Friday, October 06, 2006

School year reminiscences

To answer a patron reference question, I had the great good fortune this morning to be required to read through alumna Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy's unpublished memoir "My Medical School (1890-1894): As I Remember," which is contained in one of our two Lovejoy collections (Archives 2001-004). Vivid, hilarious, revealing, almost certainly true--the 21-page essay is a fascinating peek into medical education, and life in Portland, in the closing years of the 19th century.

Choice tidbits that caught my attention:

"Homeopathy, the 'new' school of medicine, was popular in 1890 and I might have gone wrong if I had had the price. That school, I understood, attracted women not only because of its principles, but because they couldn't get into the old schools along the Atlantic Coast. This seemed strange, for on the Northwest Pacific Coast medicine had always been coeducational. The old Willamette School, a Methodist institution, had been open to women from the start in the sixties, and everybody knew that they were better doctors than men." [emphasis added]

"While I had no papers to prove my fitness for the study of medicine I had learned a good deal in the way of diagnosis and prognosis before I had ever heard those words, and I knew from the objective symptoms of the Dean that my case was not hopeless. What I didn't know was that the school was in desperate need of students and funds, and that sixty dollars [half the required tuition] looked as good to him as it did to me."

"Among the twenty students in the three classes attending the session of 1890-91 there were three of us women and we were certainly well treated. None of the boys threw eggs at us. Hen-medic was a term we never heard except in fun, to which the natural response was, man-midwife." [emphasis in original]

"Midwifery in our school was taught mostly on a leather manikin, a saving substitute for sentient flesh. All kinds of cases were demonstrated, and only a leather mother and child could have survived the instrumental deliveries of the athletes in our class."

Sometimes it seems like the Lovejoy Show around here: all Esther, all the time. But it's easy to see why this is the case--we had the staff time and resources to devote to what's called "item-level description" of the collection. That means the inventory lists every single thing contained in the boxes, and not just types of things or categories of material or folder headings. When you create an item-level list, people know exactly what's there and whether it would be useful to their research. And if you go ahead and put that on the web, then researchers around the world can email you and ask you to check one specific thing. If no one knows exactly what's in a collection, researchers won't find it, we won't know to recommend it to them, and so no one will use it. Simple cause and effect.

So, I plan to add some notes to the Hilda E. Drum Collection inventory (Archives 1999-013) to indicate to users that there are many, many photographs of Charles Dotter included in that collection. Young Charlie, older Charlie, always smiling. Plus, photographs of Hilda and Rosie the Elephant (she'd broken her foot--Rosie, not Hilda--and needed x-rays), and Hilda with the emperor penguins (they had aspergillosis, but before being diagnosed, treated, and released, they did get out and terrorize patients on one of the hospital wards. Hear the story from Joe Adams in his oral history interview). I didn't know these photos were there until someone asked to see the collection for a completely different reason. Learn something new everyday!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Library design and construction, or, So much for the power of research

Currently, I am trying to track down information on the original design of both Mackenzie Hall (called the Medical Science Building until its rededication in 1923) and the Library/Auditorium Building (affectionately referred to by all as "Old Library" since the Main Library moved across the street to the BICC in 1991).

While I have not yet uncovered the specific information I am seeking, I did run across a four-page letter sent to Dean Richard Dillehunt by Librarian Bertha Hallam on February 28, 1938, in which Ms. Hallam details all the things a proper library should be. This would have arrived on Dillehunt's desk just as the planning for the new library building was getting underway. Funding had been secured (in equal parts from Dr. John E. Weeks, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Public Works Administration) for what was to be the first stand-alone library building in the School's history.

In true information-organization style, Ms. Hallam breaks her discourse into sections, each clearly labeled with underlined headers in capital letters. The first, ARCHITECT, gives references to persons who might help in selecting the proper candidate. PLACING OF BUILDING notes that "The building should be placed so that the reading rooms have north light." BUILDING PLANS suggests that the Auditorium be located on the second floor. STACKS would need to accommodate at least 100,000 to 150,000 volumes, with ample room for expansion. Helpfully, she even attached a sketch plan (which, sadly, has been lost to the ages).

Dillehunt used the same architect that had been used to build Mac Hall; I have no indication that he was particularly familiar with library facility design. Since the building is oriented with its long sides facing east and west, we have a lovely view of Mt. Hood (or did, before the Kohler Pavilion went up) but very few rooms with a northern exposure. Of course, the Auditorium, now the most heavily used area of the building, is on the lowest floor. I'm guessing that if there were ample room for expansion, we wouldn't have needed to lease off-campus storage space for older volumes.

