The University Archives collects the personal and professional papers of senior administrators, long-term faculty, selected alumni, and others whose primary institutional affiliation has been with the University of Minnesota.
Generally, these collections complement departmental holdings and reflect the teaching, research, and service missions of the University of Minnesota by capturing the personal perspectives of those tasked with implementing theses missions.
Unfortunately, these collections are not always robust. They have been unceremoniously weeded by their creators during office moves or retirement, picked over by colleagues and family after a person’s passing, or stored in multiple locations hindering attempts to reconcile the documents.
These are generally the conditions archives consider normal. The personal papers of individuals that we do collect are done so with an acknowledgment that it is usually an incomplete set and likely the best means to document their work.
Lately, however, a new approach to digging deeper into the professional lives of those individuals that make up the university has become evident. As the University Archives digitizes portions of its holdings, there is now the ability to keyword search across hundreds of thousands of pages of press releases, minutes, annual reports, and alumni and university newsletters in the University Digital Conservancy. Trolling through this much information simply would not have been possible before.
One recent example that I came across was information about Ray M. Amberg, who administered the University Hospitals from the 1930s until his retirement in 1964. The Archives does have a small set of his papers, mostly consisting of personal correspondence and various accolades received for his performance. Yet, by searching the digital archives, a much richer depiction of his involvement with the university becomes clearer.
The first mention of Mr. Amberg is as a student singled out in the 1918 President’s Report as one of eight students leaving their studies to take part in the war effort.
As Director of the University Hospitals, the defining moment of his career was likely the opening of the Mayo Memorial Hospital in 1954.
Finally, in December 1968, the Regents’ minutes note that their regularly scheduled start time was delayed so that they could attend the funeral service of Mr. Amberg.