ICA Historical Archives Find New Home at Annenberg

Jordan Mitchell and Jeff Pooley recently drove 140 miles from Washington, D.C. to Philadelphia in a rental van. Their precious cargo? Twenty-three boxes full of historical materials dating back to the establishment of the International Communication Association (ICA) in 1950.

Mitchell, an archivist at the Annenberg School for Communication, and Pooley, Associate Professor and Chair of Media & Communication at Muhlenberg College, were on a mission to deliver ICA’s backlog of historical papers to its new permanent home at Annenberg, where it will be cataloged and made available to scholars for generations to come.

Jordan Mitchell and Laura Saywer, Executive Director of ICA, pose with the ICA files.

“The history of ICA is literally consubstantial with the history of communication research,” says François Heinderyckx, Past President of ICA and chair of the ICA archive task force, “all the more so given that many of the founding scholars were involved in the association throughout its early history.”

The archives include documents such as correspondence from 1949 discussing the need to form a scholarly association dedicated to communication and membership records from 1967, the year the organization changed its name from the National Society for the Study of Communication (NSSC) to the International Communication Association. Mitchell, along with Annenberg Librarian Sharon Black, will be working with ICA staff to catalog, and eventually digitize, the archive.

For years, former ICA Executive Director Michael Haley has been collecting and storing the materials in the nooks and crannies of ICA’s offices. Eventually, as storage space began to run out, a question arose: What do we do with all these documents?

A records box is packed with ICA files, ready to be transported to Annenberg.

The answer came out of a meeting at the 2015 ICA conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico between Haley; Annenberg alumnus David Park (Ph.D. ‘01), founder of ICA’s Communication History Interest Group; and Annenberg Dean Michael X. Delli Carpini to discuss the possibility of Annenberg managing the archive.

“The Annenberg Library is becoming a magnet for historical material about the field of Communication,” says Black. In addition to the ICA archive, the library holds the archive of George Gerbner, Dean of the Annenberg School from 1964 until 1989, which is available online; the papers of Professor Emeritus Elihu Katz, which will be made available in the near future; and the papers of American sociologists and communications theorists Gladys and Kurt Lang, which will be available once the library has processed them. In addition, Pooley is working with the Annenberg library on an oral history of the discipline, beginning by interviewing several Emeritus and long-standing Faculty from Annenberg.

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The Annenberg library staff (L to R): Min Zhong, Library Services Assistant; Sharon Black, Librarian; and Jordan Mitchell, Archivist.

With the ICA board’s approval and a task force overseeing the project, Mitchell will now begin surveying the material to determine the best organizational structure for long term use of the documents, with the ultimate goal of creating a guide to the collection and making much of the archive available to scholars online.

"The ICA papers, digitized and professionally processed, will be a boon to both historians and current ICA members,” Pooley says. “The papers join Annenberg's growing and unrivaled collections on the history of the discipline."

After the completion of the initial archive, it’s possible that even more ICA documents, perhaps materials saved independently by past presidents of ICA, will join the archive at Annenberg.

“We are honored and excited to bring the ICA archive to Annenberg,” says Delli Carpini. “It is an organization that not only is central to our field today, but whose history reflects the evolution of the discipline. We look forward to sharing these materials with Communication scholars worldwide.”