Utah State University’s Outdoor Recreation Archive, a collection of the outdoor industry’s catalogs and magazines, has grown from just a few documents gathered in 2018 to a one-of-a-kind collection that has gained national and international recognition.
Housed in USU’s Department of Applied Sciences, Technology, and Education (ASTE) and in collaboration with the Merrill-Cazier Library Special Collections and Archives, the project got its start when Professor Sean Michael had an idea to start a collection of early documents in the outdoor industry. After approaching Clint Pumphrey, special collections curator, about the idea the project was turned over to Chase Anderson, coordinator for ASTE’s outdoor product design and development (OPDD) program and the effort to collect documents was launched in March of 2019. Pumphrey and Anderson have turned the idea into a physical and online archive of magazines, catalogs, sketchbooks, patents, and more industry artifacts.
“We’ve come a long way from where we started,” said Anderson. “Initially there was a donation of 1,200 catalogs to get us started, and today we have around 2,700 from over 200 different companies.”
Catalogs from household names like Patagonia, The North Face, L.L. Bean, and Eddie Bauer, are featured in the collection.
“Our main goal was to develop a catalog collection from the 1960s to the present,” said Pumphrey. “We’ve more than doubled the collection, and now we’ve started collecting other materials.”
“There are a lot of private collections similar to this,” said Anderson. “But there’s nothing like this on the public level. Where this collection is housed through USU, there’s a huge audience that can access it. We have the physical collection with Special Collections and Archives, but it’s also accessible online. That makes it pretty unique.”
The entire archive is available online and has gained over 8,000 followers on Instagram.
“The archive’s Instagram following is bigger than OPDD’s and the library’s,” said Anderson. “It’s been a really powerful tool. It’s helped us connect with many industry professionals. Reaching national publications and having so many people access the collection, it’s really a dream come true.”
As the Outdoor Recreation Archive’s online presence has gained traction, it has attracted the attention of several industry professionals who have written about it for their readers, including HypeBeast, Sabukaru, Outdoor Business Journal, Archives Aware (including a video interview with Anderson and Pumphrey), and others.
Deemed “the most comprehensive collection of outdoor industry catalogues we know to exist” by Outsiders Store, based in the United Kingdom, it’s safe to say the archive has staked its claim in the industry.
“We’ve definitely exceeded our own expectations and generated more interest than we initially anticipated,” said Pumphrey. “That’s a pretty good problem to have.”