Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Discarding Women's History: Seeking Stories of Rescuing Women's Archives

At many libraries and archives, women's papers have been either buried in men's collections (husbands or other relatives) or even discarded, mainly because the librarians working with MSS at the time didn't think they were important enough to keep. Librarians as the Newberry Library in Chicago discovered a particularly stunning collection of a woman who was a vaudeville actress and later became a radio journalist. Her entire life & work (including recordings & photos) was documented in the materials she gave, however, the librarian in charge of MSS at the time wanted to discard them, but keep the papers of this woman's husband, who was a newspaper journalist. Fortunately no one got around to actually doing this and the materials were later rescued and processed as part of an NEH journalism grant.

The Newberry featured an exhibit on these Hidden Women collections two years ago, and also a colloquium, with both generating a lot of positive interest. A current Newberry staff member is also a radio producer, and she's pitching a story about these collections to a couple of NPR shows. If you know of similar instances of women's materials getting overlooked or even thrown out because they were women's materials and therefore deemed unimportant, please contact
Heather Radke (heather.radke at gmail.com) with your stories.


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