Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ephemera, or what we call dribs and drabs

It's the random piece of paper coming into one's possession without provenance, out of context, perhaps undated, unsigned, that tends to cause the most hestitation and the deepest philosophical musings about the nature of information, about information-seeking behaviors, about "aboutness." Because, where do you file something like that? So that other people will be able to find it later and make use of it in some way?

Luckily, we here
have The Subject Files, a moderately vast and varied melange of materials on, well, whatever random pieces of information have come into our possession, really. Sure, we have the three folders of articles and et cetera on the tram; one on physician-assisted suicide; several on OHSU research that has made the news. But it's also a great system for one-offs, like the "Native Doctor's License" and articles on those missing Austin murals that used to hang in Mackenzie Hall.

This morning, I waded through another small puddle of miscellaneous things from the archives, flotsam and jetsam that washed away from their moorings and remain unassociated with any larger collections:

Operative dentistry--junior year. Outline for preparation and filling of root canals. No date, and I don't know enough about root canal technique at this point to date it based on content. There are references to radiograms, various tools ("S.S.W. 34-36"), solutions, chip blowers. Did it come from the University of Oregon Dental School or one of its predecessor institutions? I don't know. Solution? Subject Files: Education, Dental.

Fee bill of the Umatilla County Medical Society. No date, circa 1891. Originally, this had been cataloged for the History of Medicine Collection, but since it's just a broadside, it didn't make much sense to have it there, folded up and stuck into an acidic Gaylord enclosure. So, out it comes. We learn here that labor in the city is presumed to take 8 hours, and will run the mother-to-be $20.00. However, rural deliveries are $20 plus: "time and expenses extra," apparently at the discretion of the physician. Treatment of syphilis required payment in advance, and would run you $25-150. So, this is a pretty neat document, but where to put it? Subject Files: Societies, Medical-- Umatilla County Medical Society.

Bulletin release from State Board of Higher Education. No date, but maybe circa 1931, because reference is made to the "new" Outpatient Clinic on Marquam Hill. It notes that our missions are the training of physicians, care of the sick, and "the study of obscure diseases through research in an effort to learn their prevention and cure." Apparently, in the ten years preceding this bulletin release, the Medical School had garnered "more than $1,200,000.00" from the Rockefeller Foundation for research. The release to the media seems to revolve around "the new plan," in which "entrance requirements for the Medical School may be met either at Corvallis or Eugene..." Similarly, the first two years of "nursing education and public health nursing ... are given on the Corvallis campus with two more years in Portland..." There is also an announcement that Dean Richard Dillehunt will become the Director of the Medical School (I'm not sure what the awarding of this supplemental post implies), and the annual announcement of faculty.

So where to put that one? We have boxes of materials on the Medical School, including ones called "curriculum," "faculty," "Dept. of Nursing Education." We have folders on school history--even a folder called miscellaneous, which I really hate to use unless I have to. So, I'm mulling it over. If you have any thoughts, dear reader, let me know: maybe I just can't see the forest for the trees!


Marty Weil said...

I'm glad you thought to feature ephemera. Old paper is often under-appreciated.

Sara Piasecki said...

If you're interested in ephemera, you might want to check out the 2007 Annual Conference of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association, which will be devoted to all things ephemeral. The conference website is at