UCSF Archives Receives Grant to Preserve LGBTQ History Collections

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UCSF Archives & Special Collections was awarded a $14,986 local assistance grant by the California State Library for the “Documenting the LGBTQ Health Equity Movement in California” project.

Preserving California’s LGBTQ History is a grant program that funds projects that support physical and/or digital preservation and digitization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) materials relating to California history and culture. This California State Library program will award a total of $500,000 in one-time grants for projects from large archival institutions with a global reach, as well as smaller, localized collections. The program aims to preserve materials that demonstrate the significant role of LGBTQ Californians and the LGBTQ movement in this state, as well as providing a more comprehensive and inclusive view of California’s history.

The UCSF project will support preservation through processing and partial digitization of two collections documenting the LGBTQ health equity movement in California:

•         San Francisco AIDS Foundation Magnet Program Records

•         UCSF LGBT Resource Center Records

San Francisco AIDS Foundation Magnet Program card

The San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF) Magnet Program is a health and wellness program located in the SFAF’s Strut Center in the heart of the Castro District of San Francisco. They offer community events, sexual health services, substance use counseling, PrEP, HIV and STI testing, learning events and rotating art displays from queer artists.  In spring 2001, a Community Advisory Board comprised of community members, social workers, and activists began meeting regularly to discuss how to proceed with the development of a new Gay Men’s Health Center.  The new center chose to address gay men’s health in innovative ways instead of simply replicating existing programs in a new location. Since 2003, Magnet’s overarching vision has been to promote the physical, mental, and social well-being of gay men. Magnet activities are guided by the following core values of the agency: self-determination, access, sexual expression, diversity, and leadership. Magnet provides individual STI/HIV services and community programs including book readings, art exhibits, town hall forums, and other social events. In 2007 Magnet merged with the SFAF to increase the services available to men throughout the Bay Area. Magnet also serves transgender, gender non-conforming, gender non-binary, and gender-queer people.

This collection includes founding documents, surveys of clients, assessments of services, marketing materials, advocacy campaigns, photographs, community art pieces, and posters documenting the establishment and activities of the Magnet program.

UCSF Visibility Project flyer, 2006 Chancellor's Award for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Leadership
UCSF Visibility Project flyer, 2006 Chancellor’s Award for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Leadership

The LGBT Resource Center serves as the hub for all queer life at UCSF, including the campus and medical center. It works toward creating and maintaining a safe, inclusive, and equitable environment for LGBTQIA+ students, staff, faculty, post-docs, residents, fellows, alumni, and patients. It aims to sustain visibility and a sense of community throughout the many campus sites. This community takes an intersectional approach and is committed to building workplace equity, promoting student and staff leadership, and providing high-quality, culturally-congruent care to UCSF patients. Founded in 1998, it was the first LGBT resource center in a health science institution.

This collection includes the center’s founding documents, traces the earlier LGBT community activities in the 1970s through the 1980s, and contains materials chronicling the history and evolution of the center. It also includes records of diverse events organized by the center: Coming Out Monologues, Trans Day of Remembrance & Resilience, and Trans Day of Visibility, as well as correspondence and announcements related to OUTlist, Mentoring Program, and Annual LGBTQIA+ Health Forum. These materials also document UC-wide advocacy work for providing equal benefits for same-sex domestic partners.

The UCSF Archives & Special Collections have been working on preserving materials documenting the LGBTQ health equity movement in California. These two recently acquired collections will enable researchers to investigate these communities’ efforts to address health-related issues and advocate for health equity.

 The Magnet collections allow researchers to investigate how the “San Francisco model” of AIDS care continued to evolve in the twenty-first century by providing free and equitable health care, education, and community space. Both collections contribute to an understanding of the medical, social, and political processes that merged to develop effective means of treating those with AIDS and other illnesses.

Diverse audiences will benefit from having access to this project’s archival collections, including scholars in disciplines such as medicine, nursing, jurisprudence, journalism, history and sociology, college students, and members of the general public pursuing individual areas of interest.

