If you are the historian for your branch, you have probably inherited numerous boxes filled with lots of papers, scrapbooks etc. You are probably asking yourself what do I do with all of it? The answer will vary with each branch. You may want to continue the past tradition in your branch and follow what was set out by previous historians. Or in this world of change you may want to clean house and simplify. There is no one answer that will fit all, but the important thing is to preserve the history of your branch.
Here are some guidelines to consider as we remember the past and embrace our future.
- As the State Historian, my job description is to document the history of Oregon AAUW which does not include the history of the Association or the branches. Each of them has their own historical archives. It does include however: all issues of the Oregon News, all minutes from the board meetings, all minutes from the annual business meeting, the state convention workbooks, and photographs. Of course, I also have the “etc. box” filled with awards, plaques, miscellaneous. This is where there is room to edit and use discretion.
- In the September 2000 Oregon Leader it stated, “As historian and archivist you are responsible for obtaining, arranging, and preserving significant records of the branch.” The archives should contain: the branch charter, bylaws, minutes, financial reports, publications (yearbooks and newsletters), annual reports, records of projects, branch written histories , photographs, newspapers articles, special certificates and honors. Some branches have arrangements for storage with their local historical society or library.
- Some items have only temporary value and can be discarded : old receipts, agendas,
duplicate data compiled elsewhere, drafts of publications, old forms, routine correspondence, publications other than your branch. Astoria has made a timeline for holding onto documents that I would be happy to share.
- For important items consider proper storage, acid free paper and acid free plastic sleeves. Make sure photographs are identified, labeled with the date, event, and the names and titles of people in the photo.
- Every ten years you may want to edit and highlight your branch history in historical summaries or scrapbooks, discarding more mundane items of little value. You may want to have a discussion at your board meeting before doing this to get a consensus of what your branch wants to do. Be respectful of your predecessors work and try to keep the records that have a lot of meaning and memory to your branch members.
- In this age of technology and computers, consider that much of your branch history may be lost if items are not downloaded and copied. Items kept on disc and tapes, may never be looked at by future members as technology changes. Make sure those who follow will be able to locate and find the information and historical documents you have saved.
(by Judy Hough, past state historian)