Developing a documentation strategy for neuroscience history

Russell A Johnson1,2 <rjohnson@library.ucla.edu> and Louise H. Marshall1
1Neuroscience History Archives, Brain Research Institute, and 2Cataloging Department, Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, UCLA, Los Angeles, California, USA

The mission of the Neuroscience History Archives (NHA) includes identifying, gathering, and preserving primary source material of 20th century American neuroscience, thus helping to form a documentary heritage that will represent the ideas, intents, decisions, actions, and accomplishments of the discipline's practitioners to future generations. Consistent with this mission, we will describe the nature and importance of a documentation strategy, i.e. a long-term plan with a coordinated and comprehensive approach to improving the identification, retention, treatment, and use of records of enduring value which are created in the course of neuroscience research, administration, business, and education. This strategy will draw on the experience of existing discipline centers such as those for the history of physics, chemistry, psychology, and computer science. Its components will include: (1) identifying significant neuroscientists as well as institutions where neuroscience flourished; 2) assembling an advisory group--with knowledge of the activities of 20th century neuroscientists, of the records being generated, and of their potential usefulness--to analyze the variety and quality of documentation that must be collected, to monitor appraisal decisions, and to assist in acquisition activities; (3) promoting the cooperative nature of the strategy by issuing appraisal guidelines and advice to archivists and educating neuroscientists in the importance of preserving their primary material; and (4) establishing, maintaining, and publicizing a registry or on-line catalog of the location and contents of existing neuroscience archival collections, with descriptions of their arrangement, completeness, and accessibility. In what we hope will be a freewheeling and wide-ranging discussion prior to the creation of an ad hoc committee to advise the NHA on the development and funding of a proposal, we will solicit the opinions of members of the neuroscience history community about the adequacy of archival documentation as well as recommendations for its improvement. As the project develops, we will enlist their involvement in the testing, refinement, application, and sustenance of a neuroscience documentation strategy.


Session V
Saturday, 21 June 1997, 9.30 - 9.45

Second Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN) and 6th Meeting of the European Club on the History of Neurology (ECHN)

Leiden, The Netherlands