The collections included in this project are currently only accessible at the UCSF Archives reading room. The digitization of these collections will grant access to these valuable primary sources and other hard-to-find materials to scholars, students, and others worldwide. This project will significantly expand the historical record of the LGBTQ health equity movement in California and make a new corpus of materials related to the movement’s progress discoverable to a broad audience.

Save Our Stories: Support AIDS History Archive

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https://givingtogether.ucsf.edu/fundraiser/2359886

Over the past three decades, UCSF Archives & Special Collections has played a vital role in documenting the AIDS epidemic.

We are seeking your help to maintain and grow the AIDS History Project (AHP) archive as a critical, one-of-a-kind public record of the institutions and individuals involved in containing and treating the HIV both locally, and worldwide.

Please help support the UCSF AIDS History Project. We are hoping you will donate today and help us raise $50,000 by 2/1/2020 – please take a moment to do it now.

Your generosity advances vital work to collect, preserve, and provide universal access to stories of the AIDS epidemic.

35 years have passed since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and many of the original researchers, health care providers, and community activists who were on the front lines of defense against HIV have now begun to retire from public service. There is an urgent need to collect, preserve, and provide open access to their collections.

Your support will allow us to:

  • Catalog and digitize recently acquired collections, including, papers of Drs. Jay Levy and Steven G. Deeks, SF AIDS Foundation records
  • Record a new set of oral histories with clinicians, researchers, pharmaceutical and biotech scientists, health care workers, activists, community members, patients, and their family members
  • Expand the AIDS History Project statewide scope, solicit and acquire material fro regional community health centers
  • Organize exhibits and public events to share materials and stories preserved in the archives

Read more and donate.

With gratitude,
UCSF Archives & Special Collections team

More than Meets the Eye: Restoring the Danz Collection

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Guest post by Tracy Power Objects Conservation and Lesley Bone

Funding for this project was generously provided by the Francis I. Proctor Foundation for Research in Ophthalmology at UCSF.

Since 1963, the UCSF Archives & Special Collections holdings have included the historic Danz collection of ocular pathology specimens. The set, one of 13 believed to have been made, was originally intended as a teaching tool for use in medical schools. These blown orbs, some still retaining a long delicate stem, were made in Germany, in the 1880’s, by master glassblower, Amandus Muller. Each glass eyeball depicts, in minute detail, the various diseases and defects that can afflict the eye and is a unique masterpiece of the art of glass making. 

In June 2018 the collection was examined by Tracy Power and Lesley Bone to determine the nature and scope of condition problems that these objects.  Past treatments and current breakages were evaluated, the deterioration of the glass was examined, and current storage conditions were assessed.

While the majority of the glass eyeballs were in stable condition, there were ironically a couple that were themselves suffering from glass disease. This presents with a sticky surface; as a component of the glass leaches out of the surface due to an instability in the glass mix. These surfaces readily attract dust.

Of the previously repaired items, some were in stable condition, but most were in poor condition due to deterioration of the repair materials used and inferior skills of the person or people doing the repairs. One particularly peculiar repair was filled with bright red dental wax.

 The eyeballs were stored in their original compartmented box, with light damaged (faded), velvet-covered cavities for each specimen, and a hinged lid with a glass cover.  The box was still serviceable, but the cavities for the eyeballs had wads of old cotton wool, which was not suitable for the collection since the blown balls retained the thin tubular glass extensions that had been snapped from the rod when the ball was blown. These tended to snag on the cotton.

A treatment plan was agreed upon which would include upgrading the storage container, cleaning all of the glass eyeballs, and repairing the broken glass orbs.

Improved Housing

The eyeballs were removed sequentially for cleaning, and at that time the cavities in the display box were cleaned and new, improved supports were made.  The old cotton wool was replaced with new storage materials that will not be as likely to snag the glass tips.  Small pillows were made of polyester batting in Holytex fabric.  The glass pane in the box was cleaned with detergent and water.  Several discolored areas of paper on the box were toned with conservation stable watercolors and some lifting edges of paper were glued down.

