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Seshat & Thoth
The STAMA Australia Newsletter

Number 1, November 1994


Rebirth of SIGASMT

After a very long absence, that has been mostly covered by the steady growth of the History of Australian Science Newsletter and some rather fun AGMs, your convenor, under the guidance and scruting of the ASA Council, is now attempting to resurrect SIGASMT, not as the same old thing but as something quite new.

So without further consultation, I hereby propose that the new group be called Science, Technology and Medicine Archives (STAMA), a special interest group of the Australian Society of Archivists Inc. A logo for the STAMA has been compiled and it is also presented for your approval (a detailed explanation of the symbols will be given below). The name of the newsletter - also to be known as S&T (which will come out at least twice per year) - is shown above (this is also explained below).

We plan to follow the guidelines issued by the ASA Council very closely so the STAMA will only be open to members of the ASA (we will make no attempt to use the group as a direct outreach tool - that is a role that is better handled by History of Australian Science Newsletter and through other means). We will shortly become a financial SIG with out own cheque account and an officer with appropriate responsibility.

Rosanne Clayton, while having a great time in Townsville, offered to be the compiler of the news side of S&T, which will be of great assistance to me (she can email the texts and graphics to me so all I have to do is add them to the file). I will forward more dtails about our new structure and functions once I have your approval for the general concept of the group as expressed above.

If your have any problems with any of the above contact me straight away - your silence will be taken as approval of the above decisions.

Report from the Townsville AGM - 1994

Report on the meeting of the SIG at Townsville - 11 May 1994 (our AGM).

Present were Gavan McCarthy (Chair and Convenor), Rodney Teakle, Greg Colema , Glen Schwinghamer, Adrian Cunningham, Rosanne Clayton, Shauna Hicks and Helen Yoxall.

All present contributed information about their activities in the area with particular reference to how science, medicine and technology records came into their own particular jobs and organisations.

News of note: CSIRO has appointed a Records Manager (Noela Bajjali, ex-ASAP) whose job will be to improve the records management techniques and processes used in the many and various CSIRO Divisions; the meeting enthusiastically endorsed the proposal to the Australian Antarctic Foundation for funds to work on a guide to the archives of Australia's scientific and technological involvement in Antarctica which tied in very neatly with Tim Bowden's work on the history of ANARE. [Unfortunately, the application was not supported by the Foundation despite positive early signs]

Rosanne Clayton agreed to join the SIG executive and take on the role of Newsletter compiler/editor - we are currently looking for a title. [I am currently running with Epimetheous (well I was but things have moved on since May) but I have to check my Greek myths for the real story behind this forgotten hero. He was married to Pandora - not a great name for a Newsletter?]

The Convenor was elected unopposed for another year.

[STAMA logo]

The Logo and Newsletter Name

Thoth, from Egyptian mythology, was worshipped as a moon-god, patron of science and literature, wisdom and inventions (not a bad combination for history of science, technology and medicine for starters), he was spokesperson of the gods and their keeper of the records (what more do we need).

Thoth (I am not sure how this or Seshat is pronounced) is ordinarily represented with the head of an ibis, often surmounted by a crescent moon, or simply as an ibis (hence the ibis in the logo).

The ibis in the logo is the Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopica). It is widely distributed throughout Australia, has a harsh croak and likes to live in wetlands and pastures and roosts in trees and mangroves. Thoth had been the vizier to Osiris and then to Horus and then succeeded him to the throne. He reigned for 3,200 and remained the model of a peaceful and just ruler. He was endowed with complete knowledge and wisdom and invented all the arts and sciences: arithmetic, surveying, geometry, astronomy, soothsaying, magic, medicine, surgery, music, drawing and above all writing, without which humanity would have run the risk of forgetting its doctrine and of losing the benefit of its discoveries.

At various times in his career he produced important registers and inventories (particularly of treasures brought to the gods by expeditions). Thoth was the keeper of the Divine archives and at the same time the patron of history. [I have been quoting loosely from the Larousse Encyclopaedia of Mythology, London, Batchworth Press Limited, 1959. If there have been any great revisions of the Thoth story in recent years it would be good to hear them.]

Seshat was Thoth's principal spouse, the goddess of writing and history and very much a double of Thoth. She was a stellat divinity who served to measure time (hence the Southern Cross in the logo - not only does it refer to Australia but also links directly with the ibis and the theme of STAMA).

