SPEC Kit 333: Art & Artifact Management  · 79
National Library of Medicine
Collection Development Policy. Images and Archives Section
Collection Development Policy—Images and Archives - 1 -
Collection Development Policy
Images and Archives Collections
History of Medicine Division
Paul Theerman
June 28, 2002; revised July 17, 2002; edited January 31, 2003; September 4, 2007;
November 26, 2007.
The collecting mandate for the National Library of Medicine is extremely broad. The Library
is the library of record for U.S. literature in biomedicine and public health, and has a
comprehensive collection of other countries’ literature on this topic.
A similar comprehensiveness is not possible for image and archives collections. No rational
collection development policy could direct NLM to take in all significant collections of
manuscript, graphic, or audiovisual materials. First of all, because these are unique materials,
some will inevitably go to other repositories, making our holdings incomplete. We’ll never
get every collection we’d like! Additionally, very real resource constraints, in terms of staff
and space, make a comprehensive policy not possible now, or ever. Both space and staff
would have to gear up significantly, say by a factor of three or four, to make a
comprehensive collection development policy begin to make sense.
Some more specific collecting criteria are necessary, therefore. This document proposes such
criteria for a collection development policy for the next five years. It will lay out areas that
will form the focus of collection development over this time, as well as specify areas that will
be of less importance. It will not seek, for the most part, to identify particular collections for
possible acquisition. However, it will present criteria for identifying these collections.
First of all, this document proposes areas for collecting that cross programmatic lines, that
is, they apply equally to Archives and Modern Manuscripts, Prints and Photographs, and
Historical Audiovisuals. Next, specific areas of emphasis for each of these three areas will be
laid out, to take account of some of the strengths of each program and the limitations that
each medium presents.
General Considerations
1. Images and Archives should focus on collecting where other institutions are not
available to take on that role. Thus, while not being the NIH Archives we might well
focus on records of NIH researchers, which are usually not collected by the National
Archives, and where such researchers lack a university connection. Similarly, we
might well focus on records of smaller advocacy organizations over those of
government, or of larger institutions that could manage their own records.
2. The collecting focus should be on the twentieth century. The twentieth-century
collections have been lighter than warranted, opportunities are greater for these
materials, and focussing on the twentieth century gives us the chance to preserve a
documentary record that is in danger of being lost.
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