In 1989, local Portland television station KGW donated 512 U-matic videotapes to the Oregon Historical Society (OHS). Shot between 1983 and 1985, the collection consists of more than 300 hours of footage related to the Rajneesh movement in Oregon—when followers of the spiritual teacher Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh set up an intentional community three hours southeast from Portland. The donation included minimal documentation and no finding aid. The tapes were the end result of several years’ worth of work by local camera operators and reporters at the news station. Ranging in location from downtown Portland to Berlin discos to the building of the town of Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, the tapes are a thorough documentation of a specific moment in history. For Oregon, it was an engaging story—one which the stations recognized as newsworthy almost immediately, though no one at the time could imagine how it would end.

By the time the tapes were donated in 1989, the story of the Rajneesh movement was a recent memory. Rajneeshpuram no longer existed, the ranch had been sold, and many of its followers had moved on. KGW, in looking to maximize the physical space at its station as well as ensure that the tapes wouldn’t be erased for re-use, reached out to OHS to provide long-term access. The tapes were accessioned and moved to an environmentally-controlled storage facility for long-term care.

Author Biography

Matthew Cowan has been the Archivist for Moving Images and Photography at the Oregon Historical Society since 2013. He is an adjunct professor in the Department of Theater + Film at Portland State University, is co-chair of the Multnomah County Cultural Coalition, and worked for many years at Anthology Film Archives in New York City. He has a BA in History and Film from Bard College, a certificate in Media Preservation from the George Eastman House, and an MLIS from Simmons College.

Copyright statement

© 2018 Matthew Cowan



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