Danz collection of ocular pathology specimens
Old cotton wool was removed and replaced by individually made pillows of archival materials.

Cleaning of the glass eyeballs

Each glass eyeball was carefully cleaned.  A detergent designed specifically for cleaning glass was used for this process.  Handling the eyeballs safely was a major concern and we ended up using foam tubes to make little doughnuts for the glass balls to sit in.  The foam was held in place with toothpicks, so their creation and adjustment was relatively quick. During the cleaning we identified some additional cracks in the glass eyeballs that hadn’t been obvious until they were wet up.  This step was very satisfying as the eyeballs went from dull and cloudy to glistening after cleaning.

Cleaning of the glass eyeballs
Cleaning the glass and the compartments in the box.

Repairing of Glass Eyeballs

Before the eyeballs could be repaired, those with unsightly or failing old repairs had to be undone.  The method varied depending on the types of repair materials previously used.  Several of the repairs had been done with red wax.  The wax remained soft and sticky making it messy and it did not closely resemble glass.  The wax material was removed by gently warming it.  Some of the other old adhesives had failed after becoming brittle.  The brittle material could be brushed from the surfaces, with special care taken to not scratch the glass.  Other old repair materials were removed with solvents.

Repairing the individual eyeballs was the most challenging part of the process, as they are thin and delicate.  Added to that, the high-grade epoxy that was designed for glass conservation can take several days to fully set.  While this can be advantageous, as it allows adjustment of pieces, it also means the fine shards have to be held in place for long periods of time while the resin sets. An advantage of this epoxy is that it is very thin and can be fed by capillary action into cracks.  That property was useful for many of the eyeballs. Also this adhesive has the added advantage of being far superior to commercially available epoxy resins in terms of long-term stability and greater light-stability, therefore it does not yellow like commercially available epoxies. 

Once the eyeballs were repaired, a few had areas where the fragments of the glass were still missing. Glass eyeballs that were incomplete were filled with tinted thermoplastic resin mixtures and details such as veins, were inpainted (inpainting is the process of restoring lost or deteriorated surface decoration or details on an artwork) with commercially ground pigments in acrylic resin.

The glass eyeballs were incredible to work on.   They were beautifully made, if often difficult to look at.  Only one of the eyeballs examined was failing due to unstable glass, or a poor match between the cream under layer and the colored surface glass.  The glass blower had incredible mastery in working with glass in addition to skill in depicting the defects and conditions.  We hope that after this conservation project the glass eyeballs continue to illustrate medical conditions and inspire awe for years to come.

Do-It-Yourself Archiving in the Makers Lab

Join us on June 20th from 12-2pm in the UCSF Library Makers Lab for Do-It-Yourself Archiving! The UCSF Archives staff will provide supplies and instruction on how to preserve and organize your personal records. Participants are encouraged to bring in material they want to archive, like photograph albums, childhood drawings, early writings or research, even love letters! The UCSF Digital Archivist will also be on hand to provide tips on managing your personal digital archive.

REGISTER HERE

This pop-up is a collaboration between the UCSF Archives & Special Collections and the Makers Lab. All Makers Lab pop-ups are open to the UCSF community.

Reproducible Research and the problems of preserving computer code and software

We collect and preserve a lot of the documentary evidence of science happening at UCSF — everything from lab notebooks to lab websites detailing research processes. We even hold tons and tons of data in our collections, mostly in physical form, as patient surveys or health records, or even raw data as it was initially recorded by hand in the lab.

But what about the products of contemporary science, where key digital elements such as computer code or software might be crucial to an understanding of the research? This is already presenting problems for research reproducibility. Think, for example, of a set of results which were obtained using a computer script written in the Python computer programming language. If you want to verify these results, are you able to view the source code which produced them? Are you able to execute that code on your own computer? Can you tell what each piece of the code does? Does the code rely on access to an external data set to work correctly, and can you access and/or assess that data set to test the code?

