Thursday, September 17, 2015

Recently Processed: The School of Dentistry Image Collection

Any archivist faced with processing large collections of photographic material knows it can be a daunting, time intensive endeavor. I was handed such a project earlier this year, tasked with processing the School of Dentistry Image Collection, transferred from the SOD to HC&A in 2010. Consisting of 16 linear feet of photographic material, the collection contains both color and black and white prints, negatives, 35 mm slides, glass plate negatives, and glass lantern slides. Spanning the years 1890-2000, the images illustrate how the school has changed throughout the 20th century; notable figures in the school’s history, such as Dean Harold J. Noyes, D.D.S. and Professor J. Henry Clarke, D.M.D.; and the many professional and recreational activities students were involved in while completing their degrees.  

Drs. Gatewood (left) and Sorenson (right) working with microscope slides in the lab, circa 1960s

Images typically require more detailed attention than paper-based records, including sorting by format and size and arranging and describing the materials in a way that 1) respects the organizational habits of the creator(s), when evident and 2) makes sense to archives staff and researchers. What use is a collection if no one can access it, right?! My job with the SOD Image Collection was to take the former arrangement of the materials, already divided into broad, general categories, and further subdivide them into more detailed series with more accurate descriptions. In order to make sure the photos are preserved for the long-term, I also sorted photos by format and size (bringing all 4x6 prints together, for instance). This was especially important for glass lantern slides, which are extremely delicate and nitrate negatives, which can off-gas and are potentially flammable. This also significantly reduced the amount of storage space needed to store the collection, requiring only 1 wall of shelves instead of 2!  

Dental hygiene class of 1964 in the classroom, 1963-1964
What I enjoy most about processing the collection are the ways it reflects the camaraderie between students, faculty, and staff. In addition to images of dental and dental hygiene students and faculty in the clinic, labs, and classrooms, the collection contains numerous images of costume parties, banquets, sports games, and student trips. Contrary to the stereotype of the stern health professional, it is clear to me, at least at OHSU, dentists and dental hygienists know how to have fun!  

-HC&A Student Assistant Crystal Rodgers 

Dental students in anatomy class during tongue dissection, circa 1980s
Dental student skit, circa 1990s
To view a more detailed description of the collection, you can view the finding aid here: Have any questions or interested in booking a research appointment? Feel free to send us an email at 

1 comment:

Karen Peterson said...

One word can sum up the School of Dentistry students: Partay!!!

The completion of this project, Crystal, gives me more joy than you can imagine.