Interview: David Baker – Center for the History of Psychology (EUA)

From August 28 to 31, 2012, it happened the XXX Encontro Anual Helena Antipoff e X Encontro Interinstitucional de Pesquisadores em História da Psicologia. This scientific meeting occured in two cities simultaneously, Belo Horizonte and Ibirité. Both of them are in Minas Gerais State, Brazil.

Many Brazilian and foreign researchers related to the field of History of Psychology attended to this meeting. One example was published here in RIPeHP´s Blog: the participation of the russian historians Marina Sorokina and Natalia Masolikova from the Alexander Solzhenitsyn Centre for the Study of the Russian Diaspora. The proceedings of the XXX Encontro Anual Helena Antipoff e X Encontro Interinstitucional de Pesquisadores em História da Psicologia are online.

Professor David Baker
Professor David Baker, Center for the History of Psychology.

Another participation was of the professor David Baker from the University of Akron (Akron, Ohio, United States of America). Baker is the director of the Center for the History of Psychology which is an institution dedicated to the History of Psychology. He is also professor at the University of Akron and he is researching on the history of counseling psychology and on the history of the profissionalization of psychology in USA. Prof. Baker gave us an interview during his participation on the XXX Encontro Anual Helena Antipoff e X Encontro Interinstitucional de Pesquisadores em História da Psicologia. We are very glad with this interview and we are thankful of his  important contribution.

Could you tell us a little bit about your paths in the History of Psychology?

I came to the history of psychology rather indirectly. As a graduate student my primary interests were in child clinical psychology. As a student in an APA accredited doctoral training program in counseling psychology I was required to take a course in the history of psychology. I had taken a history of psychology course as an undergraduate and was not at all interested in the course again at the graduate level. I did not think or understand that the history of psychology could be relevant to my work in child psychology. I was wrong on all accounts! My graduate professor for the history of psychology course was Ludy T. Benjamin, Jr. It was the best course I had ever taken and his masterful teaching inspired an interest in me that I did not know existed. During that course I did my first research in the history of psychology and published my first paper. It also served as the basis for my first professional presentation. I completed my training in professional psychology and after graduation joined the faculty at the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas. I became very involved in teaching, research and practice in child psychology. I taught the undergraduate and graduate courses in the history of psychology and worked on a number of projects on the history of professional psychology. I always stayed close to Dr. Benjamin and we collaborated on a number of projects. In 1999 the founding director of the Archives of the History of American Psychology, Dr. John Popplestone announced his retirement and a national search for his successor was conducted. The rest as they say is history. I had the good fortune to become the second director of the Archives of the History of American Psychology in 1999 and I have enjoyed every minute of it.

David Baker and Natalia Masolikova
David Baker and Natalia Masolikova, Helena Antipoff´s Archives at UFMG (Brazil).

Could you tell our readers about the Archives of the History of American Psychology?

The Archives of the History of American Psychology (AHAP) is now part of a much larger organization known as the Center for the History of Psychology (CHP). In the 13 years I have been here we have worked continuously to improve access to our holdings and secure a permanent space that we could call our own. In 2010 we were able to move into a 75,000 square-foot building that  is now the Center for the History of Psychology. In addition to the archives we now have a museum of psychology and are in the process of creating an institute for human science and culture. Our mission is to acquire, preserve and make available the primary source record of psychology. We seek to use our materials to promote education and research in the history of human sciences broadly conceived. The AHAP includes the papers of over 600 psychologists, 8000 reels of film, 50,000 books and monographs, 8,000 test records, 20,000 still images and over 1500 objects and artifacts. The significance of our collection was recognized in 2002 when we were named  to the Smithsonian Affiliations program. We welcome hundreds of visitors from around the world to visit and work in our collections and we continue to grow and expand in many exciting ways.

How is the day-to-day in AHAP?

