Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Inspector's report from the Oregon Insane Asylum, 1872

Another post by former HC&A volunteer Laurel Narizny, who is now Metadata Librarian at Caltech.

“Report of the inspecting physician of the insane asylum, Oregon, to the legislative assembly thereof” [an item in HC&A's Pacific Northwest Collection] is an interesting predecessor to Ken Kesey’s novel of a mid-twentieth-century Oregon mental hospital, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

In September 1872 Andrew D. Ellis, visiting physician at the Oregon Insane Asylum, wrote to L. F. Grover, Oregon’s governor at the time:

“...the percentage of cures is remarkably in excess of that of many older and younger institutions in the East. This is gratifying to our young State, and is attributable to a series of causes:

“First, The Asylum not being overcrowded, the contractor having spared no expense in extent of necessary buildings, the patients receive more attention from the medical corps and the skilled wardens, whereby the average duration of treatment is reduced and a rapid cure results.

“Second, The healthy location of the Institution, with a perfect drainage, secures the complete health of the entire household.

“Third, The abundant supply of good, wholesome water from the springs on the land belonging to the Institution, promotes the health, cleanliness and comfort of the patients. This is a desideratum that all hospitals for the insane do not possess, and, in a number of instances, where the supply of water was not sufficient to accommodate the increased number of patients, buildings heretofore used as asylums were abandoned, resulting in the loss of many hundred thousand dollars. We can, therefore, congratulate the State upon the fact that the present Institution will never have to be abandoned for this cause.

“Oregon has pursued a wise and humane course of conduct in not making any change since she first undertook to properly care for her insane wards, thus securing and retaining the best ability for those so terribly afflicted with the worst of ‘all the ills that flesh is heir to.’ Experience constantly adds to the ability and efficacy of those who make the subject of the treatment and care of the insane a specialty; hence, as few changes in the medical and attendants’ staff as is consistent with the proper treatment and care of the insane are made.

“We can congratulate ourselves that the Oregon Hospital for the Insane is, in every respect, a curative institution, and not merely an Asylum for the restraint of these poor unfortunates, who are entrusted to its care.”

Given our rather more advanced knowledge of mental illness and its treatment today, one has to wonder: were there Nurse Ratcheds in 1872?

--Laurel Narizny, HC&A Volunteer

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Harvard Library project shares medical community's reactions to Boston Marathon bombing

A colleague at Harvard passes along this announcement about a library project that may be of interest to our readers. She writes:

"This new project is capturing, digitizing and archiving stories and materials sent to medical professionals who saved countless lives following the Boston Marathon bombing. “Strong Medicine,” run by the History of Medicine at Harvard’s Countway Library, is collecting photographs, cards, oral history and other materials that illustrate the Boston medical community’s experiences following the bombings. Some items already collected include:

  • A moving letter sent from a 10-year-old amputee to patients at Brigham and Women’s who lost limbs.

  • Hand-crocheted blankets that Blankets for Boston sent to patients.

  •  Recorded interviews with medical professionals on what they experienced immediately after the bombing and following.

  • Get well cards from children and classrooms from across MA and the country."

Above: A card collected for the project at Harvard's Countway Library of Medicine.

The project is featured in the Harvard Gazette and the Harvard Library Website. Contact kate_kondayen@harvard.edu for additional information.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Esther Pohl Lovejoy's medals in exhibit at CSU-Sacramento

Included in our Esther Pohl Lovejoy collection is an array of medals she received for her humanitarian work. A selection of these medals are on loan to California State University-Sacramento for the exhibit The Greeks on the Road to World War I. The exhibit runs from April 1-26 at the University Library Gallery.


Dr. Lovejoy served with the American Red Cross in World War I. In 1919, she became President of the American Women's Hospital Service, leading relief services across Europe and the Near East, particularly Greece. We're proud to share Dr. Lovejoy's medals for this exhibit.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Neuroscience exhibit extended

If you didn't have a chance to see Invention and Innovation: The Founders of Neuroscience in Oregon, you're not too late! By popular demand, the exhibit has been extended until April 20th.

The exhibit is open to the public. It is located on the OHSU campus, BICC building 3rd floor, Main Library lobby. For those unable to visit, we also recently posted a PDF of the exhibit brochure, which includes essays by OHSU faculty on the founders of neuroscience in Oregon.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

HC&A receives Donin collection of rare books on ophthalmology

On March 12th, ten unassuming boxes were delivered to HC&A via Fed Ex:

I like to say that working in special collections is like Christmas every day. The boxes contained expertly packed rare books on ophthalmology, dating from the early eighteenth century to the late twentieth century. Opening just one of the boxes at random yielded a trove of wonderful titles:

 Above:  Jean Teilleux, Observation sur une pupille artificielle (Paris: Sétier, 1826); Albrecht von Graefe, De l’iridectomie appliquée au glaucome et des affections glaucomateuses (Brussels, 1858); Ernst Wilhelm von Bruecke, Anatomische Beschreibung des menschlichen Augapfels (Berlin: G. Reimer, 1847)

The books are a generous gift from Mrs. Jacqueline C. Donin of Claremont, California. Mrs. Donin's husband, ophthalmologist Jerry F. Donin, M.D., built a significant collection of rare books in his field. We are honored to have been selected as a new home for 110 titles from his collection. Dr. Donin's books will bring additional distinction to our holdings in ophthalmology, an emerging area of emphasis for our rare book collections.

Highlights from the collection include Antoine Maître-Jan's  Traité des maladies de l’oeil et des remedies propres pour leur guerison enrichi d’experiences de physique (1707), the first ophthalmology textbook in Western medicine; six different editions of Richard Liebreich's  Atlas der Ophthalmmoscopie, the first atlas of ophthalmoscopy; Julius Hirschberg's nine-volume Geschichte der Augenheilkunde (1899-1918), a monumental history of ophthalmology; and many classic titles by
Albrecht von Graefe, Maurice Constantin Perrin, and Antonio Scarpa.

The books will be cataloged and accessible to the public in the History of Medicine Room. We are also looking forward to holding a public exhibit of selections from the collection, targeted for 2015.