Archives & Special Collections is pleased to announce the opening of the papers of health care activist Judy Wessler.
While Archives & Special Collections primarily collects the records of Columbia’s four health science schools and the papers of their faculty, our mission statement also declares that we will “selectively acquire the records of persons, organizations and institutions, particularly those connected to New York City, that increase our knowledge of the history of the health sciences.” So we were happy to acquire the extensive personal papers of Wessler, a long-time New York City health activist. Since the early 1970s, Wessler has been involved in many of the era’s most pressing health care issues including the role of public hospitals, Medicaid and managed care, hospital closings, women’s and children’s health, national health insurance, and the provision of health care to the underserved communities of New York City. She remains active in health care issues to this day.
And in doing so she created an extensive archive of correspondence, reports (both published and unpublished), committee and task force minutes, organizational newsletters, legal documents, newspaper and magazine clippings, photographs and such ephemera as flyers, leaflets, and buttons. Besides the 76 cubic feet of paper records, there are also 540MB of electronic materials.
Many of the groups Wessler worked with were ad-hoc organizations that left very little in the way of a paper trail; other organizations were longer-lasting but never created their own archives as such. In some ways, Judy Wessler was their unintentional archivist, creating a record of grass-roots health care activism in New York City and State that may not exist anywhere else.
Researchers interested in using the Wessler Papers should start with the record in CLIO, the Columbia University online library catalog from which they can access the finding aid (guide) to the papers: https://clio.columbia.edu/catalog/13717803
Caption (top): Flyer depicting New York City officials as “wanted” for “health crimes against the people of New York City,” 1990s. (Wessler Papers, Box 59:6; Image #C-000650)