Friday, April 24, 2015

New Accessions: Dr. Blanchard's Presentation on Iceland Spar

About a week ago I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Blanchard during a History of Medicine Lecture Series steering committee meeting.  Dr. Blanchard donated one of the first sets of materials in an on-going donation to the archives.  This accession was composed of materials he used for his presentation on Iceland Spar that was given at the November meeting of the Northwest Independent Scholar Association.  The panels from the presentation were displayed at the Casey Eye Institute for a while as well.

The presentation panels

Iceland Spar, also called Optical calcite, is a crystal formed of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and was found initially in Iceland, however, functional mines all over the world have developed since its discovery.

Blanchard’s research begins with Erasmus Bartholin who wrote the first scientific description of the Iceland Spar, but who also concluded much work was yet needed to understand the properties of light based on his observations of the spar.  Blanchard’s research then touches on the work of Christiaan Huygens, a Dutch scientist, whose work focused on light refraction.  Huygens tested his theories on the Iceland Spar, and concluded that more work was needed to understand light.  Blanchard notes that Huygens’ theories did not gain much traction at the time.

Discussion of Newton's theories

A breakdown of the mineral properties of calcite
However Newton’s theories did.  Newton’s theories of light which were not debunked due to the nature of the Iceland Spar were widely accepted for over a century

Here’s a closer look at the “dual” nature of the spar:
A little piece of text that typically sits under the calcite

The calcite

The calcite sitting over the text, note the doubling effect
The Iceland Spar has unique applications in ophthalmology including uses in glaucoma management and ophthalmoscopy.  Outside of its use in ophthalmology, the spar was used by Vikings to navigate in cloudy weather.  In addition, calcite was used for bomb sites in World War II.

For more detail about the history of calcite and the theories of light that surround it, please visit the Historical Collections & Archives.

A Visit from the School of Nursing Archives Committee

This week we were fortunate to host a visit from the committee of School of Nursing [SON] alumnae responsible for the safe transfer of the SON Archives collection to HC&A. These dedicated committee members spent countless hours gathering and identifying the materials that represented decades of the school's history. They worked closely with Karen Peterson, our since-retired University Archivist, and ensured that materials were inventoried and preserved in archival boxes before they even came to the archives - it was quite a "turn-key" collection for us, thanks to the efforts of this dedicated team!

Our visit started with a tour of the repository area where the materials are stored, where we discussed the preservation concerns we addressed and our methods for storing the materials in a logical and accessible manner.
Image via Mark Kemball, OHSU Foundation
Discussions included our recently-completed project to store the group of SON uniforms and capes that comprise quite a sizable series in the SON collection. Our student assistant Crystal, who took charge of the project, will be addressing this feat in an upcoming blog post! 
I call it, "Anatomy of a Nursing Cape Preservation Box"
After touring the stacks and discussing how HC&A addressed preservation issues for the diverse array of materials, we adjourned to the History of Medicine room to show off our new space and share a preview of our planned Fall 2015 exhibit of the collection.

On our reading room table, we displayed some representative selections for a sneak peak of the exhibit, which will run from September through December of 2015 in the main lobby of the OHSU Library. The lamps pictured below mark a tradition carried on during the "capping ceremonies" at commencement each year, pictured in this favorite image from our Historical Images Collection. We also displayed several items related to Multnomah Hospital Training School, which predated the University of Oregon Medical School's Department of Nursing Education, itself a precursor to University of Oregon School of Nursing and the current Oregon Health & Science University School of Nursing (did you catch all those name changes?!).
SON commencement lamp, next to eponymous yearbook!
Diploma from Multnomah Hospital Training School, SON's precursor
We also brought out a selection of yearbooks, which are always one of my favorite items in a collection like this. Often yearbooks offer great images that aren't represented elsewhere in the archives, like all of the wonderful candid student activities photos in these yearbooks from 1939 and 1949!
1939 "Pylon", the School of Nursing yearbook
1949 yearbook
As one of our visitors pointed out, the yearbooks also provide great visual identification assistance when it comes to the textiles: Changes in caps, aprons, capes, and collars throughout the years are documented and definitely dated in the yearbooks, providing a great visual accompaniment to the wonderful scroll of nursing uniform changes created by committee member Elaine Mahoney, RN, MPH.

We are so incredibly fortunate to have such excellent allies and partners-in-archives in the SON Archives committee. As we noted during the visit, HC&A can only preserve and share the historical materials that people think to conserve and transfer or donate to us. It is the foresight of individuals like these dedicated alumnae that ensures that records like those of the School of Nursing become part of the history of the health sciences. We are also very grateful to Mark Kemball of the OHSU Foundation for arranging this wonderful visit!

