Back to the Future – Archival Projects Utilizing New Technology

July 16, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Posted in Professional Development | Leave a comment

Thank you to NAHSL for a Professional Development Award to attend MLA ’14 in Chicago this past May. I attended part of the History of Health Sciences Section program titled “Celebrating Our Information Future Using the Treasures of the Past”. The program was co-organized by the Consumer and Patient Health Information Section, Corporate Information Services Section, Health Associations Libraries Section, Technical Services Section, and Osteopathic Libraries SIG. There were presentations on expanding the reach of the health sciences special collections librarian at USC-Los Angeles, an online archive project from UC- San Francisco, The New England Prescription Images Database project from Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Libraries, a web exhibit of health sciences history from UMASS, and a presentation on 75 years of alcohol studies from the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers. I have included links to two of the projects that are publicly available. The slides and audio of the presentation are available on the MLA website for those with access to MLA ‘14 attendees and those that purchased virtual attendance options for the conference.

History of MassBiologics

A History of UCSF

Rather than go into details about one specific program, I am going to discuss common themes and strategies that fit the archives projects.

  • Collaboration – Work together for funding as well as completing the project. Be open to various types of funding. The MCPHS project received an NNLM grant and a faculty development grant, universities received money from special funds in the history department. Staff for the project can be volunteers or interns. Local historical societies and museums may also be able to donate time or money. Each project needed librarians, clinical experts, and technologists to succeed. Even the program at MLA was organized as a collaboration of 6 different MLA Sections. 
  • Strategic Planning/Documentation – Build a foundation of a mission statement and goals. Determine the steps that need to be taken. Examples are: physical sorting, which software to use, controlled vocabulary, how much staff time may be needed. Create policies for sorting materials and rules for storage. Create deliverables along the way to show progress and to interest people in continuing to support the project. 
  • Education/Marketing – Promote the website or deliverables within your institution through the website, blogs, social media, alumni or faculty/physicians/ nursing events. One project put their logo on items and sold them through Zazzle, it did not make much money, but it definitely got the word out there. Another project was able to put an exhibit in the regional airport, and my hospital coordinated with a local history museum when the hospital turned 100 years old.

Overall the session was helpful and learning various tidbits of health sciences history was very interesting. I hope the above observation/tips are useful for everyone. 

Lori Bradshaw, MSLIS, AHIP

Saint Mary’s Hospital


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