Friday, May 22, 2015

OHSU Library receives LSTA grant funding

With a grant through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), OHSU Library will digitize rare and unique collections on public health in Oregon, and provide open access to the scientific data they contain. 

OHSU Historical Collections & Archives, the special collections department of OHSU Library, holds extensive 19th-20th century materials on public health in Oregon, including manuscripts, photographs, publications, maps, and more. Historians, journalists, and health professionals have long consulted these materials for research on the history of public health. However, the statistics and other quantitative information contained in these analog materials are largely hidden to patrons in data-driven fields such as epidemiology, environmental science, and bioinformatics. Patrons in these fields seek to re-use and re-interpret this historical data for research and education today. This legacy data has potential to be of great benefit to these users and the communities they serve. 

Among the collections selected for this project are death records, public health surveys, Oregon’s earliest medical journals, photographs, and institutional records . Many of the records deal with historically under-represented groups such as minorities, women, rural populations, and the disabled. OHSU Library will provide the public with a robust, online resource for accessing both the digitized materials and the data they contain.

The project partners OHSU Historical Collections & Archives with the OHSU Ontology Development Group, as part of the library’s efforts to develop innovative data services. The project director is Maija Anderson, Head of Historical Collections & Archives. The project team includes Max Johnson, University Archivist; Shahim Essaid, Research Associate with the Ontology Development Group; and student assistants Sherra Hopkins and Rachel Blume. 

OHSU Library is honored to be able to provide scholars, students, researchers, and the public with ready access to these materials, which have the potential to help improve public health in Oregon today. This project is supported in whole by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library.

Center for Women's Health Edit-a-thon: Outreach, Advocacy, and Campus Support

[OHSU Photography]
Dear Readers,
HC&A was invited to participate in the Center for Women's Health Edit-a-thon by Katharine Hart, which took place in the BICC Gallery on May 12th.  I received the request to potentially show off some archival materials related to women's health during this event which was designed to give people with experience in the field of women's health an opportunity to edit Wikipedia's pages related to women's health with the goal of reducing poorly cited and inaccurate information.

In order to give you, dear reader, the best understanding of the professional aspects of these types of events the remainder of this post is a tag-team co-authoring extravaganza with myself, Max Johnson, University Archivist and Meg Langford, HC&A Public Services Coordinator.  I'll start the party with a discussion of the key elements most directly linked to my work (advocacy, donor relations, campus support) and then pass the mic to Meg who will discuss outreach, choosing materials and share images of the event.

First off, campus support.  This is a critical concept in university archives and special collections, we need to ensure that our repository is not seen only as a place to go, but also as a service that travels.  Without even thinking of the materials, their needs and security I almost always say "Yes" and then figure out how to make it work.  Our allies, supporters and collaborators on campus are typically very pleased with our efforts and our willingness to support their events by enhancing the visual offerings with historical materials is a natural win-win situation for all involved.  It seems pretty basic when I write it, but it is necessary to always be willing to think around the corners, be creative and take extra time to ensure the archival presence supports both missions.

This brings me to the next concept: advocacy.  Advocacy means that as an archivist I use my position and our materials to show the value of the profession to campus stakeholders, supporters and potential new supporters with the hopes that for every event we are not at, people wonder "Where are those archival materials I saw at this other event?" or "Wouldn't it be nice to have some historical context?"  This leads people to think "Of course we need an archives, where else would we get such great support," or "We should send materials to the archives so they can use them to further support other missions on campus."  This advocacy leading to growth brings me to the last point of my spiel: Donor relations.

In showing our collaborators, supporters and friends what we can offer we plant the seed that could lead to a future donation.  When visitors see that our materials are mobile (with great caution) and that they include the records of deans, presidents, department heads, researchers, and innovators, that draws them into the world of archival potential.  It is my hope that by seeing the manner in which we care for materials, our familiarity with their place in history and our desire to continue to increase our footprint and reach that this prompts potential donors to start the conversation of "What if I were to contact the archivist and offer my papers, records and materials?"  And this really is the best of all worlds.

HC&A Wikipedia edit-a-thon tabling crew: Max Johnson, Crystal Rodgers, Meg Langford [OHSU Photography]
I really have to echo Max's excellent assertion that "we need to ensure that our repository is not seen only as a place to go, but also as a service that travels." As a unit, we at HC&A are very interested in proactively making connections to our campus community, our local community and beyond. So when we have the opportunity to participate and share our materials in a different way, we jump at the chance!
Everyone loves some archives swag! Buttons from the Birth Home of Portland [OHSU Photography]
One of the great aspects of tabling an event like this is that it provides us the opportunity to highlight materials from diverse collections for a wider audience. Drawing on our reference and research assistance expertise, we can treat the event theme like a researcher inquiry: "What materials do you have on women's reproductive health?" The answer: "So many! Let us show you some examples."

For this event, we selected materials from the following archival collections:

...As well as several obstetrics texts from our rare books collection:

Demonstrating the layered illustrations in the Spratt text [OHSU Photography]
We tried to select "stand-alone" folders or items, materials that could be easily comprehended (and enjoyed!) at a busy event - and they were a hit! Participants were really interested in the physical items as well as in the history that they represented.
Original medical illustrations from the Clarice Ashworth Francone collection [OHSU Photography]
Yours truly demonstrates the famous (to us, anyway!) obstetrical pocket phantoms! [OHSU Photography]
One aspect of this kind of outreach that I find incredibly valuable is the ability to reach people who otherwise would not have the time or inherent inclination to interact with our materials. I like to think of events like tabling the Wikipedia Edit-a-thon and our recent Research Week open house as our way of starting to host "pop-up-exhibits" to get OHSU HC&A materials in front of new audiences and users. We have pop-up restaurants, pop-up shops, so why not pop-up exhibits? As long as you carefully maintain security and preservation standards, it's a great way to reach new people and engage them with our collections. It's also a cool way to advocate for archives and special collections as sites of investigation and rich primary source material. On top of all that, it's very, very fun - for us and for event-goers!


Are you planning an event and interested in how we can work together to connect with OHSU or health science history? Contact us! 503.494.5587 |