Historical Unit News

August 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm

Instead of lights, camera, action, it was paper, pencil and multimeter as the Historical Unit staff and an external conservator assessed Mayo Clinic’s historical collections.

The Historical Subcommittee approved funding of a general needs survey to broadly look at the institution’s historical collections to assist with developing a long-range preservation plan. A request for proposals was sent out and in April, the conservator who was hired to conduct the survey evaluated the policies, practices and condition of the historical collections at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The historical collections include books, manuscripts and artifacts ranging from surgical instruments and wax models to honorary gowns worn by the Mayo brothers.

Touring through the various areas where historical collections are on display or stored, the conservator assessed how the collections are housed and identified hazards to collections considering such factors as environment, storage, security and access, housekeeping, conservation treatment, and policies and practices. A multimeter was used to measure the ultraviolet light, visible light (lux or foot-candles), percent of relative humidity, and temperature in each room housing historical collections.

A final report will be compiled by the conservator addressing the general state of all the collections assessed and what is needed to preserve the collections long-term. The report will identify specific preservation needs, recommend actions to meet those needs, and prioritize the recommended actions based on the value of the collection to the institution. Once the report is received, the Historical Unit staff in conjunction with the Historical Subcommittee will be able to develop a long-range preservation plan. The plan will help ensure that the Historical Unit is making the best use of its resources in addressing collection needs.

Upon completing a preservation plan, a review of applicable grants will be done and a grant proposal can be submitted. A general needs survey is often required by granting agencies when submitting a grant application for specific preservation work so this survey will allow the Historical Unit’s grant application to be competitive with others applying for the same grant. The general needs survey will facilitate the Historical Unit’s mission of acquiring, organizing, preserving, and promoting the recorded memory of individuals and organizations which have shaped Mayo Clinic’s unique culture and history, and for providing research tools and services to make such materials accessible to patrons.

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