About the Archives

Mission Statement

The mission of the Archives of the San Francisco General Hospital is to document the history of SFGH by establishing, collecting, maintaining, and preserving a repository of historically or administratively valuable documents and artifacts associated with San Francisco General Hospital.  The archives will promote knowledge and understanding of the origins and history of the hospital, serve research and scholarship by making its source materials available to the organization and to the community at large, and document the impact of SFGH’s activities on the social, political, and cultural life of San Francisco.

The Archives of San Francisco General Hospital envisions a world where all patients have access to the highest quality of medical care regardless of race, creed, or social status.

Vision Statement

SFGH archives documents the hospital’s rich legacy of care for the sick and injured regardless of their race, creed, social status, or ability to pay.  We envision a creative community of care givers, members of the public, and scholars informed by the events and circumstances of SFGH’s past and delivering excellence in clinical care, education and research for the benefit of the sick and injured, regardless of race, creed, or social status.



What are archives and archival materials?

Archives are the basis of our history and collective memory.  What we know of the past comes from the materials kept in archives.  In the usual, day-to-day running of business, institutions and individuals create records that serve as evidence of those daily actions.  When those records are no longer immediately useful, they become archival records.

Archival materials are historical records that have been determined to have enduring value.  They differ from library materials because they are unique, so no two archives have the same collections.  Each archives tells its own story of the past.  These materials come in all formats, including papers, photographs, digital materials, ephemera like posters and flyers, maps, and some artifacts.

In institutional archives, these historical records provide evidence, explanation, and justification for past actions and for current and future decisions, promoting transparency and accountability within and organization and in the surrounding community.

Manuscript archives are collections of personal papers and photographs of noteworthy individuals.  They often contain correspondence, personal diaries, notes, awards, and drafts of published work.

Archives ensure that historically significant records are kept and systematically organized and described so that they can be made freely available for use by researchers, historians, journalists, and anyone else with an interest in the events of the past.

(By the way, “archives” is one of those words that is both singular and plural, but most people use the term “archive” when referring to a singular archival collection, facility, or organization.)


Why do we need an archives at SFGH?

San Francisco General Hospital has a rich history that deserves to be preserved for the benefit of future generations.  The hospital has served the community of San Francisco for almost 150 years, through disasters, plagues, and numerous social and political changes.  The hospital has also made significant contributions to the field of medicine throughout its history.  For example, surgeons at SFGH developed revolutionary advancements in the treatment of tuberculosis in the early 20th century, and SFGH developed the “San Francisco Model” of care for AIDS patients at the height of the epidemic.  The archives at SFGH ensures that these contributions are recorded, remembered and celebrated.  The history of SFGH belongs to patients, staff, and the San Francisco community alike, and the archives makes that history available to all.

admin buildingAn archives at SFGH means a record of all the good that is done here and a lasting legacy of the people who dedicate their time and energy to caring for the San Francisco community.  It means that the tireless work performed, the advances in patient care developed, the stories and memories created, and the effort put forth every day to change lives and care for those who need it most will not be forgotten.

The archives will be a physical place that members of the SFGH and San Francisco communities can visit to learn more about the history of the hospital and its impact on the city as a whole.  It will create a greater presence in the hearts, minds, and lives of the community, while also cementing SFGH in the history of San Francisco as an integral part of the culture and character of the city.

The archives will be a historical presence representing SFGH as a prominent contributor of standards and practices of patient care in the medical community.  It will ensure that the research and advancement of evidence-based practice at SFGH will be remembered and recognized, and we’ll know that SFGH will be included in the work of scholars, historians, and academics for future generations to learn from and appreciate.


What will go into the SFGH archives?

The archives is soliciting materials from all over SFGH in order to build our collections and create a full, rich historical record of the hospital.  Records to be collected are those that are no longer in use but that have ongoing historical, administrative, legal, or financial value.  The archives is also soliciting the personal and professional papers of some medical professionals, administrators, and/or professors associated with the hospital.

Examples of records to be collected include annual reports, research project reports, ephemera and memorabilia, and committee meeting minutes and reports.  We’ll even accept some artifacts that are closely tied to SFGH’s history.  If it records what SFGH has done, keeps track of the hospital’s accomplishments and achievements, or describes the people of SFGH, we want it!

Find out how you can donate to the archives!

For more information about what we collect, see our Collection Development Policy.