Shuster Photograph Collection Finding Aid
The Library, Special Collections
Humboldt State University
One Harpst Street
Arcata CA 95521
Kathryn LaSala, MLIS
Date Collection Processed
Dates Covered by Collection
Size of Collection
2.5 Cubic feet; 7 boxes
As a freelance photographer in Humboldt County during the mid 20th century, Merle Shuster was often contracted by local people, businesses, land developers, and insurance companies. Photographs in this collection represent a mixture of images he was hired to take as well as images he chose to take, helping to illustrate Humboldt County’s growth during the post-war period. Highlights from the collection include: the evolution of suburban housing around Arcata, such as the Bloomfield and Sunny Brae areas; industry expansions and business developments in Eureka; documentation of accidents and natural disasters, including related recovery operations; and footage of marijuana seizures from both Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) and Operation Greensweep in the 1990s.
Open for research by appointment.
Copyright has been assigned to Humboldt State University. To obtain permission to publish or reproduce in any format, please contact the Special Collections Librarian.
During 2005, while the Shuster Aerial Photograph Collection (2001.01) was being processed, arrangements were begun for the donation of related materials. The donation was finalized by Merle’s son Mel after his father’s death on behalf of the family.
Biographical information provided by Edie Butler (2006), taken from the Shuster Aerial Photograph Collection finding aid:
Merle Shuster's interest in photography started when he was in high school. After he graduated from Eureka High School he attended Humboldt State College for two years and then joined the United States Navy for two years. In the Navy Merle received intensive training in photography, including aerial photography. Upon his discharge in 1945 Merle returned to Eureka and took a job at Photo Specialty Shop. He worked there from 1946 until 1960. Merle also gained photograph experience by working at Swanlund Studio and Camera Shop. Merle started his own photography business and by late 1946 was taking on assignments in aerial work as well as special occasions, such as weddings.
In 1960 Merle took over the management of Philip's Camera Shop in Arcata while the owner was away for a year. Next he worked at the Humboldt Market grocery store in Eureka for four years, then he was at Proctor's Photographic Engineering Center for two or three years. During all this time he continued his photography business. From 1969 until he retired in 1991 Merle worked for Channel 6 television station in Eureka.
Merle's sister, Evelyn Shuster Worthen, wrote about some aspects of the Shuster family history in a book titled, A Castle in Fairyland and other stories of The Carson Family and their Mansions.
As a freelance photographer in Humboldt County during the mid 20th century, Merle Shuster was often contracted by local people, businesses, land developers, and insurance companies. Merle’s photographs represent a mixture of images he was hired to take as well as images he chose to take, helping to illustrate Humboldt County’s growth during the post-war period. Strengths of the photographs in this collection include: the evolution of suburban housing around Arcata, such as the Bloomfield and Sunny Brae areas; industry expansions and business developments in Eureka; and documentation of accidents and natural disasters, including related recovery operations. The majority of photographs are in negative or print format, with a small amount of slides and few instances of electronic images (2 CDs and 1 ZIP drive). Photograph sizes range from 35mm negatives to 16 x 20 inch prints.
The collection also contains some audio-visual materials that were filmed by Merle. The content of these materials relate primarily to Merle’s work as a cameraman for the KVIQ news station during the late 1980s through the early 1990s. Footage highlights consist of: marijuana seizures from both Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) and Operation Greensweep, Earth First! protests against logging operations in Humboldt County, and the 1964 flood. Audio-visual materials were donated in VHS format and transferred to DVDs in December 2011 for access and preservation purposes.
Arrangement of Collection
The collection is organized into three series: Dated Negatives, Audio-Visual Materials, and Undated Prints. Although there is a significant amount of overlap between the content in the Dated Negatives series and the Undated Prints series, series distinctions were made based on the formats of materials donated.
The Dated Negatives are arranged in chronological order by decade. In addition to a date, photographs in this series were often given a brief title and photographer’s number by Merle. When there was more than one photograph for a particular date, images were organized by the photographer’s number. The titles Merle assigned to his images were transcribed into a separate document (See Appendix A) and serve as an alternative method for accessing the content of this series.
The Audio-Visual Materials are organized alphabetically by film title. Three of the films consist of several KVIQ news clips recorded and edited together by Merle. Furthermore, Merle gave a brief description of every news segment within each film. All descriptive information provided for the five films was transcribed into a separate document (See Appendix B) and serves as the primary method for accessing the content of this series. In addition to descriptions, every segment was given a start timestamp to facilitate ease of use for researchers.
Photographs in the Undated Prints series were grouped together under general subject headings and arranged in alphabetical sequence. The presence of oversized images in this series required that some subject headings receive alternative storage solutions. When oversized images occurred under a subject heading, the contents of the entire folder was stored in a separate box.
Series: Dated Photographs
- 1950 – 1956
- 1957 – 1959
Series: Audio-Visual Materials
- [1964 Flood] [1 VHS, 2 DVDs]
- KVIQ Veteran News Cameraman [1VHS, 1 DVD]
- News Stories # 1 [1 VHS, 1 DVD]
- News Stories # 2 [1 VHS, 1 DVD]
Series: Undated Photographs
Box 3 – Continued
- [Aerials*] – All images located in Box 4
- [Butler Valley]
- [Carson Mansion/ Evelyn’s Book]
- [Del Norte County]
- [Eureka*] – All images located in Box 5
- [Humboldt Bay*] – All images located in Box 6
- [Island Mountain]
- [KVIQ – 1 of 3]
- [KVIQ – 2 of 3]
- [KVIQ – 3 of 3]
- [Scenic*] – All images located in Box 7
*Included oversized photographs, too large to fit in standard record storage box.
"Aerial Photography In Humboldt Through The Camera Of Merle Shuster"; The News Guide, January 9, 1948, p. 1.
Worthen, Evelyn Shuster. A Castle in Fairyland and other stories of The Carson Family and their Mansions. Eureka: Eureka Printing Company, 1984.
Shuster Aerial Photograph Collection (2001.01)
Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (Organization)
Earth First! (Organization)
Humboldt County (Calif.)
Humboldt County (Calif.) – History – Pictorial Works
Sunny Brae (Arcata, Calif.)