Friday, January 16, 2009

Otis Historical Archives Annual Report part 1


STAFF (A-Arrive; D-Depart):
Michael Rhode, Chief Archivist
Kathleen Stocker, Assistant Archivist
(D) Thomas Gaskins, Archives Technician
Donna Rose, IMC Supervisor Archivist
(D) Kirsten Strigel, IMC Contract Archivist
Amanda Montgomery, IMC Contract Archivist
LaFonda Burwell, IMC Contract Archives Technician
(A) Karen West, IMC Contract Archives Technician
(A) Anna Korosec, IMC Contract Archives Technician
(D)Shanika Queen, IMC Contract Archives Technician
(D) Natasha Lyles, IMC Contract Archives Technician
(A/D) Lauren Clark, student volunteer

January 2009 marks Rhode’s twentieth year as the Museum’s archivist. In that time the Archives has grown immensely and has been far better catalogued. A 1988 guide to archives listed it as having 200 linear feet of collections, but that number is in the thousands now. Users and researchers have increased tremendously as well, as have the ways the collection is used. In 1989, there was one computer, with one database of a few photographs on its 24-megabyte hard drive; in 2009, the Archives is approaching one terabyte of digitized information. Photographs are no longer sent to a photography department for reproduction with a lag of months, but are scanned and sent to the requestor almost immediately. However, some once-common media such as ¾” videotape fill the Archives, but are now impossible for us to access. Technology has changed the way we do business and will continue to do so at an increasing pace, but we hope to continue adding to the collection and making the medical history of America available to our constituency.

Substantial requests for information were handled, frequently regarding sensitive topics. Of the requests that we tracked, we had at least 183 substantial reference requests this year, including 93 from people representing institutions and 9 countries outside the US. The museum’s photography collections received notice from the fine arts world: the Smithsonian American Art Museum borrowed eight of William Bell’s Civil War photographs of soldiers for an exhibit, the Metropolitan Museum of Art called for help in cataloguing their copies, and in January 2009 the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston began reviewing photographs for a loan. The Vorwald Collection continues to be used for research for asbestosis lawsuits in spite of being open to the public for two decades. Interest in the 1918 influenza epidemic has not yet peaked, and many requests were received to use images from the Archives, all of which are viewable on the website to facilitate research. Rhode was interviewed by Bill Koslosky for “The National Museum of Health & Medicine: archival images on Flickr,” was an invited participant for the “Archival Research” panel of the Graduate Student Symposium for historians of medicine at the National Library of Medicine, and spoke on “Genealogical Possibilities in the National Museum of Health and Medicine,” for the National Capital Region of Association of Professional Genealogists at the National Archives. Rhode wrote “Book Review: Rehabilitating Bodies: Health, History and the American Civil War by Lisa A. Long,” for the Journal of Southern History; “Foundations: E.R. Squibb, 1854,” and “Foundations: Photomicroscopy, circa 1876,” for The Scientist. He submitted a paper on the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion for publication in the Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, and is currently implementing reviewer comments on it. Rhode has had a paper on the Museum in World War I accepted for the American Association of the History of Medicine’s annual meeting in April. Tours were given to National History Day students (June), the DC Public Health Department (June) and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference, aka MARAC (November).

Stocker and Rhode have been assisting the Borden Institute with a photographic history of WRAMC for the 2009 anniversary. In addition to providing scans of photographs of the base and personnel, they are also writing captions while contributing to the layout and editing of the publication. The book should appear in the spring, and features many photographs from the Archives.

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