April 2007

Frequently asked questions

What happens to the stuff I send to the archives?

Part III. Accessioning and Description

After materials arrive at the archives (Part I. Sending Materials to the Archives) and undergo a physical arrangement process (Part II. Initial Processing and Physical Arrangement) the collection is accessioned into the archives and a description of the materials is written to aid collection management and researcher access.

Accessioning is a formal process of taking physical custody of the materials and recording the date the materials arrived, contact information for the donor, the size of the collection upon arrival, a brief description of the materials, and any special considerations or needs that the collection will require during processing.

The description process is primarily the creation of a finding aid for the collection. Finding aids are an archival tool that attempts to facilitate access and explain the materials in their historical context. In its most basic form, finding aids provide easily readable summarized information about the collection. More detailed finding aids act as an outline for the collection and allow researchers and archivists to learn more information about the materials before looking in the boxes.

Older finding aids (pre 1990s) are often typed sheets of paper. After the introduction of the desktop computer and the WWW to the archival work flow, finding aids were written in popular desktop publishing programs and made available online using html markup or PDFs. By the late 1990s, archivists developed an encoding mechanism using SGML and later XML to create a standardized structure for electronic delivery. The standard, known as Encoded Archival Description (EAD), is commonly accepted as the preferred professional description format and allows finding aids to be discovered using popular search engines (Google) and library catalogs.

Snippet of EAD encoding

The material collected and described through the AHC History Project will follow these professional standards and will be available for users through either the University Archives web site or the University Libraries’ online database for University of Minnesota finding aids. Paper copies of all finding aids are also available at the University Archives for in-person use.

At this point, after accessioning and description, the materials will be physically stored in the caverns beneath Andersen Library. When a person identifies materials through the use of a finding aid or through a conversation with staff members at the archives, the boxes will be pulled and brought to a secure reading room for use.

Mystery photographs

These photographs were located in a recent acquisition from the Office of Communications. These five men show that history isn’t as serious as it sometimes seems, especially in the area of medical education. The original photographs are not dated and list the last names of the individuals pictured: Culver, Haynes, Miles, Gaines, and Termant(?). Any additional information that can be provided will be appreciated. Please use the comment feature to share your perspectives with other visitors.



Robert J. Gorlin papers

img0018.jpg Last week a small but valuable collection came into the project; the papers of the late Dr. Robert J. Gorlin. Dr. Gorlin, who passed away last summer at the age of 83, was a larger than life presence at the University of Minnesota for over fifty years. Dr. Gorlin was a Regents’ Professor in the School of Dentistry but also held numerous joint appointments in the Medical School. An international expert in oral and maxillofacial pathology, Dr. Gorlin identified more than 100 syndromes related to genetic causes and published over 600 articles and text books including Syndromes of the Head and Neck, the authoritative work in the field.

The collection is a half linear foot and consists primarily of correspondence, research notes, drafts of publications, and photographs. There are also several recordings of recent lectures Dr. Gorlin gave.

The materials come from the Gorlin family. Unfortunately, most of Dr. Gorlin’s office files were lost after his passing due to the space constraints faced by the department.

Up to my HIPAA in regulations

I have spent the better part of the last week immersed in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and the Privacy Rule regulation that establishes the minimum Federal standards for safeguarding the privacy of individually identifiable health information.

Mostly I am preparing for a presentation at the Midwest Archives Conference in Columbus Ohio on privacy concerns in academic and medical archives but I am also researching the need for an agreed upon role of the Privacy Rule within this archives project.

Most archives/HIPAA literature has focused on archives that are part of a health science organization or educational institution. The University of Minnesota is a hybrid institution meaning that some parts of the University are regulated by the Privacy Rule (the Academic Health Center) and other parts are not (University Archives). This makes it all the more difficult in determining how best to manage materials that may or may not contain personal health information (PHI) in the archives.

Some interesting key points I have learned so far include:

• The Privacy Rule in HIPAA applies only to covered entities (institutions governed by the Privacy Rule); it does not apply to all persons or institutions that collect individually identifiable health information.

• The Privacy Rule in HIPAA pertains only to PHI created or collected by a covered entity. Personal health information created or collected by a non-covered entity does not have to comply with the Privacy Rule.

• The Privacy Rule does not “pass through” its requirements to business associates (person/entity that provides certain functions or services for a covered entity); instead, it requires, typically by contract with the covered entity, satisfactory assurances to the safeguarding of information.

• De-identified health information is not PHI and thus not protected by the Privacy Rule.

• Enforcement of the Privacy Rule is complaint driven. Covered entities will not be periodically audited or monitored.

Most of this information and more can be found through the resources provided at the HIPAA Resources Page for the Science, Technology & Health Care Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists.