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PACSCL Hidden Collections Processing Project » Blog Archive » George A. Hay at DUCOM

George A. Hay at DUCOM

Written by Courtney Smerz on November 13th, 2009

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I am pleased to say, about two weeks after-the-fact, that our training collection, The George A. Hay Collection of administrative records of the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (I know, it’s a mouthful) is finally finished!  As I alluded to in my previous entry, this collection was a bit of a beast and perhaps, in hindsight, not the best candidate for training.  Even so, I think it turned out really well all things considered and now the Drexel University College of Medicine Archives (DUCOM) has a much, much better idea of all the goodies they have in that collection!

Essentially, what we learned through processing the collection and from the accession record is that DUCOM archives has George Hay, who was the comptroller for the Woman’s Medical College in the mid-twentieth century, to thank for ensuring the survival of these records and their disposition in the archives.  Not only did he turn over his own materials, but he also made sure to hand over records that came into his possession over the years of other important personnel.  As a result, the collection, though roughly 30% is in fact Hay’s papers, is an assemblage of institutional records produced by leading administrators of the Woman’s Medical College throughout the mid-twentieth century.  There are records for Sarah Starr, Dr. Ellen Culver Potter and Vida Hunt Francis, and within these groups researchers will also find correspondence with and other records related to Dr. Martha Tracy—all notable women in institutional history as well as the general history of women in medicine.

*For those of you who don’t know, the Woman’s Medical College was an amazing institution founded in Philadelphia in the mid nineteenth century to train–you guessed it–woman doctors!  More on that and other related collections can be found here: http://archives.drexelmed.edu.

All in all, I think the Hay Collection is pretty good and it has some noteworthy documentation, especially records relating to proposed institutional mergers with other hospitals and schools in the Philadelphia area.  Taken together, the records shed light on a few key events in institutional history and may inform study of the history of medicine, especially the administrative side of medical education and, to a lesser extant, how related cultural changes affected the education of women in medicine.

An especially fun file, titled in a manner to pique any researcher’s interest, “the Louise Wright ‘Incident,’” details a student’s efforts and publicized fight against her suspension from Woman’s Medical College in 1891 (Hay also somehow acquired a handful of very early institutional records and gave them to the archives as well).  What the “incident” was exactly is not quite clear, though it received much publicity.  Louise Wright, I assume, contacted the local press, and the story as well as a chain of correspondence between Wright and the college regarding the matter was published in the newspaper.

As far as minimal processing goes, the Hay Collection definitely deserved more than our allotted two hours per linear foot — in the end, I think I gave it closer to four hours though I can’t say for sure and it probably could use even a little more TLC in a perfect world.  When we found it, the collection was pretty mixed up (thank goodness for that accession file) and it was partially processed.  I still can’t decide if this partial processing helped or hindered our effort…  At least after processing the collection has a basic arrangement and is described fairly well.  A lot of individual files in the collection are still a mess and it could use some more re-foldering, but that’s nothing that a second go ‘round by the archivist (or a well trained student intern) couldn’t fix.  And anyway, I sincerely believe the collection is now usable in a way it was not before so from that perspective I think minimal processing did very well by it.


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