Repository Profile - Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources
Lincoln Cushing, Kaiser Permanente Archivist

Corporate archives always catch a fair wind when an anniversary rolls around. In 2015, Kaiser Permanente celebrated the 70th year of opening its health plan to the public, and demand for archival and historic content took on a delightful urgency. Be careful what you wish for.

The direct channels for exposure included a packet of historical facts and images for our leadership and communicators, presentations to staff and the general public, a daily column on the significance of the 70th on my History of Total Health blog during the anniversary week, and even blown-up standing pictures of our founders for people to pose with in a photo booth (which were enormously popular).

The San Francisco Chronicle carried a gallery of our historic photographs. For the first time ever, at the insistence of our CEO, our national television advertising campaign included a photograph of our industrial founder, Henry J. Kaiser. And since Kaiser Permanente is, and has been, labor-friendly, I contributed most of the text and imagery for a special issue of Hank, the magazine of our Labor Management Partnership. 

There were indirect benefits as well. Because the roots of our health plan evolved during World War II in the nearby Kaiser Richmond shipyards, we have developed a very close relationship with the new Rosie the Riveter World War II / Home Front National Historical Park. It’s thrilling to have an institutional presence at a National Park, and I used the momentum of our anniversary to mount an exhibition there about Emmy Lou Packard, an artist who created illustrations for the weekly shipyard newspaper. I produced large digital prints from scans made as part of a collaboration with the Richmond Museum of History, and gave slideshow presentations and exhibition tours for our employees and the general public.

Our health plan was founded at the end of World War II, and so I gave a presentation at the Oregon Historical Society in Portland (also a location for Kaiser shipyards) on “More Than War Ships: Kaiser’s WWII Legacies in Healthcare, Childcare, Housing, and Environment” as part of a major exhibition they’d mounted about that 70th.

And, when the public access cable channel C-SPAN approached the Park Service staff about a “Cities Tour” series they were shooting on Oakland, I was recommended to tell the Home Front story. I trotted out a litany of archival goodies and gave my history pitch about our unique contributions to medical and social benefit programs during World War II. The resulting episode aired January 3 and remains online

All of this helped build support for an archival presence in 2020 when we hit 75.








Left: San Francisco Chronicle photo essay on Kaiser Permanente 70th anniversary.

Right: Flyer by U.S. National Park Service for Emmy Lou Packard exhibition at Rosie the Riveter National Park, Richmond, Calif.


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