The complete finding aid to the collection may be accessed here:

Stay tuned as we ramp up preparations for the Fall 2015 School of Nursing Archives exhibit this summer!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Garrison-Morton database now available from!

Wow! The fifth edition of Morton's Medical Bibliography (Garrison-Morton for short, or G-M for shorter) is now freely available as an interactive database, thanks to rare book dealer and scholar Jeremy Norman. This is great news for researchers in medical history, for whom this text is indispensable. As Mr. Norman announces,
"This standard reference work for the history of medicine, biology, and dentistry was originated by Fielding H. Garrison, and expanded and revised through four editions by Leslie T. Morton. It was further revised and expanded by Jeremy M. Norman for the fifth edition. The fifth edition, published in 1991, and the last edition in book form, contained nearly 9000 entries, most of which were annotated. The new revised web version, offered free of charge, incorporates interactive features and other enhancements which significantly improve usability."
I use Garrison-Morton regularly when reviewing book donations and considering purchases. I have an older print edition in my office, which is much the worse for wear. The library has many copies too, of course. However, none ever seemed to be around when I needed them most (in the stacks, in a donor's basement, at home browsing book dealer catalogs). The interactive nature of the online version also makes it easy to browse the 9000 entries. While we're all about print copies when it comes to rare books themselves, it's great to have a free online G-M available for researching them!

Friday, April 17, 2015

New Accessions - Nurse Midwifery Program Image Collection

The past month or so has been a flurry of accessioning and resource description of a variety of unique archival materials; we have dealt with radioactive materials, we've explored a chamber and there are even more strange and unusual additions to discuss in the coming weeks.  For this week, I wanted to get back to our regular series on highlighting new accessions from the university and other health sciences groups.

This week we have a fantastic accession from the Nurse Midwifery Program.  This accession came to us by way of Meg Langford's work with the School of Nursing.  The accession is made up of a total of 2 scrapbooks, seen here:

These scrapbooks detail, in images and several documents, the early formation of the Nurse Midwifery Program here at OHSU.  Included in both books are a high number of images including ones of professors, students, gatherings, and celebrations.  Along with the images there are several documents including brochures, newspaper clippings, and an issue of Nursing Progress (Spring 1990) which features nurse midwife Linda Wheeler on the cover and has an article on the midwife program as well as a spotlight on Carol Howe, R.N., C.N.M., D.NSc., Associate Professor of Family Nursing.

Spring 1990 issue of Nursing Progress
Here are some additional images showing pages from the scrapbook:

Program brochure

First page of book 1

These two books contain some very unique images and text from the history of this program.  Similar to many of our image collections on medical, dental or nursing students these images give us a sense of the people involved, locate them within time and place and provide context for their work.

Program image and booklet of historical photos
Meg and I have a plan to digitize the materials as part of the transfer agreement and will most likely have scans available during the processing phase of fully gaining control over the materials.  One of the biggest issues with scrapbooks (don't get me wrong, I LOVE scrapbooks) is that many times the materials they are constructed from contain high levels of acid-releasing paper products, utilize plastic coverings that after time merge with images on the emulsion level of the photograph or they contain massive amounts of adhesives that either degrade into a fine pseudo-sticky powder that effects the images, off-gas which can discolor the image or cause degradation of the inks or the adhesive can slowly penetrate the back photo leading to a variety of preservation issues (ripping, discoloration and loss of structural integrity of the actual photograph).

Paging card for the program
When mitigating these issues, archivists tend to deconstruct the scrapbooks paying close attention to pagination, preservation issues and content maintenance.  We use the same processes as with a records-based or manuscript accession, however there is more attention paid towards keeping the content structure of the scrapbooks together in their original order due to the close relationship of information bearing labels, highly volatile photographic materials and other preservation conflicts that can occur with the mixing of various materials formats.

The collection is open and available for research, please contact us to set up an appointment to view the materials.

