It is with great sorrow that I report that Kathryn Hammond Baker passed away November 17, after a prolonged illness. As so many of you know, Kathryn was remarkable, deeply invested in the Countway and its audiences as a whole, as well as with the role of libraries and archives more broadly. She had been a beloved teacher at Simmons College, and a Past President of New England Archivists.
At the Countway, she had been responsible for developing the HMS records management program, and for catalyzing the development of the Archives for Women in Medicine, well before I arrived at the Center for the History of Medicine (CHOM) in 2006. Upon becoming deputy director of CHOM, Kathryn — with her remarkable energy and intelligence — transformed our center, whether in advancing our acquisitions, cataloging, and educational programs, or in developing such collaborations as the online Medical Heritage Library (whose governance committee she chaired), through which millions of users worldwide have accessed the Center’s collections. She was largely responsible for our receiving multiple grants – from the Sloan Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources, and the National Endowment for the Humanities – that enabled us to extend the reach of our program and to enable the history of medicine to inform contemporary medicine and society. Perhaps most importantly, she developed a remarkable team at CHOM, whose ongoing important work is a tribute to her sincere investment in their education and efforts.
Not only was Kathryn smart, strategic, and funny, but she was the most stoic person I’ve ever met. She was private about her illness, but that paralleled her long refusal to allow it to interfere with her work. She was truly inspirational, and will be deeply, deeply missed. Our hearts go out to her family, and we will keep you posted as we plan to honor her memory here at the library.
Scott Podolsky, Director, Center for the History of Medicine
Kathryn was a friend, colleague, and mentor. Even when she was clearly very ill, her dedication and focus inspired the rest of us. This dedication didn’t preclude lighter moments, however; she always had time to talk, laugh, and sympathize with others who were facing illnesses or problems much less serious than hers. Her bravery, stoicism, and sense of humor were remarkable.
Joan Thomas, Rare Book Cataloger
Kathryn was my teacher, then my boss, my mentor, and a friend. She was the smartest person I knew and I depended on her for the right answer to any question. I will miss her unfailing kindness and her enthusiastic encouragement which has meant so very much to me as I grew in this profession.
Catherine Pate, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archivist
Kathryn provided invaluable insight, vision, and mentorship to me through my work as an oral historian and as Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine. She consistently provided the most insightful constructive criticism and comments I’ve ever received from a mentor. The Archives for Women in Medicine program serves as a legacy to her advocacy and passion.
Joan Ilacqua, Project Archivist, Archives for Women in Medicine
I worked with Kathryn for 8 years at the Center for the History of Medicine. She hired me to take on a complex position and continually challenged me to perform that job to the best of my ability. Kathryn was an incredible professional. I know I see her in my work each day and constantly miss her leadership and perspective. I’m honored to be able to call her my colleague and friend.
Dominic Hall, Curator, Warren Anatomical Museum
I only had the pleasure of working closely with Kathryn for a few years; I wish it had been much longer. Collaborating with her on the Medical Heritage Library was a continual learning experience lightened with a shared enjoyment of Flann O’Brien jokes. I will miss her.
Hanna Clutterbuck, Processing Assistant, Center for the History of Medicine
Kathryn was an innovator and never afraid to try new things. She instilled that spirit in her staff, encouraging us to work collaboratively and with creativity. Her love for the profession, and in particular, the Center, was evident in all that she did. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from her leadership, am grateful for her constant and consistent support, and to have enjoyed her friendship. She was remarkable, and the strongest person I’ve ever known.
Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services