Busy! We are a small staff with a very large mission. If you visit the archives two things are certain. First, everyone is welcoming and helpful. Second, everyone is busy and focused on the work of preserving, organizing and making available the historical record of psychology. Every day we are busy receiving and storing materials, processing collections, cataloging books, writing grants, communicating via social media, teaching, and welcoming visitors. It is a vibrant and exciting environment and we are always pleased to welcome guests.

Center for the History of Psychology
Center for the History of Psychology, University of Akron.

How iberoamerican researchers can benefit from the documents available on AHAP?

We pride ourselves on making our collections accessible both in-person and online. Iberoamerican researchers can find a wealth of information online by visiting our website. The website serves as a portal to a host of resources that can be viewed online. Perhaps one of the most important innovations is the leadership that the CHP has provided in the development of encoded archival description (EAD). In short EAD is a standardized format for digital finding aids representing archival collections. Researchers from around the world now have access to much greater knowledge about the kind of information contained in our collections. This makes it much easier when requesting off-site research assistance for archival materials.  Our research archivist, Lizette Royer is extremely helpful and talented in locating materials. She works with researchers from around the world in locating and scanning archival materials for research use. Of course we always welcome on-site visitors and do our best to provide the support and assistance researchers need to maximize the time they are able to spend with us.

You are director of the AHAP since 2004, what could you tell us about this experience?

I tell people that I have a fantastic job. Our collections have substantial depth and breadth and every day I learn something new about the history of psychology. I get to work with colleagues from around the world and again I have the opportunity to learn something new from each of them. I work with an exceptionally dedicated and talented staff. I have the opportunity to travel and meet some of the most important and influential people in psychology. Their stories and experiences are priceless additions to the historical record. As I said earlier, we have a very big mission and limited resources. I spend a great deal of time raising awareness and funding to support our work. At times it is stressful and I feel impatient. I want the Center to be able to grow so that we can meet the needs of the historical record and those who seek access to it.   All of us at the Center are committed to the work and enjoy it.

Your latest publications are about different topics as the professionalization of

From Coca-Cola to Chewing Gum: The Applied Psychology of Harry Hollingworth
Publications from the Center: “From Coca-Cola to Chewing Gum: The Applied Psychology of Harry Hollingworth”.

psychology and meta-analysis about the doing of the historian of psychology. What could you tell us about the results of your researches on these topics?

I have long been interested in the rise of professional psychology in America. I still do work in the area and our contemporary times are interesting and full of change.  In the United States the economics of mental health care are bringing about many changes in how services are delivered and how providers are compensated. Related to this is the proliferation of mental health providers at both the master’s and doctoral levels. Last December I edited an international history of psychology that was published by Oxford University Press. In putting the book together I was impressed by the worldwide need for mental health services and to learn how they are dealing with issues of training and practice. I was also impressed and humbled to learn of the rich history of psychology as it originated in countries around the world.

How do you see the development of the History of Psychology in the Americas, specially in United States?

My recent trip to Brazil was a deeply satisfying experience. It reminded me of our common interests and pursuits in the history of psychology and it highlighted the importance of international collaboration. In the US we have the good fortune of a well- established base in the history of psychology. Through journals, professional organizations, productive scholars and archival repositories we have amassed a solid and growing base of historical understanding about psychology in America.  I was very impressed during my time in Minas Gerais to see the efforts that are being made to organize the history of psychology in Brazil. Through collaborations such as that created between the CHP and the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais we will be able to work together to make the history of psychology in both of our countries much more complete. The more I learn about an international history of psychology, the more obvious it becomes that we are all interconnected. In the case of Brazil, the work of Helena Antipoff in the early 20th century serves as a terrific example. Born in Russia with training in Paris and Geneva she brought a brand of psychology to Brazil that drew its inspiration and direction from developments in Brazil and countries around the world. Understanding her work in its perspective reminds us that the history of psychology is a global history and that we are now in a time and place where we can share much more of that history.

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