There was not a lot about Seshat and that which stemmed from 1959 was very sexist and stereotyped in its presentation and I think says more about the authors than the mythology - it would be interesting to track down some recent versions of the Thoth and Seshat stories to see if the female side has moved from the servile 1950s interpretation.

I do not think anyone else has picked up on these two as symbols of our field but it would be difficult to find two that are more appropriate. However, I leave it up to you to decide - if you do not like Seshat and Thoth (S&T) - let me know.

I would like to thank Lisa O'Sullivan for the design of the original logo shown here - I selected the symbols but she turned them into something quite special.

What STAMA will aim to achieve?

In summary, I would like to see STAMA:

STAMA will be applying for funds to cover postage, printing and administrative costs from the ASA and will be eligible for grants based on the size of the STAMA membership. Other funds may be found for special projects through one-off grants or loans from the ASA Council.

Any members that would like to run special projects etc. through STAMA will need to compile budgets and proposals that can be submitted to Council. I can help members with this process.

Links with the International Council of Archives - Committee on Scientific Archives (PST)

Colin Smith, the founder of this SIG, was an inaugural member of PST but the group shortly after went into a long period of hibernation (sound familiar?) but it has recently reconstituted itself. This appears to be coming from significantly increased interest in the field from the European archivists. At any rate I found that I had inherited the job from Colin.

The group has organised three meetings for 1994 with the next being in Paris in early December - unfortunately I could not find the funds for the airfare - but I was able to make email contact with the convenor, Odile Welfele, who lives in Paris.

A major meeting is planned for September 1995 in Washington DC and I hope to be able to attend. I will present more details in the next newsletter.

'Physician cure thyself'

by Matthew Gordon-Clark
Email: Matthew.Gordon-Clark@med.monash.edu.au
Phone: (03) 9565 4051

SIG members may recall a brief article that appeared in the September newsletter for the Victorian Branch of the ASA dealing with the issue of medical record keeping training. For those of you who missed out the following is a brief summary of what was in itself a brief summary.

Archivists and record managers would have little hesitation in agreeing that doctors represent one of the most critical cases for accurate record keeping techniques. In an attempt to clarify what, if any training doctors receive, I wrote to all ten university undergraduate medical schools requesting a description of the training offered in this area. I have not received a complete set of responses as yet but seven out of the ten schools do not offer any training about medical record keeping.

I was lead to understand that training of this nature might be undertaken through the various professional medical colleges and as a result I wrote off requesting similar information from the colleges. Once again the responses were largely negative and quite worrying. Two of the responses are worthy of note, the first of these was from The Royal Australian College of Medical Administrators. The College informed me that they had approached the universities themselves in the past and even went so far as offering to run courses themselves for the students but the response was that the universities did not have room for more material in their undergraduate programs. The second noteworthy response was from the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, who sent me a copy of the record keeping system for general practitioners that the College developed in the mid 1970s.

SIG members may be encouraged to learn that the ASA has recognised medical record keeping training as an issue that warrants further investigation.

Following discussions with Mark Stevens and Gavan McCarthy it has been suggested that the STAMA examine the RACGP record keeping system and prepare a submission to the College explaining issues that have been neglected. In addition a submission will be prepared for the RACP about their Fellowship training program which currently does not include any medical record keeping elements.

From the Convenor

That's all for now - I think this is a solid new beginning for STAMA but its success will rely on the members providing feedback and news. I know that there are issues that members would like to raise because they ring me up to talk about them - lets get a few notes on paper/computer/email so we can share them.

There will be little about the activities of the Australian Science Archives Project in S&T as it is well-covered in its Annual Report and the History of Australian Science Newsletter (HASN). (By the way if you do not receive HASN let me know and I will send you a copy of the latest bumper edition and put you on the mailing list - its free!)

However, it would be good to hear lots about what else is happening especially at CSIRO Archives (and records management) and in the museums.

Kindest regards
Gavan McCarthy

Published by the Australian Science Archives Project on ASAPWeb, 10 March 1997
Prepared by: Elissa Tenkate and Denise Sutherland
Updated by: Elissa Tenkate
Date modified: 25 February 1998

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