The dedication and commitment of a core group of employees and volunteers are preserving the history and heritage of Saint Joseph Hospital, Denver, through an expansive archival digitization process. Pictured left to right, Dirk Bos, archivist; Margaret Bandy, volunteer and former library manager; and Karen Wells, libraries system director.

In celebration of SCL Founders’ Day in November 2018, the team at Saint Joseph launched the website for the Roger & Chris Goodwin Digital Collections at this link. Current sections feature the school of nursing, graduate medical education and SCLs who had important roles in the hospital’s history – Sisters Joanna Bruner, Mary Ascella Delaney, Mary Andrew Talle and Marianna Bauder. Among its rich materials, the website also includes architectural drawings, newsletters, books, videos and photographs. Plans call for continued digitization of additional architectural materials and images of historic artifacts from the physical archives.

This massive undertaking dates to 2013 when Margaret Bandy, then Saint Joseph Hospital library manager and now a volunteer, secured a grant from the hospital foundation to begin the process. Karen Wells, current SCL libraries system director, oversees the ongoing initiative. Karen says the aim is to open up previously unimagined areas for research and information about Saint Joseph Hospital, its heritage and role; make the content more visible and increase use; preserve unique, rare and fragile heritage items by digital reproduction; and protect vulnerable documents.

Or, as stated in its mission statement: “The Saint Joseph Hospital/Roger & Chris Goodwin Digital Collections will instill pride and ownership in the future of Saint Joseph Hospital, and will engage and inspire users to ally with the heart, and the passion of the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth’s commitment to serve the poor and disadvantaged.”

As amazing as the readily accessible content is the fact that the project has engaged the professional expertise of three healthcare librarians and a former schoolteacher all as volunteers – Margaret Bandy, Ellen Graves, Lorene Roth and Debra Taylor. They work under the supervision of Dirk Bos, an experienced archivist recruited for the job. Karen’s role is to guide program development and establish action items for completion. A grant funded a consultant early in the project and the purchase of a high quality scanner and software to manage the digital system. Foundation funds from Dr. Alwin Steinmann’s graduate medical education department at Saint Joseph have provided additional financial support for digitization of architectural materials, some of which date to the early 1900s and are fragile and delicate.

The process of digitization requires extensive organization and is labor-intensive. It involves first identifying which items to digitize based on historic value; scanning original documents and photos; uploading files to the website; establishing and assigning metadata (subject headings) to make items searchable; and rehousing and reorganizing materials for the website. The process is ongoing with the discovery and making of new historic content.

“Our experience has taught us that the historic materials are of great interest to internal and external audiences,” Karen concludes. “By making these materials more accessible, our goal is to share the story and capture the mission and spirit of Saint Joseph Hospital and its founders, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth. We take great pride and have professional satisfaction from our accomplishments to date.”

(Editor’s note: The Sisters of Charity founded Saint Joseph Hospital, Denver, in 1873. Today, the hospital is part of the SCL Health system.)