Filling in the Gaps

It is a fact of life that in offices and meeting rooms each and every day, all over the world, organizations of every conceivable type are continuously creating a deluge of... organizational records. Individuals, businesses, governments, institutions, for-profits, and not-for-profits all create a dazzling array of materials commencing with their original business plan and start-up requirements, moving through long-term plans and short-term goals, and showcasing day-to-day logistic and financial operations. Payroll, tax forms, memos, emails, meeting minutes, newsletters, and reports of special projects are all grist for the mill.

Another fact of life is that organizational records are often mishandled. Almost immediately, they become non-current records and are haphazardly filed away, or in truth they are misfiled. As time goes on they further accumulate, becoming nothing short of a nuisance.

Even MBAA has learned some very hard lessons when it comes to caring for its organizational records. Years of careless storage resulted in the loss of a treasure trove of MBAA records from flood, fire, and even, (I am told), malicious destruction. The net result is a "missing gap" that includes the loss of MBAA rosters, documents, photos, meeting minutes, and other information from just after 1887 through about 1934. Perhaps most tragically, that missing gap also virtually assures the loss of MBAA Annual Convention documentation spanning from our 2nd convention in New York City in 1888 to our 31st Convention ironically held again in New York City in 1934 .

Moving forward from lessons learned, MBAA is now far more serious and proactive at ensuring that devastating losses of our historical records will never happen again. That is the main reason that we house our archives with the Iowa State University Special Collections Department. You can see an overview of our collection archived at Iowa State at the following link:

http://www.add.lib.iastate.edu/spcl/manuscripts/MS675.html

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As listed at Iowa State, our collection number is MS 675, dated 1887 and ongoing. We are 8.86 linear feet, containing “18 document boxes and 1 oversize box.” In Iowa State's own language, our collection description reads as follows:

The collection (1887–[ongoing]) includes administrative records, committee records, constitutions and bylaws, convention materials, correspondence, meeting minutes, scholarship and award information, and St. Paul-Minneapolis District records. Committee files can include agendas, correspondence, minutes, and other related meeting materials. Convention materials can include Board of Governors meeting minutes, annual business meeting minutes, newsletters, and financial reports, and other supplemental reports...

The collection description then contains the following horrific statement of fact: “However, the bulk of the collection dates from 1950 onward leaving the first 60 years of the organization only sparsely documented…”

The next image from Iowa State's website clearly shows our “missing gap.” Note that the descriptive text lists the date 1887, and then jumps immediately to 1934! 

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MBAA’s affiliation with Iowa State represents a unique opportunity for each of our 24 MBAA local districts. Perhaps your district has some “organizational records issues.” Perhaps your district views their growing collection of records with some concern. Or perhaps your district has some pertinent records that are slowly brittling and yellowing with time. Iowa State just might be able to assist. Iowa State Archivist Laura Sullivan shares with me:

We would be happy to talk to anyone who would like to donate the records they hold of the MBAA including meeting minutes, reports, publications, newsletters, and other records documenting the activities of the MBAA. If they have any questions about what we hold, or what might be considered for donation, they should not hesitate to contact us. Please let them know that a finding aid (collection description) can be found online if they would like to find out more about the contents of the MBAA Records.

It is important to know that records donated to Iowa State must meet their requirements, which are best reflected in their Special Collections mission statement, which is “to collect, preserve, and share documentation of the experiences, achievements, and memories of people and organizations reflecting the university's major research areas.” In like fashion, their vision is “to engage and encourage innovative research, interdisciplinary education, exploration, and discovery.” Our MBAA archives fit their mission and vision quite nicely. Laura continues:

Since its inception in 1969, the Iowa State University Special Collections Department has maintained a program dedicated to the acquisition and preservation of hundreds of unique historical collections related to science and technology. Once records are donated to the department, and the decision has been made to keep the materials for their historical significance, records are rehoused in acid-free folders and boxes, stored in environmentally controlled conditions, organized, described, and made available for researchers.

As Heritage Chair, I am in continuous contact with Iowa State, and routinely discuss with them additions to our archives. If your local district has some records that are worth preserving and you think that they might meet the mission and vision of Iowa State's Special Collections, feel free to contact me. There might be a chance that they could be properly preserved in perpetuity. And we will have taken a grass-roots stand to ensure that our MBAA at all levels will endure no more “missing gaps” in our heritage.

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