Prior to the 40th anniversary celebration planned for the NSGC Annual Conference, members of the Late Career SIG began gathering the information, photos, and documents that would become the Timeline of the Genetic Counseling Profession featured on the NSGC website. Finding a way to protect the materials that document the beginnings of our profession had been discussed previously, but these timeline assembly efforts made it clear that our rich history needed to be formally preserved in a professional archive—a living collection which could grow over time and be available to everyone. The Late Career SIG then committed to establishing this archive.
Early on, it became apparent that this would be a complicated process, and one about which we really knew nothing! Finding a professional archivist was an important first step. The Society of American Archivists referred us to Jane Kenamore, an archivist in Chicago who had prior experience with healthcare organizations. She visited the NSGC headquarters, asked many questions, and helped develop a survey which was sent to all members of the Late Career SIG and past NSGC board members. She helped us identify which materials to include in the archive, and we hunted down the books, documents, critical correspondence, and photos that would tell our story.
Then we tackled the big question: where would our archive reside? It was essential that the home of our archive be a place of importance for the profession, with on-site archive professionals to care for and maintain it over time. It was also important for the archive to be accessible to anyone interested in learning more about the history of genetic counseling. After much discussion and consideration of several options, it was decided that the best home for our archive was the place where it all started: Sarah Lawrence College. The Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics began as a proposal to the college in 1968 and started training the first genetic counselors in 1969. It was here that the first genetic counselors established the foundations of the practice, and where the National Society of Genetic Counselors was conceived. It seemed like a good home.
Claire Davis, the current Director of the Joan H. Marks Graduate Program in Human Genetics, opened a conversation with archivists at Sarah Lawrence College about becoming the home for our archive. The college agreed to receive, maintain, and curate materials into a collection that is a living documentation of our profession. Materials will be available to anyone upon request, thus providing an accurate representation of our history. This actual process took approximately nine months, and materials are still being submitted. As a living archive, Sarah Lawrence College also will continue to accept materials for preservation from members of the profession. We encourage anyone who wants to contribute to contact the Late Career SIG.