Entries for November 2006

collect004.jpgThe School of Nursing recently transferred a collection of administrative and programming records to University Archives. These materials will be added to the existing School of Nursing collection.

The records include files and correspondence from the two previous deans, Sandra Edwardson (1991-2004) and Ellen Fahy (1980-1990). Other administrative records include credentialing, grant reporting, and the proposal for establishing a Ph.D. program. Also included are files for the block nurse program, the Community-University Health Care Center (CUHCC), and work related to the Center for American Indians and GLBT Studies. In addition, materials related to the alumni association and the School of Nursing Diamond Jubilee (1984) are part of this transfer.

The collection is approximately 6 linear feet at its acquisition. The boxes are all labeled with content information at the folder level. The material is in good condition although it will need to be reboxed and hanging file folders removed. Further accruals are expected.

I’d like to commend the School of Nursing for taking a proactive approach to securing a permanent home for its records. The current dean, Connie Delaney, is a Fellow of the American College of Medical Informatics and is a past faculty member of the School of Library Science at the University of Iowa, so she understands the importance of preserving and using information.

I’ve often commented that archival work is a morbid profession. I think this every time I see work study students combing the obituaries for a notice to close out a clippings file or contact information for the next of kin as a collection lead.

Yet, there is another type of loss we deal with from time to time and it is a less than funny matter. Even though a person may not be nearing the end of their life, they may be nearing the end of their memory. Memory loss in a donor can be a confusing and difficult area for the archivist to navigate. Repeating conversations during each contact while knowing the donor is becoming less aware of the ultimate purpose of the discussion is an area we are not equipped through our training to handle. It also becomes an ethical issue. The archivist needs to be able to determine when a donor is no longer able to consent to the depositing of their materials and whether or not we should proceed with the acquisition until ownership and transfer issues are resolved.

I’d suggest we need to look to the literature on aging in the medical and social work fields to understand how we can best react to the changing needs of those we are trying to document.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds it difficult to accurately communicate to faculty what the archives would be interested in collecting from their personal papers.

The archivist at Harvard University recently published a series of guidelines to better assist the faculty in organizing and transferring their papers to the archives. It explains how to differentiate between personal and professional materials from university records, provides brief guidelines on what information may be considered confidential due to federal regulations, and gives helpful hints on ways to organize the material.

Although it is tailor made for Harvard’s academic community, the guidelines provide a great starting point for any university archives and can be used as a way to help shape a conversation with potential faculty donors.

I’ve always been somewhat fascinated with the terminology used in archives and the inherent problems and contradictions it can cause when those same terms are crossed with another field or discipline. Of personal interest are such terms as “preservation? and “conservation? and how these terms have very practical applications in archival work and also have implications in archival theory. Comparing and contrasting these definitions with their use in environmental protection sets up archives as a single field among many interested in the long-term use and access to rare and unique resources. That, however, can be the topic of a different post.

The Glossary of Archival and Records Terminology addresses these issues of archival lexicon in an introductory essay. Yet, the reality can sometimes become all too apparent when the words used and the confusion over their definitions means a loss to the archival record.

Today, I’d like to address the term “papers.?

The Glossary provides these definitions for words that are at times used interchangeably.

Papers: 1. A collection. – 2. A collection of personal or family documents; personal papers. – 3. Government • Records indicating an individual's identity or status.

Personal papers: 1. Documents created, acquired, or received by an individual in the course of his or her affairs and preserved in their original order (if such order exists). – 2. Nonofficial documents kept by an individual at a place of work.

Manuscript: 1. A handwritten document. – 2. An unpublished document. – 3. An author's draft of a book, article, or other work submitted for publication.

When trying to collect the papers of those in higher education, I believe archivists are competing with terminology already ingrained in the population by the publishing world. Paper equals article. Manuscript equals a pre-publication work.

Why the interest in papers? Today I learned that nearly 12 boxes of correspondence and related work materials for a prominent individual in the veterinary sciences were recently destroyed (this is unrelated to another recent loss in the vet sciences). In this specific case, it was believed that papers referred to the published work of the individual. A reasonable interpretation given the publishing environment academics work in. Is “personal papers? that much more clear? Not likely. Manuscripts? Again, the connection to publication is forefront with most.

So, the education continues. Both for the community I am collecting from on what archives are as well as for myself on how that community perceives the work we do.

collect003.jpgA recent acquisition to the archives project is the records for the Alpha Epsilon Iota women's medical fraternity. In 1901 women medical students at the University opened the fifth national chapter of AEI that acted as a support organization by providing housing, social activities and fundraising. Ruth Boynton was an early alumna of AEI and later assisted the organization during the 1940s. During the increased enrollments of women in the medical school in the 1970s, the AEI had a difficult time maintaining its identity and holdings. In 1979 it sold its two properties at 524 & 528 Ontario St. SE. In 1982 the AEI split into two separate organizations, the AEI Foundation and the Minnesota Women Physicians. Proceeds from the sale of the properties helped to establish the AEI Foundation.

The collection is approximately 1 linear foot and contains AEI meeting minutes, incorporation documents, and records related to the sale of the fraternity’s houses and start up of the foundation. There is also a scrap book documenting social activities and news clippings of AEI students/alumni during the 1950s.

Pictured: AEI National Convention, Galveston, TX, 1950


Last Friday I got word via a patron at University Archives that a prominent former professor and head of the Department of Surgery and Radiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine was moving out of his home and that several items of interest might be in danger of being discarded. The professor, now in his 90s, was a previous president of the Minnesota Veterinary Medical Association and a prominent veterinary surgeon who was often consulted for advice both locally and abroad.

I was able to leave a message with the family, but it was late on a Friday afternoon and the only number I had was a work number. The following Monday, a member of the family returned my call and said that they had saved a few items of interest, but unfortunately, a bulk of material had already been disposed of. They offered to send me what they had and would continue to keep an eye out for any other related materials. I thanked them and crossed my fingers for the possibility of more material.

The packages arrived today and sure enough, it was exactly what I thought it would be. A small (two folders) snapshot of his career at the University and his international consulting. It is small, but rich. Any further additions the family can provide will be beneficial, but sometimes we have to come to terms with being just a little too late at getting between the box and the dumpster.

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