By James Oliden, Dec. 7, 2021

Fairplex, the home to the L.A. County Fair, came to an agreement with Cal Poly Pomona last month for the University Library to house its extensive and historic collection of documents.

Library Dean Pat Hawthorne and Katie Richardson, head of Special Collections and Archives, submitted the proposal last year to the Fairplex, requesting 200 boxes worth of historic documents dating back to the 1920s. With the request successful, the documents will be held in the library’s Special Collections and Archives.

The collection includes old pamphlets, pictures of rides, prizes, hours of film and even different interpretations of the fairs’ beloved orange mascot, Thummer.

The earliest piece documented from the fair was dated in 1922, the year the event was founded, leaving the University Library with almost 100 years of history and information at the community’s disposal.

“There’s just a lot of opportunities to remind people that history isn’t about just what you read in books or what happens far away,” said Hawthorne. “There’s history where you live and memories you might have had of going to a fair like this.”

Jéanne Brooks, director of operations and development, believes the collection will appeal to a wide range of students.

“It totally depends on the student because the collection is so wide,” said Brooks. “The food and nutrition students are going to be really intrigued by the fair food, architecture and engineering are going to love stuff about the rides.”

Before students can explore the documents, however, the library needs to hire an archivist. Richardson expects students to be able to access the archive after the grant process takes place, an estimated 14 months to fully organize and protect the collection. There are over 200 linear feet of record boxes to sort through along with a “finding aid,” meaning the inventory that the archivist will keep track of.

“We hope to fulfill our mission and make this important piece of history accessible to the campus and community,” said Richardson. “I think that there are so many educational opportunities with the collection both here with our students and our faculty.”

By housing the archive, the library hopes students can use the collections to gain inspiration for papers, a thesis or to understand how the business operation of the fair turned out to be successful.

“The fact that someone preserves it reminds people that what we’re experiencing here today becomes history ultimately,” said Hawthorne.

Feature image by James Oliden

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