ACNP's Archives


From the beginning to 2007

Thomas A. Ban

About archives and archivists in general

The term archive or archives is used for a collection of original records, and the location where these records are kept. Original records are primary source documents that consist of papers (letters, diaries, manuscripts, memos, minutes, patient files, scrapbooks, etc.), photographs, tapes (audio and video), electronic files, DVDs, microfilms, etc.

In ancient Greece, the term archives referred to the dwelling in which important state documents were collected and ordered under the authority of the archivist (archon). Today, in addition to governments, most academic institutions, and many business’ (for profit) and other (non-profit) organizations have archives to preserve their records. There are also special archives that collect, preserve, and store original records relevant to a well-defined topic, discipline, etc. They include individual archives (collections) in which the original records relevant to a particular person with significant contributions are stored.

The purpose of archives is to preserve the original records of today for future generations in order to make it possible to follow the sequence of past and future discoveries and to facilitate the work of a variety of researchers in their inquiry. There are limitations in prescreening records for their historical value since it is impossible to know definitively at the time what will prove important. The basic principle of archival acquisition is to preserve as much as possible within the limitations of space: data, opinions, reflections, controversies and musings.

The archivist is the person who determines (in special archives in consultation with experts) what should be kept. It is also the archivist who ascertains that legal obligations relevant to the use of the records are met. Archivists oversee the process of accessioning: cataloguing, preserving and storing records to prevent them from damage. Archivists are also involved (in special archives with experts) in identifying people whose records should be collected, and in devising methods for complementing conventional records with records relevant to the archives’ special purpose.

Neuropsychopharmacology Archives

A neuropsychopharmacology archive is a special archive established for the generation, collection, preservation, and storing of original records relevant to the development of the field for future generations. Ideally, a neuropsychopharmacology archive would include records from   pharmaceutical companies (that develop drugs), governments (that approve drugs for clinical use), professional organizations (that provide a platform of communication between clinicians and basic scientists who work with these drugs), and a host of people involved with research in the field.

In reality, only a small proportion of these records are available, because drug companies, governments, and professional organizations have their own archives (by law), and, the records of many basic scientists and clinicians involved in neuropsychopharmacological research are stored in other special archives, e.g., academic, hospital, neuroscience, psychiatry.

Developments that lead to the founding of the ACNP-Solway Archives in Neuropsychopharmacology began in 1986 with the recognition that virtually all-original records relevant to the founding and early activities of CINP were missing. Concerned that all the information on the early years of the college would be lost with the death of people involved, CINP’s history committee invited the surviving founders and past-presidents of the organization to write up their recollections. It also invited CINP members who contributed to the development of the field to write their autobiographical accounts and submit their photos.

In the mid-1990s, stimulated by the activities of CINP’s history committee, Oakley Ray (at the time secretary of ACNP and a councilor of CINP), generated funds from Solway Pharmaceuticals to establish the ACNP/Solway Archives in Psychopharmacology (ASAP) at Vanderbilt Medical University Center. To complement CINP’s autobiographical accounts and photo collection, he launched ACNP’s oral history project, i.e., the videotaping of biographic interviews with ACNP members who contributed to the development of the field, and invited the ACNP membership to donate their accumulated records (individual collections) to ASAP. The collected records were catalogued, preserved and stored by an archivist at ASAP.

ACNP’s International Archives in Neuropsychopharmacology

When the funds from Solway Pharmaceuticals were depleted, the name of the archives was changed to ACNP’s International Archives of Neuropsychopharmacology (IAN), and by the time of Oakley Ray’s untimely death a rudimentary IAN was in operation that consisted of ACNP’s (a non-profit organization’s) archives, and 32 (including 20 catalogued) individual collections.  From 2002 to 2007 the archive was receiving an average of 79 ft. of records (requiring about 53 days of work) annually. Less than two-third of these records were received as individual collections from the ACNP membership, and more than one-third were received as ACNP’s administrative records from the organization’s executive office in Nashville.

Over the years, the collecting of photos (1986-), the conducting of videotaped interviews (1994), the writing of autobiographical accounts (1996-), and the collecting of records (1998-) has continued. By the end of 2007 there were more than 2500 photos collected with about one third of the photos processed; more than 220-videotaped interviews conducted with about two-third of the interviews transcribed and edited. It was envisaged that activities in the four archives’- related projects would be stream-lined (oral history based on priority list, and transcripts used as screens for autobiographical accounts, photo collection and individual collection) and brought under the umbrella of IAN.

The Use of Archival Records

The archival records collected are eminently suited for documenting developments in ACNP and in the field of neuropsychopharmacology.

For the celebration of ACNP’s 35th anniversary, Oakley Ray published a copy of the transcript (archival record) of the conference held at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, New York, on November 12, 1960, that lead to the founding of ACNP. He also listed, on the basis of archival records, the names of the participants of the conference, the names of the founders of ACNP, and the year of initiation of the different ACNP activities from 1962 (Membership Directory) to 1996 (Home Page on World Wide Web).

Archival records would allow the preparation of reports on developments in ACNP’s structure (membership, finances, constitution and by laws), and functions (activities in constitutional committees) for ACNP’s 50 Years Anniversary. These records would also make possible the preparation of reports on developments in the five areas of the field – (1) brain metabolism and imaging, (2) neurochemical foundation, (3) methodology of clinical investigations, (4) models of disease and testing of pharmacological hypotheses, and (5) biology of addiction-- in which the ACNP membership played a prominent role. .

The archival records to be preserved at IUN will be of interest to a wide variety of audiences, including medical historians, educators, scientists (primarily neuroscientists), clinicians (primarily psychiatrists), drug industry, research companies, contract companies (CROs), communication companies, as well as individual ACNP members who have a desire to understand the origin of the field.

                                                                                                                              Thomas A. Ban
August 22, 2013