Thursday, July 28, 2016

Introducing our NLM traveling exhibit, "Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture"

If you visit the OHSU Library in the BICC building in the next few weeks, you’ll notice that Maija and I have installed our traveling NLM exhibit, Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics and Culture. The exhibit will be on display today until 8/15, at which point we will be moving it to our partners at the Q Center in North Portland for them to host for the remainder of its time in Portland (through 9/4).

Here’s a bit more about the exhibit from the National Library of Medicine traveling exhibits site:
“The National Library of Medicine is pleased to present our latest traveling exhibition, Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture. The exhibition explores the rise of AIDS in the early 1980’s and the evolving response to the epidemic over the last 30 years. The title Surviving and Thriving comes from a book written in 1987 by and for people with AIDS that insisted people could live with AIDS, not just die from it. Jennifer Brier, the exhibition curator, explains that ‘centering the experience of people with AIDS in the exhibition allows us to see how critical they were, and continue to be, in the political and medical fight against HIV/AIDS.’ Surviving and Thriving presents their stories alongside those of others involved in the national AIDS crisis.”

We hope you get a chance to stop by, check out the panels, and pick up a brochure. This exhibit feels very timely in its arrival, as we have a stellar research team on campus currently working to develop an HIV vaccine:

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Summer 2016 Exhibit: "Mercury, Marriage, and Magic Bullets"

Maija and I have installed our summer exhibit in the 3rd floor library entrance – swing by and check it out! See below for our full exhibit announcement.

Summer 2016 Exhibit:
Mercury, Marriage, and Magic Bullets: Four Centuries of STD Prevention and Treatment
OHSU Main Library, BICC Building 3rd floor

OHSU Historical Collections & Archives is pleased to announce the opening of our summer exhibit, “Mercury, Marriage, and Magic Bullets: Four Centuries of STD Prevention and Treatment.” This exhibit examines the development of modern medical approaches to sexually transmitted diseases, drawing upon sources in military medicine, public health, clinical research, and even poetry.

The exhibit will be on display June – September 2016  in the OHSU Main Library, on the third floor of the Biomedical Information and Communication Center (BICC) on OHSU’s Marquam Hill campus. For a campus map, as well as customized driving, biking, and transit directions, please visit the interactive OHSU map:

This exhibit is presented in conjunction with the National Library of Medicine’s traveling display, “Surviving and Thriving: AIDS, Politics, and Culture,” hosted by OHSU Library from July 25 – August 15 2016.

For more information, please contact: | 503.494.5587

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Live! Tonight! Smallpox Eradication in Global Context

Smallpox vaccination brochure, c. 1930s, Public Health Survey Records

We hope you can join us this evening at 5pm for Bob H. Reinhardt's lecture, "Variola Vanquished? The Complex History and Legacy of Smallpox Eradication," held in the OHSU Old Library/Auditorium (map). Come at 4:45 for mingling and snacks!

If you can't join us in person, you can watch the livestream of the event here starting at 5pm:

I'll update this post with the recorded video once it's online, as well.

See you soon!

You can view the lecture recording here:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

History of Medicine Collection spotlight: death & the physician

Today I came across a really delightful bit of medical humanities in our History of Medicine collection: Dr. Albert Scott Warthin's The Physician of the Dance of Death; a Historical Study of the Evolution of the Dance of Death Mythus in Art, published in 1931. The book explores the changing depiction of the physician figure in the evolving forms of the Danse Macabre, or Dance of Death, which originated in the late medieval period and endured with fascinating modifications over ensuing centuries.

Dr. Warthin, a pathologist and Director of Pathological Laboratories at University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, lays out a personal narrative of his interest in the subject in the book's forward:

By drawing together the many images of the physician in the Dance of Death, Warthin combines visual analysis with historical references to trace the changing depiction of the physician. Warthin notes, "From the standpoint of costume alone, such a study might be worthwhile, but more important than this, it should reveal something of the physician's social standing through the ages, how and what he appears to the layman, and the latter's opinion of him" (p. 7).

I must tell you that Dr. Warthin's writing is quite lively and compelling as he journeys through the centuries, touching on the interplay of death, medicine and society in European and American cultural history. Discussing the late Middle Ages and the origins of the Dance of Death, he writes:
It was a neurotic and psychopathic age, as shown in its superstitions, its religious fanaticism, its sensuality, belief in witchcraft and magic, its pleasure in torture and the dancing manias of the Rhine villages and in a thousand other manifestations of an unbalanced and uncontrolled mentality. To the mind of the period the visions of the Apocalypse made special appeal. A natural, though pathologic, reaction to the environment of the times! (p. 6)

Warthin traces the evolution of the physician in these depictions from a complicit accomplice of death in the early modern period (see Fig. 36) to a helpless mortal, surprised and outwitted by death in nineteenth century parody and satire (Figs. 68 & 82). 

Warthin concludes with a meditation on the meaning of the physician and the Dance of Death in the aftermath of World War I, and considers changes in the portrayed relationship between death and the doctor. Discussing Walt Draesner's 1922 silhouette illustration, "Death and the Anatomist" (Fig. 91), Warthin relates that the work was dedicated to the two brothers of the artist who perished in the war. He notes, "The expression on the skeleton's face as he throttles the old Professor of Anatomy is that of tense and determined cruelty." 

The text concludes with a suggestion for a new iteration of the Dance of Death: "Out of this theme surely some inspired artist could create a Dance of Death that would serve as a memorial of the important part played by medicine in the great catastrophe." 

The Physician of the Dance of Death is available for in-person research in the History of Medicine room. Contact us to make an appointment! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

May 24th: Variola Vanquished? The Complex History and Legacy of Smallpox Eradication

Please join us Tuesday, May 24th, at 5:00pm, for the last History of Medicine Society Lecture of the 2015-2016 season:

"Variola Vanquished? The Complex History and Legacy of Smallpox Eradication"
Bob H. Reinhardt, Willamette Heritage Center

Tuesday, May 24th, 2016 at 5:00pm
OHSU Auditorium
Light refreshments served at 4:45pm

In May of 1980, the World Health Organization declared that smallpox had been eradicated.  But in July of 2014, three forgotten vials of the smallpox virus were found at a laboratory in Maryland.  How is this possible, and how worried should we be?  The End of a Global Pox: America and the Eradication of Smallpox in the Cold War Era explains the causes, development, and legacy of global effort to eradicate smallpox in the 1960s and 1970s—a remarkable transnational attempt to master the nonhuman world that both expressed and transcended the global Cold War and the American liberal state’s emphasis on modernization and development. The eradication program that evolved in this context ultimately produced a world free of smallpox as a disease, yet still haunted by the presence of the smallpox virus in high-security laboratories and in the imagination of people throughout the globe

Bob H. Reinhardt is the author of The End of a Global Pox: America and the Eradication of Smallpox in the Cold War Era (University of North Carolina Press).  He received his PhD in history from the University of California, Davis, and is currently the Executive Director of the Willamette Heritage Center in Salem, Oregon, where he works in the fields of environmental and public history, in addition to ongoing research in the history of public health.
For customized driving, biking, and transit directions to the venue, please visit the interactive OHSU map:  

For more information, please contact: or 503.494.5587

We hope to see you there!