Every archivist leaves behind a bit of themselves in the archives they oversee. The legacy might be simple, such as enhancing collections that are close to the archivist’s heart. It might be the act of embracing new ideas or taking a risk on a new collection area. Few archivists have the opportunity to create an archive from scratch and mold it into a premier center for research and preservation.
Elizabeth “Beth” White did just that.
She retired on April 29, 2010 after 37 years as a professional librarian at the Houston Academy of Medicine-Texas Medical Center (HAM-TMC) Library. For almost 30 years she was responsible for preserving Texas Medical history through the archives she built at the HAM-TMC Library.
Few archivist have the impact that Beth White has had on the history of the Texas Medical Center. Beth started the archives that has come to hold so much of the history of the institutions of the Texas Medical Center and the people associated with those organizations. With funding from the John P. McGovern Foundation and support from the HAM-TMC Library, Beth created and molded the John P. McGovern Historical Collections and Research Center.
She leaves behind a legacy rich with collections on rheumatology, public health and the history of medicine, including papers from Texas Medical Center notables, the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, and area institutions.
L. Maximilian Buja, M.D. Executive Director of the HAM-TMC Library, said she made “the McGovern Center one of the country’s outstanding venues for biomedical history.”
Beth said one of her strengths was the ability to build collections, and those who know her can attest to her skill in that area.
Oh, how she could build collections.
“I have always respected her dedication to her profession and her requirement for exactitude in determining what documents would enhance the Archive as opposed to merely taking up space,” said Michael E. Speer, M.D. , Baylor College of Medicine professor of pediatrics and ethics and chair of the HAM-TMC Board of Trustees.
Bryant Boutwell, the John P. McGovern, M.D., Professor of Oslerian Medicine at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, knows White as a medical historian. He is the co-author of “Conversation with a medical school : the University of Texas-Houston Medical School, 1970-2000.”
“Beth White is an absolute treasure,” Boutwell said. ” She motivates, encourages, and provides the drive one needs to keep digging and connect all the dots to tell the story. She will be missed greatly. ”
Working with Beth has been a golden opportunity. She is dedicated, charming, gracious, intelligent, and hard working. She has an excellent sense of humor and the ability to accept the good and the bad of life with a calm demeanor. She is irreplaceable and she is missed.