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New Foundation fund helps preserve Gundersen history

With a generous donation from Gundersen archivist Kay Cimpl Wagner and her husband Larry, Gundersen Medical Foundation has established the Kathleen 'Kay' Cimpl Wagner, MLS, Historical Preservation Fund. The gift they gave to establish the fund, along with ongoing donations, will be used to fund the archivist position after Kay's retirement.

Kay Cimpl Wagner

Kay Cimpl Wagner

"Kay has contributed to Gundersen in countless ways. Most recently, as a dedicated archivist, she has helped shape and advance the Gundersen archives," says Sara Gundersen Battison, MLS, CFRE, director, Development, Gundersen Medical Foundation. "Thanks to the new fund created through Kay and Larry's generosity, important preservation projects will continue and there will be improved access to Gundersen's history for generations to come."

Kay worked at Gundersen as the medical library director from 1985-1999. Because of her experience here, in 2013, Kay was asked if she would work with A. Erik Gundersen, MD, on a special short-term project.

Kay recalls, "Our project was to sort through at an off-site storage facility on Muddy Flats with decades' worth of accumulation. What we found was a treasure trove of Gundersen history. We spent nearly a year going through every paper, photo and object determining the historical significance to Gundersen. We also developed policies for proper acceptance for donations so items no longer accumulate in a storage facility."

At the start of the project, Kay was a volunteer but it soon became clear that her talents were needed beyond the initial project. So in 2015, the Foundation hired Kay as a part-time archivist. In this role, Kay has continued to inventory, preserve and catalog things of historical significance to Gundersen.

"One of the most interesting finds was a cache of letters from the 1800s written by Adolf Gundersen, MD. We are having them translated and digitized," Kay explains. "Eventually, the entire collection of objects, pictures, publications and more will be digitized for online access. In addition, the archives and archivist will have a presence in the Mooney Library."

Kay also embarked on an oral history project. Working with Medical Media, she is interviewing people who helped shaped Gundersen. Some of the first interviews were with Drs. A.C.V. Elston III, Robert Caplan, John Clemons, Rudy Keimowitz, Kermit Newcomer, and dozens of others along with members of the Gundersen family.

Kay will be retiring soon, but she's only laid the groundwork and strategic plan for the future. That's why Kay and her husband established this new fund to ensure the ongoing work of an archivist at Gundersen.

She notes, "I'm honored to be building the Gundersen legacy. It wouldn't be possible without the commitment of the Foundation and the Health Sciences Library."

If you're interesting in contributing to the new Historical Preservation Fund, please contact the Foundation at (608) 775-6600.

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