Thursday, April 29, 2021

Jim Harper's Egg Collection

I recently learned that the Benton County Historical Society had added additional display cases in the hallways at the Corvallis Museum. As I was curious about the new displays, I made a reservation to visit.  This is easy to do online and costs nothing for members and only a small admission fee for others. I urge you to do the same.

One of the new displays contains a number of egg-shaped objects which are part of a larger collection donated by the heirs of noted poultry scientist Jim Harper. Harper was raised in St. Helens, Oregon and became interested in agriculture, especially poultry-raising, while working in a feed store there. He saved enough to enroll at Oregon State in 1936 and graduated with a degree in poultry science in 1940.

After earning a masters degree from Penn State University, he returned to Corvallis to fill in for faculty who were serving in the military. He remained on the faculty for 40 years.  He developed the turkey program at the research station in Hermiston and the turkey research center on Harrison Boulevard in Corvallis. He taught courses in poultry marketing, breeding and genetics as well as publishing over 100 papers. The egg collection reflects his life-long interest in poultry.

In addition to his professional accomplishments, Harper has known for his rose growing and his involvement with local organizations.  He and his wife Mariellen liked to travel. They often brought home eggs to add to the collection. Some are on display in the museum but there are many more than could be shown.  Here are a few others.

This one, from Italy, is made of alabaster.

Italian alabaster egg

These colorful eggs are from the Ukraine and Mexico:

Ukrainian decorated egg

Mexican decorated egg
This one from Africa is made of soapstone, colored black, and carved with a fish design.

African decorated egg

And this one from Japan is covered with a design made of traditional Japanese washi paper. 

Japanese washi paper-covered egg

 Other hallway cases include displays of oil lamps, cloisonné, clocks, inkwells, cameras and tea cups. And the main exhibits of photographs, hats and chairs, OSU art and other items, and Benton County history remain.

By Martha Fraundorf, Volunteer for Benton County Historical Society, Philomath, Oregon