Thursday, May 03, 2007

Archival acquisitions

Today has been a busy day--in the good, out-of-the-blue, long-awaited or totally unforeseen sort of a way. We had a long-expected donation of a piece of equipment lined up for delivery today, but the vehicle transporting it broke down--so, we wait. We also received a completely unexpected offer of a very significant collection of personal papers--which, if we do wind up getting them, you'll be hearing a lot more about. But in the process of discussing our collections with the (potential) donor of the personal papers, our acquisitions strategy was, well, attacked. Currently, our policy is not to solicit materials outside of campus: we occasionally write to potential donors about collections, we certainly encourage potential donors who happen to visit the History of Medicine Room, and we are always open to donations that walk in the door unannounced. But we aren't going out to people's homes and actively engaging them in conversations about their collections.

Why? I think it's as simple as 1, 2... That's the number of staff we have: two. We inherited a large backlog of unprocessed collections when we came on board; we also inherited a very small storage area that is quickly filling without any major effort on our part. We've worked with the Records Retention Committee to craft records retention guidelines for OHSU (yes, that's correct, the university has been without a records policy since 1887) and we are actively lobbying for the implementation of the now-completed schedule. We're reaching out to other departments, sending out brochures, mounting exhibits, and doing all sorts of other PR to get the word out. Should we be doing more? Of course, but our first priority right now needs to be the materials already in our care. A solid foundation is a necessity; without it, any acquisitions we make in haste might crumble into an unmanageable jumble, of little use to anyone.

We will get there, we are getting there. History has always rewarded patience.

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