Kamp Equipment Exhibit Explores Historical past of Outside Gear at Merrill-Cazier Library

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Kamp Kit, an exhibit exploring the history of outdoor recreation and gear, is on view at the Merrill-Cazier Library through mid-October.

The exhibition begins during the Civil War and the rise of the “weekend warriors” through the 1939-1960 Outdoor War to modern production.

“A lot of people in our community enjoy the great outdoors, but probably haven’t given much thought to how the equipment they use has evolved over the years,” said Clint Pumphrey, co-curator of the exhibit. “I think the public will discover some surprising things, like the fact that Abercrombie & Fitch started out as an outdoor gear company, or that the military developed layering as a principle for outdoor clothing.”

Pumphrey worked with Outdoor Product Design and Development (OPDD) program coordinator, Chase Anderson, to create the Kamp Kit.

“I’m passionate about showcasing the long history of the outdoor industry and believe the materials in our unique collection deserve to be seen and appreciated. Our outdoor product design and development students would find the material particularly interesting, as would members of the local community, many of whom are avid outdoor enthusiasts,” said Anderson.

Kamp Kit was inspired by Pumphrey and Anderson’s work on the Outdoor Recreation Archive, an internationally acclaimed collection of documents, photographs, catalogs and journals on these subjects in Special Collections & Archives. The Outdoor Recreation Archive Instagram account has over 18,000 followers.

“I work with Pumphrey on the Outdoor Recreation Archive. I help identify potential collections to donate and promote the archives to the public,” Anderson said. “I worked with him Identifying materials from the ORA to be exhibited as well as writing descriptions of the history of various product categories featured in the exhibit including backpacks, tents and clothing.”

After gathering the materials for the exhibition, the curators went to work to develop Kamp Kit.

“I worked with Chase Anderson at OPDD to come up with the concept for the exhibit, and then we split the work: I wrote the general history of the outdoor industry, which wraps around the outside, and Chase does the history written on certain types of equipment, found on the inside. I also worked with Shay Larsen, the library’s amazing graphic designer, and Devin Greener, the exhibition curator, to make our vision a reality,” said Pumphrey.

Kamp Kit contains historical materials as well as text panels. Many of the materials are publicly accessible in the special collections & archives of the USU libraries.

“We worked really hard to make the exhibition a fun experience. We wanted to create a “gear shop” vibe with the design, and we included mannequins, clothes racks, pegboards, and other props to decorate the space. We’re also showing a film that was produced by Gerry Mountaineering in 1971 about how to camp, which is really fun,” Pumphrey said.

The exhibition is free and open to the public.

“Anyone with an interest in history, design or the outdoors should visit this exhibit to better understand how important the outdoor industry is to our collective history,” Anderson said. “I hope they gain a deeper understanding of the history of outdoor brands and learn more about the people behind the companies and product innovations.”

If you can’t see the physical exhibit, there are many Kamp Kit resources online.

“I encourage anyone interested in learning more about the Outdoor Recreation Archive to check out the collection on our website and listen to oral histories from gear pioneers on YouTube or on our podcast,” said Pumphrey.