AO Archive and History

An update on an this Strategy Fund backed project to document the AO's history.

April 23, 2019

The AO, founded in 1958, has a long and proud history. Similar to the way French hospitals revolutionized the physical diagnosis of patients in the 19th century, not by inventing something new but by standardizing, making routine and measuring the effects of the principles of inspection, palpation, percussion and auscultation, the AO enabled a similar sea change to happen for internal fracture fixation. It is no exaggeration to claim that the AO changed the world for the better for millions of patients.

However, in general the AO has often neglected to collect and catalog this history in a systematic fashion. The AO Archive and History project, funded by the AO Strategy Fund, is designed to collect and store historic AO material in both physical and digital form for posterity. All of the material collected will be invaluable to future projects which contain an element of AO history.

The project was conceived by AO collaborator Diarmuid De Faoite who says his work within the AO inspired him to submit this project. "I was working in the AO Communications and Events department at the time of the 50th anniversary in 2008. Some of the founding fathers were still alive and it was a real pleasure to meet luminaries such as Maurice E Müller, Walter Stähli and August Guggenbühl in person and to interview them. I really enjoyed working on the AO's history as part of the celebrations and always thought that this was an element of the AO's heritage which is highly praised yet little is actually done about it."

The Board of the AO Strategy Fund agreed and approved funding for the AO Archive and History project for a maximum of three years. In addition, ex-AO Foundation President Jaime Quintero was appointed as the project's godfather and he regularly provides useful insights and tips to ensure success.

The AO Archive and History project is designed to put both an infrastructure in place which allows for the collection and storage (physical and/or digital) of historic AO material, as well as filling it with as much content as possible. In a first stage, material already in the AO's possession has been examined and digitally scanned where possible. Concomitantly the necessary digital infrastructure has, with the help of a professional medical historian, been put in place. The second stage envisions the wider collection of AO-related historic material. For example, there will be a manned booth at the AO Trustees Meeting in July in order to get closer to a large body of AO members who have had a long involvement with the AO.

"We are appealing to anyone, anyone at all, in possession of material they think would be of interest for this project to get in touch with us. They might like to donate items. Or perhaps they merely want to loan them out to be digitalized. We would be delighted with either option, we are very open as to how we deal with historic material. The most important thing is that these items are not lost in the mists of time," De Faoite said. "Once they are gone, they are lost forever."

In the final stage of this project, academic publications and a catalog of selected objects will be made available to a wider public. The actual material collected will be only internally available at the AO's offices and to any researchers who request access.

Because Diarmuid De Faoite left the AO, the project was taken over by his AO Clinical Investigation and Documentation colleague, Andreas Fäh. "I am very proud to take over this project from Diarmuid," Fäh said, "because by understanding the AO's past, we can help future generations to both understand and cherish the AO spirit."


Please contact the team at strategyfund@aofoundation.org