Department of Health Idaho Clerical Association scrapbook is a ‘historical gem’

DHW employee Courtney Meek, left, works with archivist Layce Johnson to scan in the scrapbook in May at the Idaho State Archives.

DHW employee Courtney Meek, left, works with archivist Layce Johnson to scan in the scrapbook in May at the Idaho State Archives.

A dusty old scrapbook long forgotten on a top shelf in an office supply closet at the State Health Lab is now carefully preserved and held at the Idaho State Archives (ISA), a division of the Idaho State Historical Society.

Courtney Meek, a business operations specialist at the Bureau of Laboratories, found the scrapbook twice – once when she was cleaning out some shelves after a new sprinkler system was installed, and then a second time seven years later when she cleaned out a cabinet in anticipation of a move into a different office and a new job.

The second time she found it, she realized what a historical gem she had. Someone had carefully cut and glued newsletters, photos, newspaper articles, and other staffing tidbits and memorabilia about the Department of Health Idaho Clerical Association for three years in the late 1960s. It is DHW’s own little version of “Mad Men.”

“I looked through the scrapbook again, and I realized that it was a time capsule of what we, as a department, were doing between 1966 and 1969 in Idaho,” she said.

So she decided to take it to the Idaho State Archives to see if it did, in fact, have some historic value. The archives are conveniently located across a boulevard from the State Health Lab on Old Penitentiary Road in east Boise. Archive staff encouraged her to submit it for consideration to be officially included as part of the Idaho archive. So she did.

A committee at the Idaho State Archives meets regularly to consider the historic value of various donations to determine whether they should be included in the archives. The committee deemed the Department of Health Idaho Clerical Association Scrapbook worthy of preservation. A deed of gift was completed and it now resides with other materials in the official archive.

But before it was placed in the archive, Meek met with Layce Johnson, a processing archivist and chairwoman of the committee, on a Saturday morning in mid-May to scan in all the pages of the scrapbook so she (and we) could keep a digital copy of it. It’s a fun trip into a different time, when “secretaries” were all “girls” and whether or not to wear miniskirts in the office was a hot debate (see page 51).

“I was surprised that musical entertainment and skits were part of the department’s meetings and events; they sang and performed,” Meek said. “I also found it interesting that there were clerical staff representatives from across the state in attendance at Public Health meetings in Gooding, Pocatello, and Sun Valley. They came from as far away as Panhandle Health District in Coeur d’Alene. Keep in mind that these meetings pre-date I-84 (the freeway was completed after 1970), and that the first concourse was built at the Boise airport in 1969.”

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