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!

Friday, March 25, 2016

OHSU Poetry Contest 2016: Call for submissions

Calling all campus poets!
OHSU students, staff, faculty and volunteers are invited to submit one to two original, unpublished poems on or before Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016, to be included in the OHSU Library and OHSU WRITEs annual poetry contest.

Prizes will be awarded for the top-rated poem in each of these three categories:
  • OHSU experience
  • Artistic excellence
  • Health and healing
The winning poems will be framed and showcased in the OHSU Library (BICC 3rd floor), and posted on the OHSU Library’s website. The winning authors in each of the three categories will receive a $50 Powell's gift card.

See the Poetry Contest 2016 page for contest guidelines and other details. 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Women's History Month spotlight: Bertha Hallam, pioneering medical librarian

I almost titled this post, "Bertha Hallam was a total boss," and if you don't already agree with me, you will after reading this!

A few months ago I came across the profile, "Portrait of a Librarian," in the Summer 1965 University of Oregon Medical School's "What's Going On?" publication. Honoring Hallam's forty-six years of service (she retired in 1965, the year of publication), the piece describes her upbringing in rural Minnesota, her start as the first UOMS librarian at the NW 23rd and Lovejoy building, and her larger-than-life stature among the medical circles of the Pacific Northwest. Click each page to enlarge and read more about the woman the writer calls a "four-foot, ten-inch dynamo": 

If one looks at Hallam's long list of honors, honorary memberships, and achievements, it becomes clear how passionately she advocated for medical libraries, and how proactively she engaged with the medical communities up on the hill and around the region. She was an honorary member of Oregon State Medical Society, the Multnomah County Medical Society, the Portland Academy of Medicine, and University of Oregon Medical School Alumni Association -- that's not even counting all of her pioneering work in the Medical Library Association! 

So, how did a librarian become such a staggering figure among professional medical associations? I'd like to present you with one example of Hallam's determined advocacy efforts from the Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records. In 1931, the Pacific Northwest Medical Association was hosting their annual meeting in Seattle. Medical professionals from five states and three Canadian provinces were attending. Hallam wrote to Dr. Frederick Epplen, Secretary-Treasurer of the organization, to ask to attend and share the services and new acquisitions that the UOMS Library offered to the members as practitioners. Epplen wrote back to turn down her request:
Frederick Epplen to Bertha Hallam, April 1, 1931, Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records
Undeterred, Hallam took her request up the chain to the Dr. George W. Swift, President-Elect of the PNMA and chair of the Committee on Arrangements for the 1931 meeting, including an attached 2-page list of the services available to Northwest physicians and the new acquisitions the library offered. And when her first letter went unanswered, she persisted! 
Bertha Hallam to George W. Swift, June 16, 1931, Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records
Bertha Hallam to George W. Swift, June 22, 1931, Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records
I am especially fond of her full steam ahead approach evident in her closing line, "If I do not hear from you, Miss Ashworth and I will drive to Seattle Wednesday afternoon." I was also quite pleased to see that Clarice Ashworth Francone, medical illustrator and future head of the medical illustration department at UOMS, was also part of the plan!

So, did her persistence pay off?
George W. Swift to Bertha Hallam, June 23, 1931, Pacific Northwest Medical Association Records
I guess that got Dr. Swift's attention! 

One thing that strikes me about these documents is how they counter the narrative of the twentieth century reference librarian, sitting at the desk and passively waiting for students and faculty to come with questions. In 1931, Bertha Hallam was determinedly pursing the kind of proactive engagement with existing and potential users that liaison librarians are challenged to pursue today -- and she was quite successful! Keep in mind, Bertha Hallam was a female librarian at a relatively recently established medical library, with no postgraduate training, who managed to embed herself with numerous professional medical associations. Talk about a fearless trailblazer! We can all take a lesson from the playbook of "Miss Hallam," wouldn't you say?
Bertha Hallam in the Richard B. Dillehunt Photograph Album, circa 1920s
Happy Women's History Month!

Friday, March 04, 2016

What's in the History of Medicine Room? Portable Medicine

A recent research appointment gave me the opportunity to pull a wide range of doctor's bags from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from our artifact collection. From saddle bags, to buggy bags, to the tidy black bags that we all recognize, we have many examples of instrument and medicine kits designed for the provider on the go -- a far more common circumstance even 50 years ago, especially in rural healthcare in states like Oregon.

Inspired by our abundance of artifacts that fit under the "portable medicine" theme, I've selected a number of my favorite kits for display in the History of Medicine Room. If you're planning on visiting us in the next month or so, you'll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these often quite ingenious kits!

Linen surgical kit, used at Fort Vancouver, c. 1880s:
Detail: needles stored in animal skin
Small insulin kit, c. 1910s, Eli Lilly & Co:

 Dobb kit-style medical bag, containing blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, early 20th century:

Pocket tooled leather surgical kit, belonging to Dr. J. A. Reuter, who practiced in the Dalles, OR, c. 1890s:

 Cigarette-case style pocket medicine kit, containing single-use doses of camphor, ergoline, etc., c. 1920s-1940s:

I have to admit this last case makes me think of a glamorous 1940s lady-about-town, slipping into her elegant gold case for a dose of camphor when the occasion arose. [Disclaimer: this is historical imagination, not historical analysis! Please do disabuse me of this flight of fancy, history of medicine folks!]

