Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Modern perspective

I think a lot of people forget that we here in HC&A handle not only the old stuff, but current OHSU history as well--today's breaking news may be tomorrow's research paper. Yesterday afternoon, we received a fabulous donation: a VHS tape of planning information for the South Waterfront property (complete with a color label featuring an artist's rendering of the tram). We have a small collection of materials related to the Waterfront Campus and the tram, mostly ephemeral pieces like news clippings and flyers (including the anonymous April Fool's Day flyer announcing that tram funding would be furnished by beer sales at either terminus).

If you think about it, how do we know about McLean's will and the splash it made (see yesterday's post)? It's because a contemporary saved those news items and donated them to the collections here, where they were organized into searchable categories, stabilized through preservation photocopying, and made accessible to interested researchers. How do we know the years he worked at the Medical School and in what capacity? Because we have the complete run of school catalogs from that period of time--1887 through what should be the present, but isn't, mainly because the School of Medicine has gone to an electronic-only catalog.

How will the researchers of 2056 be able to reconstruct events of 2006? We're doing all we can to make sure that the materials donated to us are saved for future generations. We count on donors to help us in that endeavor. So, a hearty thanks to all you who have given and you who may yet give!

1 comment:

Karen said...

I often give much thought to this matter. How, as reference librarian and archivist, can we give an accurate account of the past, let alone the present, without the record?

It is not an uncommon occurance for you and I, Sara, to be questioned about our telling of the history of medical education and practice in the Pacific Northwest. Try as we might to turn up the unequivocal "truth" of a matter, without the record, we are left with only heresay, perspective and contradictory histories. And yet, we may contemplate, that even then,those who have recorded in the moment, have themselves chosen what to tell future generations or have decided what is best to leave out.

Then, what of the custodians of the record? What have they selected to preserve? What has carelessly or purposely been discarded?

Well, for our part, we choose to preserve as much of our history as possible and to be conscious of not selecting based on our own bias.

So yes, thank you to all of our past, present and future donors. We have pledged to collect and preserve significant and historical materials and, most importantly, to make them accessible to all generations, everywhere so that the story can continue to be told.