Till next week,

Thursday, April 16, 2015

May 8th History of Medicine Society Lecture: The Philadelphia Chromosome

If you've been following Ken Burns' most recent PBS documentary series, "Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies," you're going to want to mark your calendar for our upcoming History of Medicine Society Lecture on May 8th. Jessica Wapner will be joining us to discuss her book on the discovery of the Philadelphia Chromosome and the pioneering work of researchers, including Dr. Brian Druker, in identifying and treating chronic myelogenous leukemia:

“The Philadelphia Chromosome - From Bench to Bookshelf”
Jessica Wapner, science writer and author 

Friday, May 8th, 2015
Public lecture: 12:15pm
Location: Old Library Auditorium
Light refreshments served at noon

Jessica Wapner is a science writer whose work focuses primarily on the science, medicine and social factors determining disease and health.  Her book, “The Philadelphia Chromosome – A Genetic Mystery, a Lethal Cancer, and the Improbable Invention of a Lifesaving Drug,” was published by The Experiment in 2013 and was named as one of the top ten nonfiction books of 2013 by the Wall Street Journal.  Ms. Wapner has previously served as founding editorial director and managing editor for the medical journals Clinical Advances in Hematology & Oncology and Gastroenterology & Hepatology.

The lecture will begin at 12:15 pm in the OHSU Old Library Auditorium. Light refreshments served at noon. Lectures are free and open to the public. 

For further inquiries or to request a disability accommodation, contact Meg Langford,, 503-494-5587.

Friday, April 10, 2015

National Public Health Week post: Firsts from the Oregon State Board of Health

In honor of National Public Health Week, I thought I'd share two items from the history of public health in Oregon, from our Pacific Northwest Archives collection! Here we have two "firsts" from the Oregon State Board of Health: On the left is the very first biennial report of the Oregon State Board of Health to the Governor of Oregon, published in 1905, and on the right is the board's first bulletin, "The story of small-pox in Oregon and its testimony to the value of vaccination", published in 1903.

These publications provide a fascinating window into the primary concerns of the state's early public health officials. According to the first Biennial Report, the Oregon State Board of Health was created by the Legislative Assembly of 1903, which is noted as the same year that the National Conference of State Boards of Health adopted a standard set of birth and death blanks to be used in vital statistics forms for the United States. As you can see from the numbered list below, infectious disease and sanitation were mainstays of public health activities one hundred plus years ago. 

What struck me was the prominence of issues of simply ensuring clean supplies of water and milk to the population. Thinking about the date, I realized that milk pasteurization wasn't widespread in the United States until several decades later! 

Bulletin No. 1 for the Oregon State Board of Health concerns what was then a continuing epidemic of smallpox in Oregon and in other states. 

The bulletin focuses in particular on an outbreak that occurred in central Oregon, which the authors take pains to identify as "one vast sanitarium," owing to the "variety of diet, pure water, and magnificent air to be found there." Yet, ominously, "into this Eden comes the smallpox serpent, concealed in the body of a young Pennsylvanian farmer, bent upon that polite form of robbery of the Government which has made Oregon famous -- known as the 'timber claim.'" (If anyone thinks that historical public health bulletins make for dry reading, I invite you to investigate the dramatic flair of this report's authors!) Between Prineville and Shaniko, the young farmer was taken with chills and "some sort of an eruption," declared by the physician in the party to be the results of poison oak. This was, of course, an unfortunate misdiagnosis, and the young man died of smallpox several days later, after a local physician correctly identified the illness. 

Local authorities moved quickly to report the incident to the State Board of Health and to vaccinate those who had made contact with the unfortunate young farmer. The bulletin goes on to follow the detail the three "crops" of resulting cases arising in Prineville and Shaniko, and reports with satisfaction that, "in a population of certainly not to exceed four thousand souls in the county, thirty two hundred were vaccinated within two weeks." The authors attribute the great success in containing the outbreak to successful vaccination: 

In the same vein, and, in my opinion, a slightly dramatic twist, on the next page they connect the Prineville and Shaniko outbreaks' origins to the young Pennsylvania farmer's resistance to getting vaccinated!

It's pretty interesting to note that two of the central issues that the Oregon State Board of Health was grappling with over a century ago, milk supply safety and vaccination against infectious diseases, are still pertinent today: A simple Google search on the history of milk pasteurization turns up numerous sites decrying pasteurized milk laws and exhorting the benefits of raw milk "as nature intended." Similarly, vaccine resistance and its effects have been put in the spotlight recently with high-profile outbreaks of diseases such as measles.

We have many, many more public health materials in our collections. The great news is that our LSTA grant project, Public Health in Oregon: Accessing Historical Data for Scientific Discovery (which Maija wrote about in October), will make these materials more useful and accessible for research! This project is just getting started, but everyone here at HC&A is quite excited about all of the possibilities it offers. Happy National Public Health Week to us, and to all!