A lot of people don't realize that, like our rare books and archives collections, our artifact collections are also open for research. You can search by keyword in this inventory list or for images of artifacts in our digital collections if you're looking for something specific -- or drop me a line and I can connect you with the right materials!

Friday, February 26, 2016

Public Health in Oregon: Discovering Historical Data

With a grant through the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), OHSU Library is digitizing historical collections on public health in Oregon, and providing open access to the scientific data they contain.

We are pleased to announce that a pilot presentation of our work is now available as an online exhibit, titled Public Health in Oregon: Discovering Historical Data.

In addition, all materials digitized for this project are being added to a collection in OHSU Digital Commons.  The collection currently contains over 200 items, including public health surveys, early medical journals, records of the People’s Institute and Portland Free Dispensary, papers from the early career of Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, records of state institutions, and more. Currently, users can download PDFs of digitized items. Work underway includes transcribing and normalizing datasets from these original materials, and adding them to the collection as Excel files.

In 2016 and early 2017, we will complete transcription and normalization of data, and make enhancements to the project based on direct feedback from public health professionals, historians, librarians, and archivists. We are thrilled to make our unique collections available to a broad audience through digitization and data curation.

The project director is Maija Anderson, Director of Curatorial Services. The project team includes Max Johnson, University Archivist; Shahim Essaid, Ontology Development Group; and student assistants Rachel Blume, Sherra Hopkins, Lacey Legel, and Grayce Mack.

This project is supported in whole by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the Oregon State Library. We are eager for feedback on our work: Please contact Maija Anderson at for more information.

New Acquisitions: Oversize materials from Al's Clinic

I'm back!  And it didn't take an entire week either.  I just received some great materials from Al's Clinic--the former Industrial and Immigration Clinic on NW 22nd and Pettygrove.  HC&A Student Assistant, Sylvie Huhn, and I went down to the clinic a few weeks ago and boxed up a wide variety of materials (another blog post in the future, perhaps).  This week I wanted to pass along the visual feast which are these great materials I am about to show off.

Poster:  The Muscular System

Poster: The Skeletal System

First off, we have your standard fair for a clinic; nice illustrations of the inner workings of the human being.  Both in great condition and very detailed.

X-rays . . .

Pregnancy and radiation don't mix.
We found these great posters in the X-ray room (naturally), both are excellent examples of circa 1970s design.  They are in decent condition, with some spotting, missing chunks, and bend lines.

Vision tests

Lastly, we have some vision test charts.  I am not sure if we have anything like that in the archives currently, so they are great additions.

We also got this chart as well.

Vision, humor test?
It appears to be a joke chart, but I was having trouble reading all of it.

Till next time,


Digital Archives: Part I - Files and their relationships

Whoa, he's back!

It's almost been a solid two months since I graced these electronic pages with my portentous ramblings on archival concepts and practice.  As part of a year-long (yeah, let's see if I can sustain this) blog series on digital archives I am going to jump into some "beginning" concepts.  It's a big topic so I wanted to start in some familiar territory; let's talk the relationship of formats in a repository environment.  Shall we - - - -

We are going to start simple with the concept of the Master copy and the derivative copy, or access copy.  This relationship is commonly constructed when digitizing archival materials for a number of reasons:
1) Master copies tend to be large files
2) Due to that file size they are hard to provide access to in a web environment
3) Master copies are not always system-independant
4) Master copies can be considered the "authentic" version, copy or original

Whereas, access copies tend to have these qualities:
1) Much more system-independant sometimes
2) Usually compressed in some manner to save space, but not loss information
3) Easier to provide access to in a web environment

So, brass tacks means that when scanning a photograph from a family album or other legacy source, we will typically create one master copy and one access copy.  They are both maintained to archival standards and both get a full suite of metadata, but the master copy rarely is accessed or opened and usually lives in a "dark archives."  <-- A repository for master copies, rarely, if ever, accessed by patrons.

We format these files according to standards used by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) which specifies these standards for the production of digital master files and digital access copies:

Master copy
DPI: 600
Color:  RGB
Bit-depth: 8 bits per channel
File Format:  TIFF
*Typically no adjustments are done to the photograph with the exception of rotation to ensure a level representation.  Images may be cropped to within a few pixels of the item border.  We sometimes refer to this as an "evidentiary border" because it provides evidence of the completeness of an item.

Access Copy
DPI:  300 (down to 200 in some cases)
Color:  RGB (derived from Master copy)
Bit-depth: 8 bits per channel (derived from Master copy)
File Format: JPEG
*Adjustments are inherited from the Master copy.

After the items are created, one is stored in a dark archives and the other is uploaded to a public facing access-portal (this could be an online exhibit, EDRMS, CMS, or other access-system).  The patrons and users are able to access the files as needed and get what they are looking for, and we can be assured that we always have an "original" master to make a derivative from in case the original gets corrupted, deleted, or we need to verify an access copy against the master (I haven't seen this happen more than once, but that doesn't mean it might not become more common as people become more aware of what can be seen--and hidden--in a digital file/space).

I hope you enjoyed this brief dip into digital archival waters.  I'll be back in the next week or so with more information and hopefully pictures!

All the best,