Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Images, A to Z: available to all (?)

Having finished the Biographical File portion of the materials from the News & Pubs donation, we moved on to sorting, classifying, and filing the portrait photographs into our Historical Image Collection. Today, the personal pictures portion has been completed! The current system for prints has two series of portrait photographs: folders by letter A-Z, and folders for single individuals represented by three or more prints. While we did add many prints into the A-Z folders (from Aldrich to Yatvin), we greatly expanded the number of folders for single persons, ballooning from 3.5 boxes to fifteen. From Abdulhay to Zimmerman, we now have a much better visual record of the faculty and staff of OHSU and its predecessor institutions.

And yes, we did go through a lot of print photo sleeves (over 1500 5x7 sleeves, for starters).

On a related note, we had an interesting twist on an image request today: a patron looking for a picture of someone from a 1980s-era OHSU yearbook contacted the library to see if we held the yearbooks in the collection. Well, we do have some yearbooks here in the Pacific Northwest Archives Collection, but not the one needed for this request. So, I put the patron in touch with the Alumni Association, to see if they had older yearbooks on hand. Well, being the Alumni Association, they did some poking around, found out that the patron was not who she was claiming to be, and declined to give assistance, per the wishes of the alum in question.

It did give us pause: would we have been wrong in simply supplying a copy of the photo if we did, in fact, have it in the collection? I think not: a yearbook is a published document, and if the OHSU yearbooks were kept in open stacks, any patron could come and photocopy pages without ever asking permission. Certainly, it wouldn't occur to me that I could bar someone's access to my college yearbook photo--but it also wouldn't occur to me that someone would want it for (possibly) nefarious reasons.

Privacy: such a delicate and important question. We must constantly strive to strike the right balance between access and ethics.

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