David Duniway Memorial

By Roy C. Turnbaugh, State Archivist

Senior aged David Duniway sits in a wing back chair with book shelves behind him.
Photograph courtesy of Al Jones.
David C. Duniway, first State Archivist of Oregon, died September 12, 1993, in Salem. He was born in Missoula, Montana, July 9, 1912, and graduated from Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. He held a master's degree in history and a library certificate, and worked in various capacities for the National Archives, from 1937 to 1945. 

David came to Salem to launch Oregon's archives program on a rainy New Year's Eve in 1945. He retired as State Archivist in 1972. When he began work in 1946, David collected records from the basements of state buildings and institutions, from courthouse attics, and from individuals who had been holding them. No environment was too daunting for him. He separated mummified cats and rodents, for example, from records he found in the basement of the State Hospital. 

David loved every aspect of being an archivist. He enjoyed field work, and difficult conditions only served to spur him to greater efforts. He enjoyed providing reference services to the records he had acquired. He enjoyed the whole process of bringing records under control, preparing finding aids, and readying them for use. He enjoyed teaching others to do the tasks of archivists, and he served as visiting professor of archives at the University of Oregon and at Western Washington University. David established Oregon's records management program as a part of the State Archives, and he opened the state's first records center. He was a Fellow of the Society of American Archivists, and the Oregon State Archives received the Society's Distinguished Service Award in 1972. 

David believed that all history is local. He was a founding member of the American Association for State and Local History, and he wrote prolifically and well of the history of his beloved south Salem. His home was a house that he had rescued from destruction, moved, and restored. When he retired as State Archivist in 1972, he turned his energies to establishing a museum at Salem's Mission Mill, and he became its first director. Many of Salem's historic homes and buildings owe their continued existence to David's efforts. 

David looked the part as well. He was tall, and in later years, his mane of white hair made him easy to pick out on a Salem street or at Salem's annual Art Fair, which, again, he helped found. He loved stories and he loved jokes, and he had the gift of total, detailed recall of events that happened forty years ago. He remained strongly supportive of the State Archives without ever being intrusive, and he must remain one of the few state archivists who did research in his own holdings.