Medical records redefined: the value of the archival record in medical research

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Vielfaure, Natalie
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Increasing the visibility and societal understanding of archives is an important task given the struggle archives have to show their worth and attract a larger and more diversified group of researchers. Researchers in the field of medicine often already have the visibility that archivists seek and, within that field, those who use archival sources in their investigations may be able to increase their audience’s awareness of archives. Consequently, reaching out to these researchers is an important step in increasing archival consciousness and appreciation. Learning about what they value in archives and how they use them are equally important. For a medical researcher, archives can provide important data for studies. This thesis analyzes key medical research uses of archives over the last forty years. As will be highlighted here, medical researchers have used archival records to study the effects of malnutrition, trauma, and environmental conditions on health. Greater awareness of the contribution of archival materials to medical knowledge and better health care has the potential to change public perceptions of archives. This medical research provides concrete examples of the value of archives to the central contemporary concerns of society. It dispels the conventional view that archives are peripheral to those concerns. Instead, it underscores the importance of archival work and the need to support it. The archival record is fluid. It has different meanings for different people at different times. Archivists must adopt a fluid perspective on value when they seek to increase their visibility and attract new users to their institutions. Records used in medical research may not have been created with that in mind. Thus by re-imagining what the medical record can be, this thesis hopes to contribute to this important process.
Archives, Medicine, Nutrition, Trauma, Environment, Health