As we work more closely with our Data Science Initiative team on these issues, it becomes clear that these are preservation questions as well. A critical understanding of the scientific past and present requires access to the primary source documentation of that research, including computer code and software. Being able to understand and interpret that computer code involves many of the same questions mentioned above — executions of code, documentation of each process in the code, access to necessary data, etc.

To begin to address this, we are working with the Data Science team to assess researcher coding practices as a first step in understanding how the library can encourage better documentation and preservation of code in the service of reproducible research and the persistence of the scientific scholarly record. And if you’re a researcher who codes for your work, then we want feedback from you! Please consider attending one of our lunchtime listening sessions in the coming weeks — 4/20 from 12-1:30 pm at Mission Bay, and 4/27 from 12-1:30 pm at Parnassus. We will have an informal chat about research coding practices and will discuss some of the issues we encounter as information professionals, as well as talking about what the library can do to aid in these areas.

Join us as we make some in-roads on this challenging information problem.

Born-Digital Archival Description

We know that, if you’re not an archivist, the intricacies of archival descriptive standards and finding aid creation might quickly make your eyes glaze over. However these descriptive standards are pretty important to our work, and to the usability of the materials we collect, so we want to take a moment to share an archival description project that some archives staff have been working on. It may seem mundane, but we think it’s a pretty big deal.

If you’re a regular archives user you probably know that most of the information about our collections is recorded in a finding aid — a document which provides contextual information about the collection and gives a list of all the things inside. We describe collections this way — in aggregate rather than individually like books or journal articles — because it’s important to maintain the context of an archival collection. A chain of letters or emails, for example, are best understood when they are viewed alongside all the other pieces of the chain. Not only would it be impossibly labor intensive to individually catalog each letter or each email, but it would also end up being an impediment to actually accessing and understanding each individual piece. The meaning of each item in a collection relies completely on its context.

When we are describing collections and making finding aids here in the archives, we often refer back to standardized guidelines which the archival field has produced to define the rules about how to describe something. In our case, this is usually a document called “Describing Archives: A Content Standard”, also known as DACS. DACS does contain some guidance about describing digital archival materials, but for many born-digital materials (laptops, smart phones, magnetic disks, and the files they contain), DACS lacks the information and specificity we need as processing archivists.

To help try to address this problem, Charlie Macquarie (our digital archivist) has been working for the past year with the other digital archivists in the UC System — Annalise Berdini at UC San Diego, Shira Peltzman at UCLA, and Kate Tasker at UC Berkeley — to come up with a set of detailed instructions for describing these materials. This team started by examining existing practices used in finding-aid creation at 35 different archival institutions, and from these examples and from professional experience drafted a detailed set of rules. They solicited and received feedback from archivists and librarians across the UC System in 3 different rounds of review, and received approval to publish and establish these guidelines as a UC-wide standard for describing born-digital archival material.

Now that these guidelines are published, anyone can view them and provide feedback. The most up-to date version of the guidelines is available on GitHub as a repository, and a static version of the guidelines (if you don’t want to navigate a GitHub page) can be viewed as a pdf file inside that repository. As computing, processing, and describing practices evolve these rules will necessarily have to change accordingly, so the document should be considered a living one. If you’re interested in the ins and outs of archival description, please feel free to provide feedback (or submit a pull request) if it strikes you!

Now that this UC-wide guideline exists to help inform our own institutional practice here at UCSF, we hope to be able to start adding information about born-digital collections to our finding aids more frequently. Keep an eye out for new description of digital archival materials coming down the pike!

Finally a special thanks is in order to David Uhlich, Kelsi Evans, David Krah, and Polina Ilieva who all reviewed and provided important feedback to the guidelines in the initial review phases.

