Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories, 1979-1993

Overview of the Collection

Horner Museum.
Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories
1979-1993 (inclusive)
1990-1991 (bulk)
0.4 cubic feet, including 17 audiocassettes, (2 boxes)
Collection Number
OH 22
The Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories document Jensen's life and work as an important figure in the study and evolution of Alaskan Eskimo culture in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Under contract with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Jensen spent twenty-seven years establishing educational and cultural exchange programs with Alaska's Eskimo communities. Along the way he collected some 4,000 art pieces and artifacts which, in 1985, formed the nucleus of the Jensen Arctic Museum, currently housed on the campus of Western Oregon University, where Jensen served as professor of Education.
Oregon State University Libraries, Special Collections and Archives Research Center
Special Collections and Archives Research Center
121 The Valley Library
Oregon State University
Corvallis OR
Telephone: 5417372075
Fax: 5417378674
Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

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.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

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.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Preferred Citation

Preferred Citation

Courtesy of the Paul H. Jensen Oral Histories (OH 22), Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


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 Petersen

Related 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 CollectionReturn to Top

The following section contains a detailed listing of the materials in the collection.

I:  Audiocassettes, 1989-1990Return to Top

17 items

Horner Museum accession numbers are included with each set of audiocassettes. All interviews were conducted by Jennifer Lee.

Container(s) Description Dates
Jensen, Paul H.
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9a-b and 893-4-3347-8. The latter two cassettes are duplicate copies. Interview topics include: Jensen's youth in Denmark; family background and dynamics; the family farm; education within the family; early travels; World War I; Jensen's siblings.
November 20, 1989
Jensen, Paul H.
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9c-e. Interview topics include: family background and dynamics; interest in travel as a boy; move to Norway for school; move to and settlement in Canada; working in Canada; decision to move to the U.S.
January 27, 1990
Jensen, Paul H.
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9f-g. Interview topics include: personal health habits and philosophical approach to life; immigration to the U.S.; traveling and working in the U.S.; talent as a singer; enrollment at Spokane College and Pacific Lutheran University; enrollment and education at Midland College; enrollment and education at University of North Dakota; move to Seattle during World War II; becoming a citizen of the U.S.; travels in Turkey and North Africa; Jensen's children; move to Mexico; decision to move to Oregon.
March 10, 1990
Jensen, Paul H.
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9h-i. Interview topics include: settling and working in Corvallis; first exposure to Alaska; employment at the Oregon College of Education; birth of Alaska student exchange program; exposure to Eskimo language and culture.
April 11, 1990
Jensen, Paul H.
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9j-k. Interview topics include: living in the Arctic; nomination to the Native Council of Elders; an Eskimo wedding; trips to Punic Island; Eskimo diet; research colleagues; collecting Eskimo artifacts; Jensen's Eskimo name.
May 2, 1990
Jensen, Paul H.
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9l, 989-1-9n. Interview topics include: artifacts at the Jensen Arctic Museum; documenting and publishing the Yupik language; survival techniques in the Arctic; the Bureau of Indian Affairs Eskimo education program; dangers of Arctic travel.
May 16, 1990
Jensen, Paul H.
Horner accession numbers 989-1-9m, 989-1-9o. Interview topics include: willing by an Eskimo woman of her son to Jensen; Alaska student exchange program; Eskimo diet; Eskimo shamen; meeting Arlene Munkres; raising children; reflections on Alaska and on Eskimo culture.
May 23, 1990

II:  Transcripts, 1991Return to Top

6 folders

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.

Container(s) Description Dates
Preliminary Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H.
Pages 1-96.
Preliminary Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H.
Pages 97-160.
Preliminary Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H.
Pages 161-210.
Preliminary Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H.
Pages 211-271.
Final Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H.
Pages 1-115.
Final Draft Transcript: Jensen, Paul H.
Pages 116-194.

III:  Project Files, 1979-1993Return to Top

4 folders

This series consists of materials gathered or generated as a function of the administrative and research components of conducting the Jensen oral history project.

Container(s) Description Dates
Interview and Project Notes
Paul H. Jensen Historical File
Folder includes newspaper and magazine clippings, programs and brochures used in researching Jensen's background as well as that of the Jensen Arctic Museum. Of particular note is an undated pamphlet authored by Jensen, "Hunters of the Arctic Rim."
Permissions Forms

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Educators--Alaska--History.
  • Eskimos--Alaska--Exhibitions.
  • Eskimos--Education--Alaska.
  • Eskimos--Languages.
  • Eskimos--Material culture.
  • Eskimos--Social life and customs.
  • Yupik Eskimos--Cultural assimilation--Alaska--History.
  • Yupik Eskimos--Education--Alaska--History.

Corporate Names

  • Jensen Arctic Museum.
  • United States. Bureau of Indian Affairs.
  • Western Oregon University.

Form or Genre Terms

  • Oral histories (document genres)

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Holm-Jensen, Paul Henry, 1907-1994. (interviewee)
    • Lee, Jennifer A. (creator)