Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Historic day for OHSU history

Yesterday afternoon, OHSU Executive Vice President Steve Stadum sent a message to the OHSU leadership team with the subject line "OHSU workforce member responsibilities for record retention and destruction," outlining the newly developed university records retention schedule. More than ten years in the making, the schedule was adapted from one used by the Oregon University System and covers the full spectrum of records created by an academic medical center, from appointment books to to pathological specimens to radioactive waste disposal records--along with the usual meeting minutes, personnel records, correspondence, fiscal records, et cetera, et cetera. (The complete schedule is available on the OHSU intranet only.)

What does this have to do with OHSU history? Consider the case of Horace Carpenter, dean of the Willamette University Medical Department. When Horace left the university in 1875, he took the school's records with him. As a direct result, we have very few documents pertaining to the organization and administration of the department, its split in 1887 (leading to the creation of the University of Oregon Medical School), and its merger with UOMS in 1913. That sort of behavior simply won't be permitted under the new schedule.

Or, say you're looking for meeting minutes. Consider the case of the Aesculapian Club, whose minutes were destroyed by the Secretary, Mrs. Dr. Hill. No more of that! Meeting minutes are now scheduled for permanent retention, and even if we don't have them here at the archives, we'll be able to say with great certainty that, yes, those minutes exist! And then spend time finding the responsible party in the originating unit to find the documents themselves.

Which is where the pitch for transfer to the archives comes in. Forever can seem like a long time when you're responsible for a box of documents scheduled to be permanently retained. And answering questions from researchers (whether within or without OHSU) can be burdensome when you have other things to do. Happily, we here in the archives are all about preserving information and providing access to it. Questions about the schedule or transferral of records to the archives can be addressed to Archivist Karen Peterson at peterska[at]ohsu.edu or 503-494-3239.

Let's not allow the modern Horace Carpenters and Mrs. Hills to dictate what will be known of OHSU fifty years from today. Together, we can work to build a lasting record of the achievements of OHSU and its progress from regional medical school to an internationally recognized institution of teaching, healing, and research. Think before you throw!

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