 

A Report Back from Personal Digital Archiving 2017

Post by Charlie Macquarie, UCSF Archives Digital Archivist

I spent most of last week down the peninsula for the convening of the Personal Digital Archiving (PDA) conference, now in its 7th year, and left with some fascinating thoughts and conversations in my mind. PDA “seeks to host a discussion across domains focusing on how to best manage personal digital material, be it at a large institution or in a home office.” As a result of this focus, it also ends up playing host to all kinds of fascinating new practices and approaches to collecting, preserving, providing access to, and even thinking about personal digital information.

archivists use smart phones to photograph an 8 inch floppy disk reader.

A moment from the Born-Digital Archiving pre-PDA meetup, where archivists hover around a computer built to read 8 inch floppy disks — an almost impossible task these days

The conference covered a huge range of work, and included presentations on different ways to conceptualize digital space (screenshots, video game emulations, the list goes on), projects seeking to allow communities to directly transfer their digital materials to a library collection through apps or interfaces, and even a fascinating assessment of the way that teens store and access information about their personal finances (including the clincher that almost all ages show a tendency to simply discard financial information after a stated financial goal has been reached). Also included were some updates on the sustainability (or lack of it) of some of the field’s pioneering digital archives projects, like the Salman Rushdie papers at Emory University (hint, it’s still people, not machines, that are making it run).

Some presentations particularly interesting to a health sciences institution like our own were those on the self-collection and assessment of health and other biometric data espoused by the Quantified Self movement. Quantified Self is a loosely-organized group who collect and store data about themselves, and then use various computational and creative methods to analyze that data  for self-insights framed as citizen science.

A slide shows in a darkened room as a person gives a presentation on "QS" or Quantified Self.

Gary Wolf gives the keynote on the Quantified Self movement.

Quantified Self (the formal organization) has just embarked on its first experiment to facilitate participants testing and analyzing their own blood, which has brought up a host of questions on the ethics of collecting and making public one’s own health data. Additionally, the project raises questions about the freedoms and constraints that tend to coalesce around these projects of “do it yourself” self-quantification (not to mention the often neglected questions around power and privilege that tinge the conversation around collection of, access to, and work with self-referential data). The approach taken by quantified self practitioners is surely different than ours here in the archives, but we still face similar issues as archivists in a health-sciences university, where historical information mixes with personal narrative and private health data – both in the legal sense and the intimate emotional sense as well.

This forum was a fascinating opportunity to dig a bit deeper into the ideologies and practices behind the collection and preservation of personal digital material, and it seemed fitting that these questions were being explored in dialogue with all the people in the room. One of the biggest takeaways from the conference, after all, was that the tools and technologies to facilitate this work are often the focus of the intrigue and excitement, but that it’s the people who dedicate their time and resources to the endeavor that keep the whole thing running. Just as the Salman Rushdie Digital Collection requires the work of a cadre of dedicated digital archivists at Emory, the future of our digital past will require serious work by a broad and diverse community of archivists, technologists, historians, fanatics, and citizens.

One of the final audience comments was prescient in this regard: “it seems like what might be missing is a discussion of privilege in these projects.” Indeed, any community of practice is unlikely to persist for long if it doesn’t contain a diversity of interests.

An Old-Fashioned Expedition into the Vault

This is a guest post by Kristin Daniel, UCSF Archives and Special Collections Intern.

Dear Reader, you may not be aware of the fact that most—if not all—archives must deal with the looming specter of unprocessed legacy collections haunting their vaults.  Hark, what’s that I hear?  The sound of researchers gnashing their teeth at the thought of virgin cartons, brimming with knowledge, just beyond their reach?  In the name of Science and History, what can be done?

Inside the UCSF Archives vault.

