The Craft of Archival Processing: A Journey through Space and Time with Dr. Mary Olney

Introduction by Polina Ilieva

During the spring semester 2018 the archives team co-taught and facilitated a new History of Health Sciences course, the Anatomy of an Archive. The idea of this course was conceived by the Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine (DAHSM) Assistant Professor, Aimee Medeiros and UCSF Head of Archives & Special Collections, Polina Ilieva. Kelsi Evans, Project Archivist, co-facilitated the discussion sessions and Kelsi, Polina and David Uhlich, Access and Collections Archivist, served as mentors for students’ processing projects throughout the duration of the course.

The goal of this course was to provide an overview of archival science with an emphasis on the theory, methodology, technologies and best practices of archival research, arrangement and description. The archivists put together a list of collections requiring processing and also corresponding to students’ research interests and each student selected one that she/he worked on with her/his mentor to arrange and create a finding aid. During this 10 week long assignment students developed competence researching and describing an archival collection, as well as interpreting the historical record. At the conclusion of this course students wrote a story about their experience and collections they researched for the archives blog. In the next three weeks we will be sharing these posts with you.

Our final story comes from Hsinyi Hsieh, PhD student, UCSF Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine.

Post by Hsinyi Hsieh

Building an archival collection is similar to traveling through space and time. Before embarking on this journey, archival practitioners need to possess a diverse set of creative and sensitive abilities—specifically, a knowledge of scientific principles, a familiarity with artful practices, and the ability to think critically. Most significantly, processing a collection requires getting your hands dirty, interacting with various types of historical materials, and building a rapport with future researchers. I am grateful to have worked with Kelsi Evans and Polina Ilieva, archivists at UCSF, who not only taught me the craft of archival work through the Mary Olney collection but also provided me with a golden opportunity to travel with Dr. Olney. [1]

Figure 1: Mary Olney’s contribution on “Sugar Free Summer,” San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle June 5, 1983. Olney papers, MSS 98-64.

My archival journey began by imbibing tacit knowledge about processing archival collections. When we encountered some mold affected materials in the Mary Olney collection, the UCSF archivists taught me how to assess a mold bloom. It was truly a fascinating experience to watch as Kelsi and Polina observed the color and smell of the document and defined whether the mold actively presented a hazard to the unaffected materials. This document was sent for professional treatment at the UC Berkeley Library’s Conservation Treatment Division. This is an example of the tacit knowledge possessed by archivists, which only develops through continuous professional practice and education. The mold situation in the archive is akin to unforeseen circumstances arising during a trip. Thanks to the archivists’ expertise, we successfully prevented the other materials from being affected by the mold and kept our archival journey going.

Family camp, 1976. Olney papers, MSS 98-64.

The adventure had the perfect mixture of historical lessons and archival practice. I had the opportunity to learn about Dr. Olney’s experiences as a female pediatrician, social advocate, and director of the Diabetic Youth Foundation (DYF) and its summer camps for diabetic children. As I learned more about the collection, I was able to arrange its photos, pamphlets, and correspondences for future researchers interested not only in Dr. Olney but also pediatric diabetic patients.. Through this immersive experience, I felt as though I had become a part of her camping staff but in the future. In fact, during the archival arrangement, we also reconstructed the progress of Dr. Olney’s efforts in running the summer camps for decades—notably, her hard work in terms of fundraising, staff training, and building relationships with other relevant organizations. Mary Olney was a pioneering pediatrician who not only operated under the broad vision of improving the lives of diabetic children but also employed a practical outlook, doing everything she could to maintain the summer camp for decades.

Figure 3: The cover of Bear Facts, First issue, Second session, Aug 4, 1985. Olney papers, MSS 98-64.

During archival processing, revealing the mystery of certain folders is much like exploring exotic locations while traveling. For example, I was preoccupied with examining several folders in Dr. Olney’s collection that were labeled “loose papers.” Upon examining the documents inside these folders, I found that most of the materials—specifically Bear Facts and Whitaker Whiz—were from the DYF newsletters, which aimed at improving health communication among young diabetic patients. The DYF newsletter was published since the early 1940s and targeted young patients; the newsletter introduced camping programs, provided health information about diabetes, and featured beautiful artwork and written compositions by these patients.

