March 2007

CENSHARE records

censhare cat Today started with a visit to the CENSHARE (Center to Study Human Animal Relationships and Environments) office to discuss their twenty-five plus years worth of records. The center began as a joint venture between the School of Public Health and the College of Veterinary Medicine. It was an early advocate for animal assisted therapy and promoted companion animals as a source of well-being in assisted care facilities. Today it acts as a think tank and granting agency for interdisciplinary studies of human-animal relations.

It is a small office run by a director and a loyal group of volunteers. The primary source of income for CENSHARE has been private contributions and proceeds from the Gentle Leader® head collar for dogs developed by Ruth Foster and Dr. Robert K. Anderson, two founding members of the center.

The center is moving at the end of the year and wanted to make a plan for their records prior to the move.

Frequently asked questions

What happens to the stuff I send to the archives?

Part II. Initial Processing and Physical Arrangement

Shortly after materials arrive at the archives (as discussed in Part I. Sending Materials to the Archives), the material will undergo a physical arrangement process. This includes the re-boxing and foldering of material in order to help make it easier to access on an on-going basis as well as help to preserve the items in sturdier, archival quality containers. This is also a time for the archivist to weed out any unnecessary duplicate items or unrelated materials.

The level of arrangement that is needed for the collection is often left up to the archivist. Arrangement can include putting loose materials into new folders or re-filing into existing folders, grouping folders on a similar topic into a series, and working with individual documents within a folder. Some prefer an item level arrangement, which places each individual document within each folder in a prescribed order (e.g. chronological, alphabetical, etc.). However, another option is to leave the folders and material in the folders in the same order as they arrived. This saves the archivist time and leaves the materials in the original order that the office or individual created.

The initial processing and arrangement of materials can sometimes save space by reducing the total number of boxes needed to store the collection, but not always.

Re-boxing before and after.
The arrangement process did not lessen the number of boxes needed to house the collection.

The MPLP method for archival processing states materials should retain their original order at the folder level. It prefers using the existing folders unless the folder is badly worn or damaged. It also does not see the need for the archivist to spend the time sorting individual documents within folders or removing staples or fasteners. This practice was primarily used to help preserve the records from tears and rust from the metal materials; however in a climate controlled environment rust is less of a preservation issue.

Re-foldering before and after.
All of the original folders were replaced during the arrangement process, however staples, paper clips and binders were left on the materials. The folders represent the original order of the materials.

Part III will look at the description phase that helps researchers learn more about the material.

Advisory committee meeting minutes

img0015.jpgAcademic Health Center
History Project Advisory Committee

Wednesday 1:00-2:00 pm
March 7, 2007
Room 475 ChRC


In attendance: Dr. Frank Cerra, Elaine Challacombe, Sarah Evans, John Eyler, Jennifer Gunn, Erik Moore, and David Rhees

1. Review of two recent events: AHC history round table discussion (Feb. 21) and AHC history project launch/speaker event (Feb. 28)

All committee members who were able to attend the round table discussion held Feb. 21 agreed that it was both a success and a model for future discussion groups. Sarah Evans noted that some of the advantages to the group format included participants’ ability to spark ideas among the others present, allowed for the juxtaposition of differing experiences, and held all participants accountable to each other. Erik Moore added that Dr. John Kersey (a round table participant) remarked that the group format kept them all honest.

Committee members then discussed the advantages of conducting similar round tables in the near future and variations in terms of the invitees and topics discussed. A discussion group focused on faculty would aid in establishing an intellectual history of research conducted at the AHC. A round table focusing specifically on the schools and colleges would highlight the issues surrounding education. A discussion focusing on the interdisciplinary centers would focus on the working relationships between disciplines in the AHC.

The committee then discussed the potential outcomes of additional group interviews. One outcome would be a broad understanding of AHC issues from varying view points. Another outcome would be the use of the interviews to follow up with individual interviews for many of the participants. Finally, several participants could be invited back to have a similar conversation in a more public forum. This would be an interesting product of the project, one perhaps loosely based on the “Great Conversations” model.

Jennifer Gunn has a copy of the DVD of the round table. A copy still needs to be delivered to the archives.

Several committee members were able to attend the Gretchen Krueger speaker event and official launch of the AHC History Project (Feb. 28). Dr. Frank Cerra, Jennifer Gunn, and Erik Moore all delivered brief remarks at the event. Erik Moore reported being approached by several people after the event interested in either discussing AHC history in more detail or wanting to learn more about how to donate relevant materials.

2. Next steps for oral history project

Several committee members volunteered to help gather information needed to make a formal oral history project plan. Erik Moore and a sub group of the advisory committee will gather the information and compile a proposal for Dr. Frank Cerra to review. The plan will include a listing of potential interviewees and topics to cover, sequence of interviews, equipment specifications, and budget information related to conducting the interviews, purchasing equipment, and creating transcripts.

It was agreed that an additional benefit from the round table discussion and future round tables will be a foundation for the individual oral histories. The person(s) who will eventually conduct the individual interviews can use the group discussion recordings as a means to become versed in the AHC history and understand the context of events.

3. Discussion of digital access to materials

A discussion about digital access to materials gathered during the project included a brief overview of the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy (, the need to establish priorities in what would be digitized and how those items would be made accessible, and the pros and cons of various digital asset management systems and how they could be employed.