I’ll tell you good Reader!  An expedition is being undertaken at this very moment to survey those hidden but not forgotten boxes of lore that reside in the vault of the UCSF Archives. Possessing the requisite skills and patience, archivist David Uhlich and myself (your plucky and adroit, intern) are making our way through shelf after shelf of material – opening boxes, checking contents, and conferring with the notes of archivists gone by.

survey1

Sometimes we find what’s on the shelf matches what information we have, but sometimes we come across half-created records or material lacking adequate description.  Despite these setbacks, we roll up our sleeves and soldier on, updating existing records with new information about content and location, or creating shiny new records of our own.

survey3

It’s a long process, but it is important work.  Fear not, gentle Reader, for although the task seems Sisyphean in magnitude, the brave souls of the Archives and Special Collections are determined to succeed!

Highlights from the State Medical Society Journals digitization project

journalofmedical81unse_0007

We’ve become somewhat accustomed to seeing “smoking doctor” pictures, typically the product of tobacco advertising cynically appealing to authority. The above image comes from a naturalistic setting however, depicting pathologist Dr. Harrison Martland (see table of contents below) at work.

journalofmedical81unse_0012

Dr. Martland is featured on the cover of the January 1984 edition of the Journal of the Medical Society of New Jersey (Vol. 81 no. 1), digitized by the Internet Archive as part of the NEH grant-funded project to digitize many of our state medical society journals.

The journal lacks any commentary on the smoking but does lead us to an article on the analysis of Dr. Martland’s historical autopsy records performed at Newark City Hospital from 1908 to 1911.

The author draws some interesting conclusions about the safety and violence of Newark from Dr. Martland’s records, but perhaps one of the most interesting details is his attempt to record all his findings in Latin! He gave up eventually, doubtless making the author’s analysis that little bit easier.

Check out this and many other journals from our collection and four other libraries at the Internet Archive’s State Medical Society Journals project page. Expect continued updates to the collection throughout the year.

Summer 2016 Interns

This summer the UCSF Archives & Special Collections is hosting two interns who are working on diverse projects.

Sophia Lahey

Sophia Lahey

Sophia Lahey is helping with the manuscript collections survey project, updating the metadata for historic photographs and documents that are posted on Calisphere, and assisting with quality control of volumes digitized for the State Medical Society Journals project.
Sophia is currently a student at Sonoma State University majoring in history and liberal arts. She lives with her parents in Marin county. In the fall she will be moving to Japan to study Japanese language and work towards a history major with concentration in Asian studies.

In her free time she pursues photography and spends time with her friends. She also enjoys video games as a hobby. She is excited to get experience working with historical documents and archives management systems to help her in the future with her history major.

For the first time we are working with the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI) Summer Research Program. “This program is designed to provide an opportunity for High School and Undergraduate students to immerse themselves in the world of basic and/or clinical research for three months during the summer. The program pairs students with one or two CHORI principal investigators who serve as mentors, guiding the students through the design and testing of their own hypotheses and methodology development. At the end of the summer, students present their research to their peers just as any professional researcher would do.” Our CHORI intern, Laura Schafer is co-mentored by Drs. Aimee Medeiros and Brian Dolan from the UCSF Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine and Polina Ilieva, Head of Archives & Special Collections.

Laura Schafer

Laura Schafer

As an undergrad senior student of Psychology and more recently also Pedagogy at UC Berkeley, Laura Schafer is deeply interested in research fields related to pediatrics and healthcare associated to socioeconomic status (SES) factors. She believes that having grown up experiencing the consequences of Brazil’s developing societal reality while having juvenile diabetes plays a significant influence on what has developed into the focus of her academic career by far.  She is mostly concerned with the consequences of low socioeconomic status (SES) factors potentially interfering with treatment affordability and proper healthcare practices for chronically ill children’s mental, emotional. and physical health.

Although Laura has had the chance to acquire some fundamental research-enabling skills through involvement as an RA at the UC Berkeley Emotion and Social Interaction Laboratory and also from participating in an honors’ thesis developing program through her University’s department of pedagogy, Laura seeks further training and mentoring in the principles underlying conducts of research through her internship at UCSF. She is very enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with the UCSF mentors. The project Laura is involved with during her internship this summer aims to assist with the digitization and creation of metadata for the historical patient data from the 1920’s to 1960’s which includes pediatric records.