By relabeling these materials, “loose papers,” the archivists were able to provide researchers with more accurate finding aids and inspiration as well. Imagine that you are visiting a new country and are consulting a number of travel guides; the ones that are written more clearly might contain better suggestions on places to explore; these recommendations might be missed if you followed the relatively unclear guidebooks. Further, information that is more accurate can enable researchers to ask questions that might never occur to them otherwise. Take the DYF newsletters, for example. How do the articles in Bear Facts and Whitaker Whiz communicate medical knowledge about diet to young patients and their families? Thus, clarifying vague folder names might improve the experience of users and researchers when exploring such archives, thereby enabling them to contemplate new historical questions.

Figure 4: Diet suggestion on Whitaker Whiz, August 22, 1951. Olney papers, MSS 98-64.

The task of processing the archival collection took me on a journey to Northern California with Dr. Olney and the DYF foundation during the twentieth century. It took me back to when and where the materials originated and how they would go on to influence researchers in the future. During her lifetime, Dr. Olney continued with her efforts to translate her expertise and knowledge into useful information for young diabetic patients. It takes the invisible labor of archivists to make these accomplishments visible and highlight all aspects of her persona: a female pediatrician, a camp organizer, a Northern California resident, a daughter, and a woman. This has been possible only through processing this archival collection. Thus, the work of archival practitioners plays a crucial role in enabling future researchers to embark on a journey with Dr. Mary Olney. Let me tell you, it is a fun and interesting ride!

[1] On the life history of Mary Olney, please see Sharon R. Kaufman, 1994. The Healer’s Tale: Transforming Medicine and Culture. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. Kelsi Evans, 2015. “Celebrating Food Day: Recipes from the Archives.” Source: https://blogs.library.ucsf.edu/broughttolight/2015/10/23/celebrating-food-day-recipes-from-the-archives/.

Celebrating Food Day: Recipes from the Archives

We’re joining UCSF’s Food Day celebration, October 22-24, by sharing some recipes from our collections! Definitions of healthy eating and proper nutrition have changed dramatically over the years. These examples provide just a taste of the history of food science and our changing understandings of diet and wellness. Recipe contributions from Kelsi Evans, David Uhlich, and David Krah.

This page of recipes, including sweet potato pie and peach shortcake, comes from a diet supplement created in 1961 by Dr. Mary Olney and Larry Carbine at the Bearskin Meadow Camp for children with diabetes.

Bear Facts Supplement (Known as Fare for Cub and Bear), August 1961. Mary Olney papers, MSS 98-64, carton addition 3, folder 4.

Bear Facts Supplement (Known as Fare for Cub and BEAR), August 1961. Mary Olney papers, MSS 98-64, carton addition 3, folder 4.

In 1938, Olney founded the first wilderness camp in California for children with diabetes. The camp developed into Bearskin Meadow, a permanent campsite located near Kings Canyon National Park. Dr. Olney graduated from the UCSF School of Medicine in 1932. She completed her training in pediatrics at San Francisco General Hospital and was later appointed Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF. At the time of her death in 1993, Olney had served the UCSF community for over 50 years.

Dr. Mary Olney teaching a nutrition class for campers, circa 1965. Mary Olney papers, MSS 98-64, box 1, folder 6.

Dr. Mary Olney teaching a nutrition class for campers, circa 1965. Mary Olney papers, MSS 98-64, box 1, folder 6.

This page of recipes from Diet for the Sick: A Treatise on the Values of Foods, Their Application to Special Conditions of Health and Disease, and on the Best Methods of Their Preparation by Mary Newton (Foote) Henderson illustrates the vast differences in thought between what foods were considered healthy and nutritious–and even curative–in the 19th century in relation to how they are thought of today. Now frequently vilified and excluded from diets, gluten is the central ingredient in an entire section of recipes in the book, which was published in 1885. Gluten souffles anyone?

DietfortheSick_Gluten

Diet for the Sick, page 130-131.

Just in case you were hoping to get a good recipe for chicken fricassee or clabbered milk, the entire book is available digitally through UCSF’s online catalog.

DietfortheSick_Cover

Diet for the Sick: A Treatise on the Values of Foods, Their Application to Special Conditions of Health and Disease, and on the Best Methods of Their Preparation by Mary Newton (Foote) Henderson, 1885.

The author of The Book of Star Ralstonism, Webster Edgerly, led a late 19th Century health and social well-being movement known as Ralstonism (Regime, Activity, Light, Strength, Temperation, Oxygen and Nature). Amongst many proscriptions contained in the book is the warning to “…not buy any food or any goods bearing the name ‘Ralston,’ contrary to our latest bulletins. We endorse everything that is pure, wholesome, honest and meritorious; but do not wish the word Ralston to be used in any connection apart from our Club, its literature and its educational interest.”

