Meaningful Management of Archives
Archiving is one of the most underappreciated tasks in processing history. Without archives one would be unable to prove their stance on any issue. Archives’ value is at the direct expense of time and effort, but without the proper archiving knowledge, one’s work may be worthless. Due to a lack of quality archivists, locating an efficiently organized collection of archives may be difficult, but University Circle encompasses several sites, including The Dittrick Medical History Center.
The Dittrick Medical History Center, “holds archives, information written by individuals and organizations that are usually unpublished, for Cleveland Medical facilities and personnel.” A few categories of files that are held in the center are blueprints of The Cleveland Clinic in the 1900’s and employment data of hospitals. The Dittrick has developed a series of archiving steps that have proved to be useful and efficient. Initially the archives are arranged in chronological or other identifiable orders. The next step for archivists is the “description step” in which all archives are summarized and made accessible to researchers. The three main subdivisions of the description step are introduction and biographical notes which synopsize the material, scope and content notes which assist future archivists to understand the materials, and container correspondence which enables researches to quickly find their desired materials. This process is not only useful to the archivist because it provides a detailed procedure for them to follow, but it is incredibly valuable to researchers who desire to find information within the Dittrick.
How are historical facts and events chosen to represent a time period? Archivists attempt to find examples that intersect a variety of interests; therefore, the archive would minimize storage space and maximize critical information. Percy Skuy, “a tireless innovator and contributor to the pharmaceutical industry,” assembled a detailed exhibit that has been put on display at the Dittrick Medical Research Center (The Chronicle of Healthcare Marketing). This exhibit combines over 650 objects with brief explanations of each (The History of Contraceptives). The explanations range from simple descriptions to engaging stories of these unique contraceptives. An object may seem basic, but after reading one may find it to be very unique.
The opportunity to speak with knowledgeable archivists was informative, and made me appreciate historical data much more. Now having a slight idea of the effort that takes place in finding and processing archives inspires me to utilize resources that are available to me, such as The Dittrick. The point that intrigued me was when the professor stated, “Curators do not need to know everything, but instead need to know where to find it.” This proves true with all writing, but is deliberately illustrated with archiving. Archivists and researchers, especially amateurs, must be willing to fulfill the required steps in order to excel in their project.