Founded in 1893, the National League for Nursing (NLN) is the oldest nursing organization in the United States. The NLN’s rich history is captured in historically important and valuable documents, videos, and materials that describe the work of the NLN’s pathfinders, who led with purpose and tenacity to cocreate a transformative future for the nursing profession. When the NLN moved to Washington, DC, in 2013, its leadership realized that the NLN’s history was at risk of being lost because documents and materials were stored at multiple locations. Thus, the NLN embarked on a strategy to collaborate with the Barbara Bates Center for the Study of the History of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania (Bates Center) to collect, preserve, and afford access to a single archival collection that provides a lens to the NLN story.
In 2014, with generous support from the Philadelphia-based Independence Foundation and with matching funds from the NLN Foundation for Nursing Education, the NLN initiated its Archives Project (http://www.nln.org/about/history-of-nln/nln-archives). The Bates Center conducted a survey of materials located at various locations throughout the United States and at the NLN Headquarters to determine the condition of, the extent of, and the possibility of conservation for materials. Given the value of these materials, and the fact that they had been hidden for decades, the Bates Center agreed to formally partner with the NLN to initiate a process of building and preserving an NLN Collection that would be housed at the Bates Center.
In 2016, with another matching grant from the Independence Foundation to the NLN Foundation for Nursing Education (www.nln.org/foundation), the implementation of a full archival repository of NLN holdings commenced. Presently, the NLN Collection includes a repository of reports and proceedings of annual conventions, minutes of meetings, biographical data about early leaders, and correspondence detailing trends and historic milestones.
A selection of these holdings has already been digitized and is now available online, including annual reports and conference proceedings dating from 1894 through 1952. These early reports and proceedings contain the speeches, meeting notes of discussions, and resolutions passed during NLN conventions. A full table of contents (https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/live/files/1573-nln-annual-reports-table-of-contentsonlypdf) for these holdings was recently created and made available. This index will enable researchers to easily determine what topics are covered in these robust reports.
The Bates Center has also digitized over 150 videotapes produced by the NLN during the 1980s and 1990s. Video topics range from annual convention keynotes to interviews with nursing leaders to health care policies and practice, among many others. Preview clips of selected NLN videos, including interviews with pioneers and such leaders as Mildred Montag, Verle Waters, Elizabeth Carnegie, and Virginia Henderson, are accessible on the NLN Resources page (https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/history/archives-collections/nln-collection/nln-resources/). A full listing of the NLN videotape collection can also be accessed. The Bates Center has more than 1,100 books, pamphlets, and booklets published by the NLN in its collection. A current listing can be found in the NLN Finding Aid (https://www.nursing.upenn.edu/live/files/1102-mc-251-national-league-for-nursingpdf).
The NLN and the Bates Center are exploring strategies to assist faculty and scholars to realize the potential of archived materials for use in curricula and research. This will include enhancements to the Bates Center website and the development of free learning modules. One resource recently added to the NLN website is the SAGA Nursing Edge Unscripted Podcast (https://nursingedge.nln.org/unscripted-conversation-saga/), which focuses on the history of nursing education to connect the past, present, and future in order to reimagine teaching and learning.
If you have NLN materials you would like to donate for the collection, please contact [email protected]. We are especially interested in committee work, conventions, minutes, and reports. Please note that the Bates Center is unable to accept all items, so please contact the center directly for more information about the donation process. We will also continue to raise funds to build the NLN Archives Collection. So, if you are interested in helping to support this effort, please donate to the NLN Foundation for Nursing Education (https://members.nln.org/donate).