Washington State University, University Communications Ask Dr. Universe Files, 1998-2015

Overview of the Collection

Washington State University. University Communications.
Washington State University, University Communications Ask Dr. Universe Files
1998-2015 (inclusive)
2 Linear feet of shelf space, (2 boxes)
Collection Number
Archives 389 (collection)
Original art and documentation from Ask Dr. Universe, a children’s science column produced at Washington State University.
Washington State University Libraries' Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections (MASC)
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections
Terrell Library Suite 12
Pullman, WA
Telephone: 509-335-6691
Access Restrictions

This collection is open and available for research use.


Historical NoteReturn to Top

Dr. W.S. (Wendy Sue) Universe is an anthropomorphic cat who answers science-based questions in a Washington State University produced column, aimed at school-age youth and adults alike. She provides not just answers but also often provides insights into the importance of the question, how the answers were determined, and what greater implications those answers might have.

Dr. Universe was created in 1996 by Tim Steury, then research news coordinator and editor of WSU’s research magazine, Universe. Bob Smith, Dean of the Graduate School, came up with the name. Sonia Oei Gerard was recruited to provide artwork. The syndicated column appeared bi-weekly in northwest newspapers, as well as online. It has gone through several iterations, occasionally appearing solely as text, occasionally with an accompanying cartoon or photograph (often of Dr. Universe and one of the scientists involved in answering the questions), and was briefly planned, but never published, as a Sunday-strip style comic. The strip ended in August 2001, when Universe magazine ceased publication, but was resurrected in 2014 as Rachel Webber of WSU Communications took over the reins of Dr. Universe in print and online. In 2018, a series of animated Dr. Universe minute-long episodes for web and television were created in partnership with Northwest Public Broadcasting.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

The collection consists primarily of art, both original and reproductions, created for the Ask Dr. Universe columns. It includes original comic strips, photographs, administrative materials, clippings, and promotional materials for the column.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Preferred Citation

[Item Description]

Washington State University, University Communications Ask Dr. Universe Files, 1998-2015

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries, Pullman, WA.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top


The materials are separated into two boxes, solely based on the size of the materials. Within each box, materials are broken into subject-based folders.

Acquisition Information

The materials were transferred to Washington State University Libraries’ Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collection on June 7, 2019 by Larry Clark, editor of Washington State Magazine. They were retained as UA2019-02.

Processing Note

This collection was processed in June, 2019 by University Archivist Mark O’English. All digital files were copied into archival storage during processing.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top

Container(s) Description
Box Folder
1 1 Administrative materials. Proposals, correspondence, news articles.
22 pages.
1 2 Cartoon reproductions.
13 slides, plus two CDs with 13 tifs of standard cartoons plus one (tif and pdf) "I've been thinking…"
1 3 Column photocopies.
15 items.
1 4 Mailing lists of papers which carried the column.
3 items.
1 5 Original art and print. Signed "M.C."
1 6 Photographs. WSU Faculty with Dr. Universe. Identified.
18 images.
1 7 Photographs. WSU Faculty with Dr. Universe. Unidentified, female.
15 images.
1 8 Photographs. WSU Faculty with Dr. Universe. Unidentified, male.
31 images.
1 9 Photographs. Dr. Universe solo images.
27 images.
1 10 Production, research, and promotional materials.
12 pages.
1 11 Dr. Universe prospective proposal sketch book, David Wheeler. 2005.
2 pages correspondence, 27 pages sketches.
1 12 Sketch copies.
6 items.
1 13 Stationery. Blank envelope and letter with Dr. Universe letterheads.
2 items.
1 14 Table cards and trading cards.
6 items.
2 1 Color comic strips, original art with pasted on captions. Approx. 17" x 14".
10 items.
2 2 Sample sheets. Color front matter, black and white "I've been thinking…" page, color samples, character color reference, sketches.
7 original pages, 2 copies.
2 3 Poster: "Learning is an Adventure!"
2 copies.
2 4 Prints. 14 cartoons (never published), plus 1 sheet with 2 mock-ups of title panels. Cartoons approx. 18" x 15".
15 items.
2 5 Newspaper clippings, columns.
61 articles.
2 6 Newspaper clippings, coverage.
3 articles.

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Science -- Study and teaching (Elementary)

Corporate Names

  • Washington State University. University Communications. -- Records and correspondence.

Other Creators

  • Personal Names
    • Oei, Sonia. (creator)
    • Steury, Tim. (creator)
    • Webber, Rachel. (creator)