So much for Bertha's influence on the building plans. I have no doubt that she was highly esteemed by Dillehunt and was so even after the library was complete. Dedicated in 1940, the building is starting to show its age. It still houses a large part of the library collections, including our little History of Medicine Room. The Archives are housed on the fourth floor. Oil portraits of former Deans, Presidents, and faculty members adorn the walls of the second-floor meeting rooms. Part of the school's history, the Old Library also contains a large portion of its historical materials. Long may she stand!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

In memoriam: Harold M. Erickson, M.D.

The OHSU community lost another member recently: Dr. Harold Erickson passed away on August 2 at the age of 98. (The Oregonian printed a notice of the upcoming memorial service in this morning's edition.) Dr. Erickson was a graduate of UOMS, Class of 1933; afterwards, he completed the very first pediatric surgery residency here at Doernbecher Memorial Hospital for Children. He wrote a short memoir of that experience, which we have here in the PNW Archives Collection.

Erickson went on to earn his MPH degree from Johns Hopkins and returned to Oregon as director of the state's maternal and child health programs (1940-1942). He also served as state health officer from 1945-1960. A life-long proponent of public health measures, Erickson wrote a book in 1993 called Public health services for all: revitalizing a shattered plan, which is available in the OHSU Library. Erickson had actually resigned his post as health officer here in Oregon in 1960 to protest inadequate state support for public health; he spent the majority of his remaining career in California.

As the Oregonian obituary notes, remembrances can be sent to a pediatric nursing scholarship fund, established in the name of his late wife Marjorie Porter, at the OHSU Foundation.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Portraits of greatness

I've been cooling my heels on processing the photographic materials in the Proof Collection since we ran out of mylar negative sleeves last week. This morning, I finally remembered that we do have other photographs that need attention: the unprocessed glass lantern slides in the Historical Image Collection. We have lots of paper sleeves for those, plus interest was very high when we did our short slide show for library staff a month or so ago. (Of course, once you sleeve the lantern slides, they get fatter, and you can't put as many into one box. So, now we need more lantern slide boxes, but that's an order for another day.)

The first box I pulled off the shelf in our storage room had a small note inside: "2 slide boxes from Dr. Pearson, January 1974." Dr. Tony Pearson was a longtime faculty member and former chair of the anatomy department who had donated several other things to the collections here, including some oil paintings from his office and this cute little mallet. Our accession register had listed a "Tony Pearson Collection" as the first numbered collection (1997-001); when we were unable to locate manuscripts or personal papers in the backlog of unprocessed materials we assumed it was lost. Lo and behold--there it was in the image collection!

Unlike the scrapbooks of campus photos and candid shots of faculty and students that make up the Daniel Labby, Richard Dillehunt, George Porter, or Charles Norris collections, these lantern slides from Pearson illustrated his interest in the history of medicine: the collection is primarily portraits of the Great Men of Medicine, with some places thrown in for good measure. You can almost gauge the physician's celebrity from the number of slides of him (Galen-3, Pasteur-2, Malpighi-2). Other names are not as familiar: Louis Ranvier (discoverer of the myelin sheath), Johann Peter Frank (public health pioneer). But there is Skoda, looking like a schoolboy. Osler, sitting in the garden.

It's interesting to see these today, when the announcement of the winners of the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine was printed in the Oregonian. Craig C. Mello and Andrew Z. Fire won for their discovery of RNA interference. Will their names live on, like John Hunter and Ambroise Pare? And what format will their pictures come to us in: 35mm slides? PowerPoint files? Maybe jpeg, tiff, psd... We'll be ready!

Monday, October 02, 2006


Today marks the beginning of National Nurse-Midwifery Week. The OHSU Nurse-Midwifery Faculty Practice is celebrating the occasion with a display in the Hatfield Atrium tomorrow. Here in HC&A, we have many books on midwifery, old and (relatively) new, which you can see just by doing a keyword search on "midwifery" in the catalog and then limiting to location "special collections."

But what is history without a little visual interest? Although they didn't call themselves midwives, the staff at the well-baby clinic of the People's Institute and Portland Free Dispensary certainly have their hands full with newborns in this photograph in the Digital Resources Library. Upstairs in the Medical Museum Collection, we actually have the baby scale used by alumna Dr. Jesse Laird Brodie during her many years as a practicing physician here in Portland. Unfortunately we don't have a picture of that, but we do have copies of her interesting autobiography, Dr. Jessie, the Odyssey of a Woman Physician.

If you've seen the recent cinematic version of the Laurence Sterne opus Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, you'll probably never think about forceps in the same way again. We have more forceps in the MMC than you can shake a stick at, including this quartet donated by Dr. W.L. Bishop.

By the way, if any of you out there know what this device is, let us know--something like an early traction device?