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Making the Best Use of a Historical Collection

The Navy Nurse Corps Association (NNCA) is dedicated to honoring and preserving the history and tradition of the Navy Nurse Corps. They use their extensive historical collection to promote Navy Nursing camaraderie and service at various chapter meetings and social functions.

Like many organizations, NNCA maintains an archive with diverse materials such as oral histories, books, photographs, newspaper articles and other ephemera. It also includes more than a thousand artifacts such as uniforms, insignia, and other memorabilia. The material spans the history of the Navy Nurse Corps from its inception in 1908 to the present.

This collection was originally housed at a facility in Washington State and was maintained by volunteer Association members, but the NNCA board wanted to ensure that the material was consistently cataloged, preserved, and managed to museum standards.

In 2013, NNCA sought help from History Associates to gain better intellectual control over the collection in their care, identify a suitable facility for ongoing storage of their materials, and safely move their irreplaceable collection to the new facility.

Charting a Course for Ongoing Preservation and Use

Recruiting poster from 1968 showing a nurse in ward whites. Image courtesy NNCA.

A successful archival program is closely aligned with the organization’s mission and goals. Thus, History Associates began with a detailed on-site assessment of the collections at their original storage facility. An archivist and a collections manager met with NNCA representatives to discuss needs and objectives, and gathered detailed information about the historical materials. After the review, History Associates delivered a comprehensive Assessment Report, which provided short-term, mid-term, and long-term recommendations for developing and improving their collections program.

Overall, History Associates found the archives to be in good physical condition, but there were opportunities for enhancement. For example, like many associations, the NNCA had received donated materials that were not related to the history of the Navy Nurse Corps. The team found that the oral history archives were not consolidated within the main collection. The team also discovered that their PastPerfect catalog system had not been used consistently and some entries lacked basic information necessary for searching and locating the items.

Improvements for the Future

Nurse Betty Ann Mattewson in Ward 2A Danang, Vietnam 1968. Photo courtesy NNCA.

After NNCA reviewed and approved History Associates’ recommendations, we began a phased approach to improving the collection. We developed NNCA’s scope of collections and selection criteria which will guide the collection’s ongoing stewardship; and oversaw the relocation of NNCA’s existing collections from Port Orchard, WA to History Associates’ secure, climate-controlled storage facility in Rockville, MD.

History Associates collection managers completed the rehousing and cataloging of approximately 1,400 items for the NNCA, updating or entering relevant data into NNCA’s PastPerfect database, and providing NNCA with complete catalog records for each artifact.

By maintaining an online component of the database, History Associates is assisting NNCA in meeting their goal of sharing their rich history and legacy to all of their members. With NNCA approval, our collection managers have also helped with the transfer of specific deaccessioned materials to other repositories – providing a more appropriate home for the donation and allocating money otherwise spent on storage to support the ongoing stewardship and use of the NNCA collection. We also continue to provide long term registrarial and cataloging services to the NNCA.

“NNCA is committed to honoring and sharing the past, present and future of the Navy Nurse Corps.  Our partnership with History Associates provides the foundation to preserve and share the Navy Nurse Corps traditions and legacy. The HAI team took great care to facilitate our goals from the initial assessment and proposal for inventory control and rehousing to cataloging new items and ensuring that our members have an online portal to view the items.  Along with our members, individuals outside our organization are also able to access the inventory and oral histories for research and continued presentation of our rich nursing history.” — Kim Lyons, NNCA executive director.

Get the Most Value from Your Collections

It’s as easy as contacting History Associates! Call us at (301) 279-9697 or contact us  to discuss your project.

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