Mayo Brothers Photographic Images and Other Documents Preserved
The Board of Governors room, once used for meetings of Mayo’s Board of Governors, is situated in the Plummer Building (PL-3) midway between the former offices of Dr. Will and Dr. Charlie Mayo. These rooms are now part of the Mayo Historical Suite which is both museum and the work area of the Mayo unit which acquires, catalogs, preserves, and provides researcher access to resources on Mayo Clinic history. The Historical Suite contains an extensive collection of documents and photographic images displayed in the Board of Governors room and adjacent galleries. These artifacts were acquired by the Mayo brothers, and include images of notable medical and political leaders of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, honorary degrees and military honors awarded to the Mayo brothers from a variety of institutions in the United States and abroad.
In October 2012, a two-year preservation project was completed which involved digitizing nearly every photographic image and document displayed. The process started with an evaluation of the artifacts. Frames (mostly wood and glass), vellum certificates, and photographs react to the museum climate in different ways. Humidity, warm conditions, and direct sunlight can cause wood to warp, vellum to become flimsy (think of a dog’s rawhide chew) and photographs to fade. Fluctuations in temperatures cause wood and vellum to expand and contract and photograph emulsion to crack, loosening the picture layers from the paper backing of the photograph.
After a quick visual inspection the plan was to take images off the walls, remove the documents from the frames, clean the frames inside and out, and return the images. Upon closer evaluation, it was discovered that many of the original photographs and certificates needed more attention than originally thought. We decided it best to preserve the originals in archival containers and make replica images. Thanks to a new archival quality scanner, we were able to do almost all the scanning in the Historical Suite. This was beneficial both for quality control of our images and for preventing damage in transport to another scanning facility.
In addition to physical preservation, the artifacts were also cataloged in our online database, MAX (Mayo Archives Xplorer), to make them more accessible for researchers.
Finally, new gallery guides were created to highlight the artifacts. Most notable is the guide for the Board of Governors room, which matches a picture of the award with a small description and history, so visitors are able to appreciate the worldwide reach of the Mayo brothers and the clinic they founded.
Kristen Van Hoven
Mayo Historical Suite
Entry filed under: Feature Articles.