MAYOVOX Newsletter (1949-1990): Online and Searchable in 2013

October 29, 2013 at 2:33 pm 2 comments

MayovoxOn November 26, 1949, a nameless newspaper published “by and for the men and women of the Mayo Clinic” made its debut.  Its purpose was to foster the “simple, neighborly” inter-departmental contact and sense of “belonging” that many employees felt was disappearing as the size of the institution—1,500 allied health staff and 800 physicians at the time—continued to grow.  

In a clever gambit to raise staff awareness of the new publication, the first issue prominently featured a “Name the Paper” contest, with a prize of $100 as the incentive.  The Mayo Mastersheet and Proceedings, Jr. were serious contenders among the 819 entries submitted, while other submissions such as Blood and Guts and Clinic Quacks were wryly described as “entertaining but, somehow, not exactly suitable.”  The Suggestion Committee chose Mayovox as the winner, Latin for “Mayo’s Voice”, and so it became for the next forty-one years.

For most of its run Mayovox was very much like a small-town newspaper, covering major Clinic events; departmental news; advances in patient care and new technologies; building projects and infrastructure; and staff appointments, promotions, retirements and deaths.  But it also included large doses of ‘local’ interest stories:  engagements, weddings, vacations, hobbies and much more.  Intra-Clinic sports and competitions were prominently featured as were Clinic visits by celebrities such as Lawrence Welk, Helen Hayes, Louis Armstrong, Jason Robards, Muhammed Ali and Yogi Bera.  Some came to perform, while others were patients.  Each issue also showcased photographs of people, events and Clinic scenes.  Mayovox even had its own cartoonists.  The paper was initially produced in twenty-six issues per year, but the number was lowered to twelve in January 1973.

One of the most important features of the newspaper, both for contemporary readers then and historical researchers now, is its focus on Clinic employees at all levels and in all departments.  Fortunately for current users, the Communications Department maintained a name file (personal and corporate names) and topical index on 3X5 cards for each Mayovox issue.  Titles of the articles were included for each entry, but were not searchable.  By August 1990 when publication ceased with the 815th issue, these cards numbered in the thousands, with a total of 26,113 terms.  Of those terms 13,028 are personal names, and because physicians and Ph.D.s were always entered with the title “Dr.”, we know that coverage of physician and scientist consulting staff (6,394 entries) and nursing and allied health staff (6,634 entries) was remarkably balanced.  It should also be noted that the Florida and Arizona campuses established in 1986 and 1987 respectively are well represented in the issues of the late 1980s—Mayovox was an early subscriber to the One Mayo initiative. 

The Communications department donated the index to the Mayo Archives in the late 1990s, and the Mayo Historical Unit (MHU) has reaped the benefit of that acquisition to help with a variety of reference questions and projects on Mayo Clinic history.  It has been an invaluable source for countless articles written for multiple Mayo publications and, in particular, for people researching Mayo departmental histories.  On the lighter side, one of the most popular requests MHU receives is to find out what was going on at the Clinic in the month and year a retiring person began their Mayo career.

Searching the card  index could still be time consuming, though it was infinitely better than trying to thumb through the issues themselves with no direction.  It required going through the boxes and a potentially large number of cards by hand when looking for prospective topics or names.  Now, through digital technology and the dedicated work of one extraordinary Mayo volunteer, an indexed version of Mayovox is available—and searchable—on your desktop using the Mayo Archives Xplorer (MAX).

Seventy-nine-year-old volunteer, Wally Schulz, began transferring each of the 26,113 name and topical entries from the cards into a Microsoft ACCESS database in 2006.  He also entered the titles of the articles in which each entry appeared.  This was a huge side benefit of the digitization project, as it made keyword searching of the titles possible, something that simply could not be done in the card index.  Wally finished the work two-and-a-half years later, spending so much time on his assignment each week that the MHU staff began referring to its Processing Room as “Wally’s Lair” instead. 

Mayo Media Support Services (MSS) undertook the task of scanning the issues while the database was being edited and names regularized.  The index was used to create metadata for the PDFs created by MSS.  URL links to the PDFs, now stored on a special Library server, were also added to the database.  The final step was to send the database to Cuadra Associates, the company that created and supports the STAR archives management system on which MAX runs, so that the index/metadata could be mapped to appropriate fields in STAR.

Keep in mind that download speeds for the PDFs are variable and can be slow due to their large size; resolution improves as the download is completed.  In addition, Mayovox is indexed only to the issue in which a term appears, not to the page, so some searching is still required to find a specific reference.  But browsing the issues is all part of the fun when using this unparalleled window into Mayo’s past.

The offical launch date for the online version is scheduled for November 2013, but Mayovox online can be unofficially accessed now.  It is available only through the Mayo intranet.  Use the following link to MAX’s “Search Collections” page and begin your Mayovox adventure. Be sure to click the box “limit to Mayovox issues” to restrict your search to the digital version of Mayovox.

Karen F. Koka
Mayo Historical Unit

Entry filed under: Feature Articles.

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  • 1. Michael Holmes  |  November 1, 2013 at 9:11 am

    This is wonderful. My father is William J. Holmes, the originator of Mayovox. He was pulled away from his newspaper career at the Post Bulletin by Harry Harwick to start a communications department. The newpaper reporter in him didn’t leave him when he went to Mayo. My father passed away in 2002, if he was here today he’d smile, and shake his head in amazement was to what technology has brought to communications.

  • 2. emersonblue  |  November 5, 2013 at 11:40 am

    Mayovox is one of our favorite–and best–resources for Mayo History. I wish your father were here to use the on-line version.

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