. Most or all of the transcripts were typed by Bonnie Humphreys.
This series consists of materials gathered or generated as a function of the administrative and research components of conducting the Jensen oral history project.
The following Library of Congress Authorities headings suggest topics, individuals or organizations interspersed through the collection.