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Helen Dittman Beirne papers

Guide to the Helen Dittman Beirne papers

Collection number: HMC-0535.
Creator: Beirne, Helen Dittman.
Title: Helen Dittman Beirne papers.
Dates: 1951-2003.
Volume of collection: 11.7 cubic feet.
Language of materials: Collection materials in English.
Collection summary: Papers of an Alaskan doctor, legislator, and commissioner of the Dept. of Health and Social Services.

Biographical note:
Helen Beirne was born in Saint Maries, Idaho, in 1922. She earned a Ph.D. in speech and hearing pathology from the University of Denver. Beirne did post graduate work at Syracuse, Stanford, and Northwestern universities, and served with the U.S. Army in Japan and Korea. She moved to Anchorage in 1956, becoming the administrator and clinical director of the Alaska Crippled Children’s Association, posts that she held until 1969. Beirne served in the Alaska State House of Representatives in 1969-1970 and 1973-1977, and was the chairman of the House Health, Education and Social Services Committee. She was appointed to the office of Commissioner, Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, by Governor Jay Hammond in 1978, serving in that capacity until 1982. Later in her career (circa 1992) she served as the director of the Anchorage Health and Human Services department.  Other Alaska civic and state activities included her service as president of the Alaska Historical Society in 1975-1976, becoming a member of the Alaska State Guard in 1987, teaching at Alaska Methodist University from 1968-1973, and serving on a number of state and local boards and commissions related to public and behavioral health.  Helen Beirne died in Anchorage in September 2005.

Collection description:
This collection consists of the public service and personal papers of Dr. Helen D. Beirne. The collection contains records related to her employment with the Alaska Crippled Children’s Association (ACCA), the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, the Anchorage Dept. of Health and Human Services, her service as a legislator, and her personal and professional interest in arctic and circumpolar health issues, and personal papers.

Arrangement: The collection is divided into four series: Alaska Crippled Children’s Association files, subject files, photographs and identification cards, and plaques.

Alternative formats: The 8mm promotional film from ACCA has been converted to a VHS copy for reference purposes and a mini-DV master tape was made at that time.

Digitized copies: The 8 mm promotional film has been digitized and is available for use in the Archives Research Room. For information about obtaining digital copies, please contact Archives and Special Collections.

Digitization was made possible by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Rights note: The Archives holds copyright only to those collection materials authored by Helen Beirne.

Preferred citation: Helen Dittman Beirne papers, Archives and Special Collections, Consortium Library, University of Alaska Anchorage.

Separated materials: Approximately six linear feet of published materials (books, reports) were moved to the Consortium Library’s other collections in 2009 and 2010. The original copy of Helen Dittman’s PhD dissertation has been moved to the Consortium Library’s Rare Books collection.

Acquisition note: The first portion of the collection was given to Archives by Helen Beirne in 2000.  The second portion of the collection was given to the archives in 2007 by Sonnet Farrell, trustee of Helen Beirne’s estate.

Processing information: The first accessions in this collection (one cubic foot each) were initially arranged and described by Kathleen Hertel in 2001 and Jeffrey Sinnott in 2002 as two separate collections: the Alaska Crippled Children’s Association, Helen Beirne files and Helen Beirne’s papers.  In the review of the additional twelve cubic feet of papers provided to the Archives after Dr. Beirne’s death which were primarily subject files that incorporated elements from both collections, the decision was made to combine all three groups of records back into a single set of papers.  This combined collection was described by Arlene Schmuland in 2010. The existing order of the materials was maintained with a few exceptions: materials from the original cubic foot collection of Helen Beirne’s papers were assimilated back into the broader subject file categories and published reports and books were removed to the Consortium Library’s other collections. One file of documents from Mrs. Beirne’s Health and Social Services files was shredded after determination by personnel of the Alaska State Archives that the documents within were non-permanent state record and fully restricted from access by federal and state law. Becky Butler provided additional description when the 8mm film was digitized in 2019.

Container list:

Series 1: Alaska Treatment Center for Crippled Children and Adults records; 1951-1991. 2.0 cubic feet.  Formerly the Alaska Crippled Children’s Association.  Records include bylaws, board minutes, clippings files, subject files, photographs, and curriculum development records.  Arranged by document type.

Box/Folder Description Dates
1/1 Bylaws. 1964-1966
1/2-13 Board meeting minutes. 1957-1970
1/14-29 Clippings files. 1966-1991
1/30-49 Subject files. Undated, 1951-1988
1/50-66 Photographs. Undated, 1951-1956
1/67/A 8mm film with VHS reference copy and mini-DV master copy. Promotional film for Alaska Crippled Children’s Association. Silent film recording of a man and a woman in the tundra in front of the Alaska Range, caribou, and people in a flower garden. Undated
1/67/B 8mm film with VHS reference copy and mini-DV master copy. Silent film recording of landscape and caribou in Denali National Park. Undated
2 Curriculum development files. Undated

Series 2: Subject files; 1951-2000.  7.0 cubic feet.  This series contains a mix of files pertaining to Helen Beirne’s activities as a legislator, Commissioner of Health and Social Services, personal files, participation in Circumpolar Health organizations, the Alaska Treatment Center for Crippled Children and Adults, and other files related to her personal and professional activities.  No arrangement has been determined.

Box Description Dates
3-9 Subject files. 1980-1982

Series 3: Photographs and identification cards; circa 1970-2003. 0.5 cubic feet. Photographs include portraits of Governor Jay Hammond and Helen Beirne. Identification cards include IDs from the Alaska State Legislature, Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services, other places of employment, and organizations to which she belonged. No arrangement has been determined.

Box Description Dates
10 Photographs and identification cards. Circa 1970-2003

Series 4: Plaques; 1971-1995. 1.2 cubic feet. Awards commemorating Helen Beirne’s service to places of employment and civic organizations. Includes one plaque from the Alaska Territorial Guard.

Box Description Dates
11-12 Plaques. 1971-1995

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