Next meeting scheduled for Tuesday, June 20, 2007, 11:00 – 12:00 pm

Frequently asked questions

What happens to the stuff I send to the archives?

Part I. Sending Materials to the Archives

Materials that are collected as part of the AHC History Project become part of the collections of the University Archives located in Andersen Library. At University Archives, the items will be processed according to professional standards and stored in a technologically advanced, climate controlled storage center located approximately 80 feet below ground level in a hollowed out limestone cavern. The “caverns,” as they are often referred to, house a concrete structure – essentially a building within the cavern – where the materials are stored. Access to the caverns is limited to Andersen Library staff.

University Archives is one of nearly a dozen units within Andersen Library that focuses on collecting, preserving, and providing access to historical information. Other units include the Charles Babbage Institute, the Immigration History Research Center, and Special Collections and Rare Books among others.

When material is shipped to Andersen Library it usually arrives in the archives work room (see below) located in the underground caverns. This is a common work space for all of the units in Andersen Library. Larger collections will be initially reboxed and processed in this space. Smaller collections can be brought upstairs to the individual unit and reboxed and processed in the unit’s office space.

The collection below is a relatively small shipment (7 boxes) of materials related to the AHC History Project. The boxes were shipped to the archives using a University of Minnesota Libraries service. The originating office labeled the boxes to be delivered to University Archives with an attention to the project archivist. The boxes are also label “1 of #” to guarantee all of the boxes were transported together and arrived safely. These boxes were brought up to the University Archives office space for initial processing.

The material in these white banker boxes will be placed in similar sized boxes that are of archival quality, meaning sturdier construction for handling and made of acid free materials. Some of the paper material may require being placed in folders or re-foldered due to the original folder’s deterioration or to create a uniformity among all folders.

Part II will look at the processing and physical arrangement phase that will make the materials ready for a researcher to use.

AHC history project remarks

Below are the remarks I delivered as part of the introductions at the AHC guest lecture by Gretchen Krueger. The event doubled as an opportunity to formally launch the AHC History Project.

Academic Health Center History Project Launch

February 28, 2007

Welcome. I appreciate your interest in tonight’s event and would like to take a few moments to elaborate on the project that I am working on.

The Academic Health Center History Project is a unique collaborative effort between the Academic Health Center and the University of Minnesota Libraries to ensure that the rich history of the Academic Health Center is preserved within the University Archives.

The goals of the project are to identify, collect, and provide access to the institutional and historical documentation of the Academic Health Center, its six schools and colleges, and its interdisciplinary centers at the University of Minnesota. The outcome is to ensure that this valuable documentation is preserved over the long term and made permanently accessible for scholarly and administrative uses in the University Archives.

However, where I’d really like to begin is by quoting Dr. Cerra from his State of the AHC address delivered in this auditorium last month. Speaking about ways to support current research, Dr. Cerra reminded the audience that “There is a repository of wisdom in our faculty… We need the wisdom of those faculty and we don’t really have a good system for tapping it and using it.” I understand this wisdom to be broader than the traditional model of publication. It is a wisdom that comes from experience and personal interrelations.

I would argue that tonight’s topic is a case in point. It is hard to find a biographical note on Dr. Kennedy that does not refer to him as “the father of medical oncology.” He was a “repository of wisdom.”

In 1999, Dr. Kennedy’s essay in The Lancet, “Origin and Evolution of Medical Oncology” detailed the history of the medical oncologist’s role in patient care. Dr. Kennedy lamented the lack of interest that oncologists-in-training had in its historical origins, commenting, “I’ve spent 47 years in an academic environment, and I know that many young oncologists are not interested in the history of oncology. They either don’t have the time or don’t have the interest to trace the origins, and some of them are reinventing the wheel.”

Dr. Kennedy was well aware of the repository of wisdom faculty could be and he made great progress in being a source of information for others.

But I hasten to add that this project is not about faculty alone. The administrative units of the AHC, its schools and colleges, and centers are all repositories of wisdom that need tapped as well. A better institutional understanding comes from a well-documented institutional history. Without which, there is little or no context for the work being done. It is not only researchers who are prone to reinvent the wheel. We re-visit familiar ideas in our strategic planning, curriculum design, and clinical operations year after year.

Dr. Kennedy once said, “My favorite expression is that medical oncology is the practice of internal medicine, but all the patients happen to have cancer.” Dr. Kennedy believed in a comprehensive care approach. Why combat the cancer if the onset of additional health issues were left unchecked?

It is like sticking your thumb in a hole of a cracked dike and ignoring the mounting pressure of water on the other side.

To date, the attempts to stop the loss of history at the AHC have been something closer to the thumb-in-the-hole method while the mounting pressure of lost history grew.

With the AHC History Project we are gathering partners together to stop the loss. As you have heard there is an institutional commitment from the AHC and the University Libraries to preserve this history and make sure there is access to it.

But on the other side of the table are you: the faculty, administrators, department heads, administrative staff, students, and family. You are part of this project as well. You are the people who understand the history by living through it. We will need your help at locating it and bringing it out into the light so that it can be preserved and others can have access to it. You are part of our insurance against the dike breaking.

Thank you for coming tonight. Your interest in the AHC’s history demonstrates that we have a great foundation for us to develop this project and see the repository of wisdom of the Academic Health Center built.

Thank you.