WSU grad student Megan Ockerman holds original advertising artwork from the Olympia Brewing Company.
Finding a thesis subject for a master’s degree in History can be a daunting task. Professors prefer subjects that are interesting, previously unresearched, yet with plenty of research material available, and open to new interpretations. Olympia resident Megan Ockerman, who already has her bachelor’s degree in History, had been thinking of doing her thesis work on 1940s residential architecture in the Tri-Cities area and how it was affected by the “company town” atmosphere of the Hanford nuclear plant. However, she wasn’t entirely sold on that idea.
In a Pacific Northwest History class at WSU, a guest speaker talked about hops—history, culture, processing, all related to brewing beer. The speaker also showed an old photograph of Native Americans picking hops in the Nisqually Valley area. Megan’s curiosity was piqued, and over spring break, she delved into Northwest hop history on her own, but found little information.
Serendipity soon came into play. Megan grew up surrounded by Olympia Beer memorabilia, as her father has been collecting it for years. At some point, her interest in the history of hops clicked with her family’s interest in Oly, and a new idea for her thesis was born.
Although Megan was excited about her potential thesis subject, she wasn’t sure about finding enough resources to provide background material. But her Eureka! moment came when she found out about the extensive archives of brewery records at the Olympia Tumwater Foundation. With a few emails to curator Karen Johnson, Megan was convinced that researching the entire history of the Olympia Brewing Company would make a great thesis. Her WSU advisors agreed.
Megan is more than enthusiastic about her subject, and has spent a good part of her summer vacation here in the basement of the Schmidt House, poring over old records from the earliest days of the brewery. After collecting material here, she will return to Pullman and spend much of this winter and next spring writing her thesis, which she’ll defend in April 2017. If all goes well, she plans on turning her thesis into a book. Then she’ll go about finding a paying job in the history field.
We wish Megan the best of luck in her thesis pursuit, and look forward to working with her in the future.