The Utah State University (USU) houses a vast collection of Outdoor Recreation Catalogues and magazines, You can browse and search records of more than 8,000 catalogues and magazines from over 500 companies, including manufacturers like Lowe Alpine and Sierra Designs to retailers like Eastern Mountain Sports and REI.
First of all, can you tell me about the Outdoor Product Design and Development course and Utah State University?
The Outdoor Product Design & Development (OPDD) program is a 4 year, undergraduate degree here at Utah State University focused on training the next generation of product creators for the sports and outdoor industry. The program came together when the university and industry met at Outdoor Retailer in SLC to discuss the future workforce of the industry and if the university could help create a pipeline.
A mix between industrial design, engineering, and clothing design, the program offers various pathways for students to learn how to design and develop products. Students can focus their education on technical outerwear, softgoods, or hard product design, development, or even product line management.
When did you start to digitise the collection and was there an ultimate aim for the project?
Digitization began in 2019. The collection started as a student resource. OPDD offers a History of the Outdoor Industry course where students study the origins of the industry and its influence today. We thought it would be powerful for reference materials to be available on campus for students.
As materials were digitized, we created the @outdoorrecarchive Instagram account to share the covers and quickly realized that there was interest in the collection beyond USU campus in Logan, Utah.
The aim today is to preserve these materials for future generations and make them available for study, whether students / faculty, enthusiasts, or people from the industry.
Are there any plans to have a physical exhibition in the future or produce a publication?
We’ve had requests for physical displays. In the age of COVID this has become a challenge, but we are exploring some smaller displays on USU campus in the future.
We have also discussed publications in the future. At this point in the process, we’ve been so busy collecting and digitizing that we almost haven’t had time to think about anything else!
Having looked through the archive, my favourites are the Summit magazine covers from the late ’50s and early ’60s, have you got a piece that stands out to you, or has been a huge inspiration to you and the students?
Personally, I love the obscure/forgotten brands. I love Summit Magazine as well. Each cover is a work of art. The story of Summit is also powerful considering it was probably the first climbing publication in the United States and was started by two women. It ran for over 40 years. Summit was a springboard for many outdoor adventure journalists and enthusiasts and includes the writings of people like Doug Robinson and Royal Robbins.
I also love brands like Snowlion, which were short-lived. One cover in particular (see attached), of a painting of a mountain peak the shape of two lions, is stunning. Again, each cover was a work of art. It’s hard to consider these catalogues, which would show up in your mailbox, junkmail.