Edgerly began doing business with the Purina Food Company in 1900, and I’m sure many are familiar with Ralston-Purina products such as Chex breakfast cereal and a variety of pet foods. In the Book of Star Ralstonism, Edgerly includes this charming recommendation for sustenance for sedentary persons, which consists of two cups of roasted wheat coffee. If you “wish good blood”, go with a slice of toasted brown bread and butter along with your “coffee”. This recipe is similar to the Boston Brown Bread you can still buy in the can today.

Star_Ralstonism

Book of Star Ralstonism, page 168

The full text of the Book of Star Ralstonism is available online at Hathi Trust or through UCSF’s catalog.

Happy Food Day!

Exploring the Archives for 150: Dr. Mary Olney’s Summer Camp for Children with Diabetes

In preparation for UCSF’s 150th anniversary celebration exhibits, we’ve been doing a bit of exploring in the vaults. For the next several months, I’ll be posting some of the treasures we’ve discovered!

In 1938, UCSF pediatrician Mary B. Olney founded the first wilderness camp in California for children with diabetes. Unlike many of her contemporaries, Dr. Olney believed that diabetic children could live active, healthy lives through proper disease management. Dr. Olney, known as “Doc” to her young patients, provided a fun, supportive space and encouraged campers to take control of their health. Bearskin Meadow Camp is still active today thanks in large part to the tradition of care and empowerment fostered by Olney.

Dr. Mary Olney on a hike, ca. 1940

Dr. Mary Olney on a hike, ca. 1940. MSS 98-64, box 1, folder 6

Dr. Olney graduated from UCSF in 1932. She completed her training in pediatrics at San Francisco General Hospital and was later appointed Clinical Professor of Pediatrics at UCSF. At the time of her death in 1993, Olney had served the UCSF community for over fifty years.

A postcard filled in by Dr. Mary Olney while at camp Bearskin Meadow. It is addressed to her father, 1961. MSS 98-64

A camp postcard filled in by Dr. Mary Olney while at Bearskin Meadow. It is addressed to her father, 1961. MSS 98-64, box 1, folder 27

Olney’s first group of campers attended a two-week session at Los Posados in Napa County. The camp eventually developed into Bearskin Meadow, a permanent campsite located near Kings Canyon National Park. The camp welcomed boys and girls and provided coeducational activities. Diabetes management instruction focused on diet, exercise, and proper insulin administration.

Dr. Mary Olney teaching nutritional information to campers. MSS 98-64

Dr. Mary Olney teaching a nutrition class for campers. MSS 98-64, box 1, folder 6

Camp staff performing urinalysis. Photograph with original caption, perhaps from a deconstructed scrapbook. MSS 98-64

Camp staff performing urinalyses. Photograph with original caption, perhaps from a deconstructed scrapbook. MSS 98-64, box 2, folder 45

Olney and the counselors, many of whom were medical students, taught a holistic system of care that campers could take home with them.

Camp staff and counselors, ca. 1941. MSS 98-64

Camp staff and counselors, ca. 1941. MSS 98-64, box 1, folder 34

Alongside nutrition classes and medication instruction, campers took nature hikes, learned to swim, played sports, and sang campfire songs. As Olney later noted in a 1988 interview in the UCSF Alumni Faculty Association Bulletin, this physically robust approach to diabetes management differed dramatically from older systems. Olney remembered that when campers first arrived, they often “didn’t know they could do hiking because the old way of treating diabetes was to let the child go from school to home and sit in a chair until suppertime and then go to bed.”

Camp announcement noting the different activities and a typical camp day, 1962. MSS 98-64

Camp announcement noting the different activities of a typical camp day, 1962. MSS 98-64, box 2, folder 77

UCSF continues to honor and support Olney’s work through the Mary B. Olney MD / KAK Chair in Pediatric Diabetes and Clinical Research. In the archives, we house the Mary B. Olney papers, MSS 98-64. The collection includes camp photographs, correspondence, meal plans, and publicity and fundraising material. It also contains records relating to the Diabetic Youth Foundation, an organization created by Olney and her longtime partner Dr. Ellen Simpson to help administer the camp and other services.

The cover image of Bear Facts, vol 11, no. 6, a publication created by campers and counselors at Bearskin Meadow. The Mary B. Olney collection includes numerous issues of Bear Facts.

The cover image of Bear Facts, vol II, no. 6, a publication created by campers and counselors at Bearskin Meadow Camp. The Mary B. Olney collection includes numerous different issues of Bear Facts. MSS 98-64, box addition 3, folder 4

To view more items from the Mary B. Olney papers, visit our digital collections!