Friday, November 10, 2006

Box: $5. Looking in box: priceless

So, this morning I went up to our storage room to pull some materials for today's visitor, a young man who is doing a school project on his great-grandfather, a World War I surgeon. I went up to get some items from the Medical Museum Collection, one of our least-used resources. I planned to pull out the German surgical field kit, the nurse's pocket drug kit, and the venereal kit.

Opening the box in which I expected to find the venereal kit, I found a lot more: a set of twenty glass lantern slides donated by former UOMS faculty member Harry Sears. I had assumed that these materials had been pulled out of the Museum Collection sometime between the taking of the digital picture circa 2000 and today. But, lo and behold, there they were, tucked into a little cardboard box with a handwritten sheet indicating the subject of each slide. There are two of the Marquam Hill site before ground was even cleared for the first building up here, and a shot of E.S. West, Wren Gaines, and Hance Haney posing with their catch along the banks of the Willamette. The whole set of twenty was put together for a presentation made to the faculty wives in 1950, so there are also shots of faculty members' children. All in all, more options for display at our next glass lantern slide show!

But, oddly, that wasn't the best find of the morning. In yet another box, I found two boxes of silver bromide glass negatives, donated (and probably taken) by O.B. Wight when he was serving as a major with the Base Hospital 46 in World War I. The digital picture does not do this set justice. We oohed and aahed over each image, some of which were reproduced in the book On active service with Base Hospital 46, edited by Wight and two others from the unit. The plates are in the original boxes from Lumiere & Jougla in Paris; a sticker affixed to one box suggests that Wight shipped them home par avion to relatives here in the States. One plate, an image of the wards decorated for Christmas, is badly cracked, and the others are unbelievably fragile. It's really astonishing that they have lasted this long already. But their immediacy is undiminished--you can positively feel the cold looking at the muddy fields of France.

We can't show these plates on the Balopticon, so interested parties are encouraged to make a trip up to the History of Medicine Room to have a look. We'll be more than happy to stand around for a bit more time marvelling at these beautiful, unique items.


Anonymous said...

I thought that if a picture of the item was taken, the item was added to the finding aid!
Oh, I do hope no patron has lost out on accessing valuable research material due to my inexperience.

Sara Piasecki said...

Mat--don't worry, there is no way that you could have done more to make the Medical Museum items accessible. Taking photos of the items was a great help, and most of those photos are now online in the Digital Resources Library. We've jsut experienced some staffing challenges since you left, and were unable to follow up on projects that had been started.

Allen said...

Hmm...I was googling for pictures of gaines hall for a posting to show my classmates in my new grad program what the building looked like and what the construction was. I found this. :-)

I really need that grant writing class until I can just donate the millions it will take to do this project the way you really want it done. ;-)

Thank you!!