Psychology archives gets new home

By Richard E. Gill Assistant Editor
November 1, 2006



AKRON, Ohio – It’s an ugly duckling now, but David B. Baker, Ph.D., hopes one day soon to turn the old brick building into a beautiful swan to house artifacts and records dating back as much as five centuries in the valued Archives of the History of American Psychology.

Donated by Roadway Express, the four-story, 60,000-square-foot building will take about $10 million dollars to renovate. Baker, director of the archives presently located in the Polsky Building on the campus of the University of Akron, said constructing a similar facility would cost in excess of $35 million dollars. He hopes the renovations will be completed in three to five years.

The archives, Baker said, contains thousands of valuable records and devices crammed in boxes, stacked on darkened shelves, strewn on collapsible tables and the floor and in every possible nook and cranny – in a couple of shadowy, almost dungeon-like basement rooms that total about 10,000 square feet.

Baker, a clinician who was a member of the Department of Psychology at the University of Texas before accepting the position of director of archives, expects the greatest expense in the restoration process will be installing heating and cooling systems. The building presently has neither.

“Because we have very sensitive papers, media, films, photos and a book that is 500 years old, those kinds of fragile materials, we need very strict environmental control,” said Baker, who is excited by the endeavor.

“What I envisioned creating we are now a step closer to implementing. We want to get this out of the basement and into the public eye.”

One of Baker’s goals is to create a space that will allow the museum to provide interpretative exhibits and hands-on activities to educate the public about the science and practice of psychology.

The building, located a few blocks from the current archives, will allow the museum to exhibit some of the most famous and important discoveries in the history of psychology. For example, Baker said, on display will be devices such as Roger Sperry’s laboratory equipment used in his famous split-brain studies – studies that won him the Pulitzer Prize – and Stanley Miller’s simulated shock generator used to study obedience and conformity.

Baker said the APA provides $60,000 a year to operate the museum. Part of that money goes toward the salary of Rhonda L. Rinehart, who holds a master’s degree in library science and will be responsible for processing the manuscript collection.

“The history of psychology now has a history because professional practice really picked up in the mid 20th Century and now is in its golden years. Now is the time to begin collecting those materials.”

Baker said Nick Cummings, Ph.D., who is acknowledged as a giant in the profession, has agreed to donate his works and the museum is actively seeking the works of such notables as Ray Fowler, Ph.D., Jack Wiggins, Ph.D., and Pat DeLeon, Ph.D.

Baker said the museum received a $250,000 donation from the Margaret Clark Morgan foundation in Hudson, Ohio, for a design and development study. For now, the building will be called the Center for the History of Psychology. But Baker readily admits that naming rights are open to negotiation.

The museum is actively seeking donations in its effort to renovate the building. Individuals or organizations interested should contact Baker at 330-972-8487.

More information on the archives is available at www.uakron.edu/ahap.

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