AbstractParapsychologists are often-and understandably-concerned about finding reliable and stable repositories for the donation of manuscripts, published books and articles, investigator's notes and diaries, and other valuable research materials. (No doubt this challenge also confronts other areas of frontier science, but I'm personally familiar only with its manifestation in parapsychology.) University and public libraries can be fickle, initially accepting donations of these materials but disposing of them later. And parapsychological organizations often struggle to maintain a tenuous hold on their own existence-and, of course, the existence of their libraries and archives.
For example, the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) in London at one time housed an extensive and rich collection in the Society's home at 1 Adam & Eve Mews (one of the world's great addresses). But when financial pressures forced the SPR to relocate to a much smaller venue elsewhere in Kensington, the organization had no choice but to divide its collection and deposit most of the rarer items in the Cambridge University Library (where, I'm told, some of those items occasionally "dematerialize").
Similarly, the Rhine Research Center (RRC) in Durham, North Carolina, has been in a precarious financial position for decades. When the organization moved to newly built headquarters several years ago, their valuable archives were at least moved to a home that was not a fire or flood hazard (unlike the basement of the former RRC building across the street from Duke University). But if the RRC folds, either from financial pressure or a paucity of support personnel, what becomes of its collections?
Currently, the Parapsychology Foundation in New York City is in serious financial trouble, and its enormous and well-organized library could easily be out of a home in the near future. It's no wonder, then, that I-along with other chronologically challenged psi researchers-worry about what to do with our own private collections of books, notes, and other archival materials. Can any relevant and useful organization be counted on to survive, and can any person be trusted to respect and preserve the donation, or (following retirement or death) to pass the collection on to another trustworthy person?
I faced this dilemma about ten years ago when I was asked to sort through and preserve the letters, papers, and books of my close friend psychiatrist Jule Eisenbud. Eisenbud is probably best-remembered for his investigation of the psychic photography of Ted Serios, an alcoholic Chicago bellhop who appeared to produce anomalous images on "instant" Polaroid film (for the full story, see Eisenbud, 1967, Eisenbud, 1989, and for a summary and update see Braude, 2007).
The Serios case, in my view, is very strong and very important, and Jule's materials are an exceptionally valuable resource. Jule's library was enormous; he had written a hefty collection of books and articles; he had many boxes of videos and other materials pertaining to the Serios case; and he had also preserved nearly all of his written correspondence (both personal and professional) since the 1930s, including many exchanges with leading figures in parapsychology and mainstream science.
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