THE DON D. JACKSON ARCHIVE
A veritable treasure trove of historic documents have been preserved from the two of the most influential early research groups in the behavioral sciences: Gregory Bateson's Research Team, and the early investigators at the Mental Research Institute (MRI) - the Palo Alto Group, and from the work of the Brief Therapy Center. The historic significance of these materials is beyond calculation, a kind of Dead Sea Scrolls or Rosetta stone of the field of communication / interactional / cybernetic theory, family theory and therapy, and brief therapy. Studied in combination with the published writings of these researchers the original materials offer nuance, texture and context not otherwise available.
By Wendel A. Ray, PhD
WHAT IS THE JACKSON ARCHIVE?A significantly large collection of historically significant materials from the research of the Palo Alto Group are preserved in the Jackson Archive. The survival of these original materials is due principally to John H. Weakland. Weakland was the first person asked by Gregory Bateson to join him when he formed his famous Research Team at the beginning of the 1950s. He was also among the first to be asked by Don Jackson to join him when he founded the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in the late 1950s. Weakland had the foresight to preserve numerous reel-to-reel recordings, written documents, and films from the Bateson Team era and from the early era of pioneering work of researchers at the MRI. These collections constitute two of the most important sets of materials housed in the archive.
In 1987 I first began visiting MRI to train in Brief Therapy, and to study the work of Don D. Jackson, which was the subject of my doctoral dissertation. John Weakland gave me a key to the basement, the use of an ancient portable reel-to-reel tape player, and allowed me to spend countless hours in the dank MRI basement organizing and studying the audio and film recordings, published and unpublished materials. Multiple interviews were also conducted with all living associates of Dr. Jackson. Soon Weakland encouraged me to formally create an Archive to assure adequate preservation of the surviving materials from the Bateson Research Team and the early research at MRI.
Over the course of the last twenty years the numerous unorganized and unlabelled boxes of materials stored in a basement at MRI have been moved to a facility with better climate control at the Marriage and Family Therapy Program facility at the University of Louisiana - Monroe (ULM). As materials are preserved, placed in modern digital format, and duplicate master copies made, a master copy of the preserved documents are returned to MRI where they are housed in a collection. A duplicate of the entire collection of the preserved materials are retained at the Archive here in the ULM marriage and family therapy program. Having two sets of materials located in geographically separate repositories assures the safe keeping of these irreplaceable documents.
Since its creation many documents have been placed in the Archive. In 1995, shortly before his death, John Weakland shipped three additional boxes of materials to me, consisting mostly of audio and written documents from the Bateson team research projects, with instructions to preserve them in the Archive collection. Periodically various donors place historically important materials in the collection. A growing collection of photographs, primarily from the early MRI era, have been placed in the collection. Richard Fisch, MD, Founding Director of the Brief Therapy Center at MRI placed all original recordings from the first decade of research at the BTC in the Archive. Paul Watzlawick placed all materials from his early research in the Archive. Bradford Keeney, PhD placed many original written, audio and video recordings from his early in applied cybernetics in the archive. As materials are received they are preserved as distinct collections.
This first collection of materials for which the Archive was established consist of audio, film, and paper documents from the first decade of work at MRI, 1958-1968. Most of these materials relate to the research of Don Jackson, founding Director of MRI, and the work of other research associates from this era, such as Virginia Satir, first Director of Training at MRI, Jules Riskin, Paul Watzlawick, Jay Haley, John Weakland, Richard Fisch, Irving Yalom and other research associates.
The second large collection housed in the Archive consists of all surviving materials retained by John Weakland and Don Jackson from their participation in Gregory Bateson's 10-year long series of research projects on paradoxes in communication processes which took place from 1951-1961. This collection includes audio, film, and written documents.
One of the most significant, and infrequently acknowledged, legacies from Bateson's team research, the research by early research at MRI, and later in the MRI Brief Therapy Center, is that they made audio and film recordings of clinical interviews and at least some of the team meetings and teaching seminars. These recordings constitute perhaps the most significant materials in the Archive collection. The recordings were made because the researchers placed primary importance on direct study of actual interaction using a cultural anthropology methodology orientation to data analysis. This emphasis of direct analysis of actual interactional data, allowed the Bateson team, and a few years later continuing in the research at MRI, to create communication / interactional theory. In the 1950's recording interviews, and keeping primary emphasis on behavior taking place in the present moment of interaction as the most relevant context for making sense of behavior was revolutionary, even heretical. These documents provide a priceless documentation of the actual data on which communication / interactional theory, family and brief therapy methodology are based.
All of the film, audio recordings, and written materials (both published and unpublished), photographs and other materials housed in the collections are in the process of being permanently archived in digital form. Eventually the goal is to have the entire archive available to researchers, scholars, and practitioners.
WHAT KIND OF MATERIALS ARE IN THE COLLECTION?
Following is a fairly comprehensive listing of documents related to the Palo Alto Group housed in the Archive.
Bateson Team Era Collection
Early MRI Era Collection
Additional Film Collection
Brief Therapy Center Collection
The Archive currently only houses recorded materials from the first decade of the BTC work. Focus on materials from the first decade is because these materials, all open face reel tapes, are the oldest and most in need of preservation. These earliest reel tape recordings range in date from 1967 through 1977. Beginning in the mid 1970s as technology advanced, the BTC changed to recording on audio cassette and ¾ inch then ½ inch video tape. The collection is organized by individual therapist and includes:
A total of 114 clients were seen in 780 sessions, and were preserved of 405 tapes during the first decade of work by Fisch, Weakland, and Watzlawick in the BTC.
An additional 300 reel tape recordings exist of clients seen by other members of the BTC team that are considered to be at a lower level of urgency. These will be transferred to modern format at a later date.
Published works collection
The archive houses comprehensive collections of the published writings by Gregory Bateson, Don Jackson, John Weakland, Richard Fisch, Paul Watzlawick, and Jay Haley. The Archive also includes extensive collection of other leading contributors to Interactional Theory and therapy.
Unpublished written materials collections
Numerous original research project proposals and final reports of research projects conducted during the first decade at the MRI; the proposal to found the MRI. Training records from the first family training program; interview transcripts, the proposal for creating the journal Family Process, proposal for creating the Brief Therapy Center, etc. are housed in the Archive.
Numerous photographs, principally from the early years of the MRI are housed in the Archive. Most of these photographs have been placed in digital format.
A large collection of audio recordings are housed in the Archive, most with matching transcripts, of multiple interviews with John Weakland, William Fry, Jay Haley, Paul Watzlawick, Richard Fisch, Murray Bowen, Janet Beavin Bavelas, and others, pertaining to recollections about early work in the field of family therapy.
HOW DO SCHOLARS ACCESS THESE MATERIALS?
Efforts are underway to make these materials more widely available in published form. This endeavor is complex due to confidentiality issues. Controlled access for scholarly and research purposes to master copies of materials may be obtained by contacting the Mental Research Institute, 555 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto, CA 94301. Telephone (650) 321-3055; web address: www.mri.org. Information about and controlled access to the Jackson Archive Project may also be gained by contacting Wendel A. Ray, PhD, at the ULM Marriage and Family Therapy Program. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Telephone (318) 547-4539.
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