Rare texts share shelf space with boxes and files from our past presidents and early leaders.
"We had a man come from out of state to view one of the rare books," says Javier Garza, an archivist in the library. "We were the only library out of all the institutions he contacted that had this specific pathology book."
Most items in the archives can't be found anywhere else.
The archives tell our story and the story of the Texas Medical Center. Our own doctors and researchers wrote many of the books.
Preserving MD Anderson's history
Founded in 2000, the Historical Resources Center is a collection of books, photographs, papers and artifacts about MD Anderson and the people who helped build the cancer center we know today. The archives are available to anyone.
Items typically come to the archives when retiring doctors or researchers donate their materials, or when employees of a department or lab find hidden things when they're moving to a new space. In both instances, the library preserves the items that best illustrate our history and the evolution of cancer care.
Display cases in the lobby outside the library host items from our beginnings. They include one of the original pink bricks from our first building and an item that used to be sold in our gift shops -- an ashtray with the MD Anderson logo. When the ashtray was produced in the 1950s, we didn't know that smoking caused cancer. The dish stands in the display case as a stark reminder of how much has changed over time.
A paper history
Old budgets, policy reports and meeting minutes may not sound interesting, but these records show us a great deal. Records dating back to our first leader, Ernst Bertner, M.D., acting director in the 1940s, show how dedicated the early employees were to our mission. They also help us see how far we've come.
The records show the struggles behind starting a new hospital, as well as the politics of being a state entity. Some even help you learn about our past leaders and their places in history. Included in the papers of our first full-time president, R. Lee Clark, M.D., is a microfilm copy of a handwritten letter to President Richard Nixon upon his resignation.
The center is also home to our Making Cancer History Voices Oral History Collection. The more than 60 interviews capture the spirit of the founding of MD Anderson and help showcase the humanity of past executives, nurses and many more people involved in our history.
"The oral history projects really are inspiring," Garza notes. "You get to learn about the people behind the titles and see their personal sides. It reminds you that these are regular people who have accomplished extraordinary things."
Each oral history recording was conducted by a trained interviewer and features a variety of topics. They range from what brought people to MD Anderson and what they achieved while here to their personal passions outside health care and their family.
Garza finds that all the stories shared have a common thread.
"MD Anderson is based on optimism," he says.
A longer version of this story originally appeared in Messenger, MD Anderson's bimonthly employee publication.