Thursday, April 30, 2015

Spring cleaning in the Historical Collections & Archives!

This week we have a guest post from our AAOF grant-funded project student assistants, Lacey Legel and Ashley Ehmig.

Finally, after a year and a half of hunting through randomly placed boxes, we (student assistants Ashley Ehmig and Lacey Legel) reorganized the Child Study Clinic Records, housed in the Old Library. Hurray! The Child Growth Clinic Records is a set of mixed longitudinal radiograph records, teeth casts, medical, dental & miscellaneous patient data, with doctor’s notes and records collected by the OHSU Child Clinic from the early 1950s through the late 1970s. The collection includes 357 subjects, aged 2-28 (with 20 sets of twins or triplets), most of whom reported to the clinic biannually until at least the age of 18. The records, which have a history of heavy use by the dental students, were originally kept in a dusty area of the basement at the old OHSU School of Dentistry building - disorganized, unlabeled and with no formal access policy for this unique historical collection. After much labor from HC&A staff in 2013, the collection was archivally boxed, labeled, and transferred to its new home…a room we ominously call “The Tower.” Just getting the 300+ boxes labeled and moved was a monumental task & prior to the recent reorganization boxes containing models, radiographs, and miscellaneous records were all mixed in with one another in no particular order, making it a time-consuming chore to locate records. Now it is a beautiful masterpiece of order and logic. 

Entrance to the Tower

Back Corner of the Tower


The storage space consists of 16 bays, with 10 shelves in each bay. Each shelf can hold from 1-3 boxes of records. The space itself is fairly small and more than half the room is very poorly lit (as illustrated by the image above of the back corner). We are accustomed to using flashlights to hunt for records. Each radiograph box can weigh a ridiculous 40-70 lbs, while each model box tends to weigh in at a respectable 15-40 lbs. We counted 94 boxes of radiographs, 98 boxes of models, and 108+ boxes of miscellaneous objects and records (including human remains, photographs and negatives, specific research data created by the resident doctors, etc.). When we set out to plan our rearrangement, as the individuals who currently access these records on a regular basis for an AAOF grant project, we had several concerns we wished to address. The considerable weight of the radiograph boxes make them both difficult and dangerous to access when they are stored on the higher shelves. Current lighting toward the back of the room also makes searching for records challenging. Since these are the records that we currently work with & expect to need access to until the end of the project, we wanted to make this particular portion of the collection both easier and safer to use. 

We first counted and recorded all the boxes in each subset of the collection & then created a numbered map of the shelving space, discovering in the process that we had roughly 35 free “spaces” within the room. We then moved the various related collections into the darkest back corner of the room since these records are rarely accessed for this grant-funded project. With our little bit of extra space, we decided to leave the very top shelf of all the remaining bays empty for the sake of both safety and convenience. We then decided that the model collection should take up the next 3 highest shelves across the remaining bays because they tend to be lighter and we know we have completed work with that particular collection. That left the bottom 6 shelves available for housing the radiographs- making all of them accessible without the need for a ladder or step stool. We then assigned the boxes in glorious numerical order to their specific shelf placements using an Excel spreadsheet - and from there it was like putting together a giant, physically-exhausting puzzle.

We both got our cardio workouts in for a few weeks there, climbing the access stairs to relocate over 300 boxes. Lacey discovered she was allergic to dust & got to accessorize with some sporty latex gloves and a mask, and Ashley realized she can lift more weight than she thought. All the sweat and tears were definitely worth it because we filed & pulled some records today & what once would take at least half an hour was completed in less than 10 minutes! Woohoo! 
Ashley hard at work

Hello, from Lacey!

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