Friday, February 16, 2007

New Osleriana uncovered

This morning, I uncovered in our collections a previously uncataloged pamphlet by Sir William Osler:

Thomas Dover (of Dover's Powder) : physician and buccaneer
Published: Baltimore: The Friedenwald Company, 1896.

The pamphlet had been filed under Thomas Dover in the Vertical Files. While Thomas Dover certainly was a physician of historical renown (Dover's powder having been a popular 18th century remedy), more scholars will undoubtedly be interested in the pamphlet because of its author.

The pamphlet will presently be cataloged for the History of Medicine Collection. This will be the first copy recorded in the consortium of Oregon-Washington libraries, the Cascade Alliance, to which OHSU belongs. Only 13 American libraries list copies in WorldCat, an international bibliographic utility.

This is a wonderful addition to our current collection of works by Osler!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Another collection goes online

Our inexorable march towards progress takes another step today as the inventory for the Vertical Files goes online in PDF format. Converted from an "in-house database solution" (i.e., an Excel spreadsheet), the listing is somewhat clumsy but nevertheless provides researchers with remote access to our holdings of this sort of ephemera.

As I mentioned yesterday, the Vertical Files are obscure in origin and historically underused; check the inventory out for yourself, and see whether there isn't something of interest for your next project--or, at least, something that makes you go "Hmmmm..."

Stay tuned for clearance of the next (and last) hurdle in the collections inventories race: the Historical Image Collection Inventory, in all its 100-plus-pages, will be the next to make an appearance, hopefully sometime this spring.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

One small postcard, three important names in medicine

I'll spare you a hearts-and-flowers post in honor of St. Valentine's Day (altho' I will put in a quick plug for our current exhibit on Valentine Prichard and the People's Institute, in case you haven't see it--ok, I guess I didn't spare you).

I came across a postcard today in the Vertical Files. The Vertical Files are one of those legacy collections of materials that no one really seems to have a good handle on; as a result, the collection as a whole is seriously under-utilized. Familiarizing myself a little with the contents, I pulled a few items, including a postcard that was filed under "Leake, Chauncey D.: Postcard from."

I was curious about this primarily because we also have a Biographical File on Dr. Leake; since my understanding was that people who made it into the Bio Files did not make it into the Vertical Files (and vice versa), I wanted to get to the bottom of the what Leake-iana we had where.

Dr. Chauncey Leake, a pharmacologist and medical historian, never worked here in Portland, but he did make appearances here to lecture on DMSO; a news item about a local lecture was what landed him in our Bio Files. DMSO, of course, is , the pet substance of OHSU researcher Dr. Stanley Jacob, and it is to Jacob that the postcard in the Vertical File is written.

So, either the postcard could get moved to the Stan Jacob folder in the Bio Files (which are primarily reserved for OHSU-affiliated individuals), or, the news clipping about Leake could be added to the Vertical Files (sort of a who's-who listing of famous medical personages).

But wait, there's more! The note on the postcard itself presumes a different listing:
"On the way home & getting ready for Wed. Oct. 5--if the meeting is still on, & then for Vienna Tues & Wed Nov 8 & 9, & abstract ready on Oct. 15! Spain is great, & medicine oriented toward promoting health. In Cordoba, Maimonides, [unreadable], and Averroes are still revered. This fine bronze [on postcard] by Louis [unreadable] was unveiled in 1964. Give this card to med. history collection in library. All best to ... " [Emphasis added]
So, we were expected to list it under Maimonides, as an image of the old master. But who's more interesting to modern researchers? Maimonides? Leake? Jacob? Another case of needing to presume something about researchers, but not wanting to presume too much!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

President's Residence, or, House that wasn't quite a home

Sometime not long ago, an anonymous donor sent me an 8 x 10 glossy of the old President's Residence through campus mail. A small group of people stands on the lawn in front of the home, deep in discussion. Prior to that donation, our only images of the old house were on strip negatives--which are considered, of course, "master" images, but are quite a bit more difficult for patrons to view.

Looking at the photo, you have to wonder what the coterie on the lawn is discussing. The residence became a point of controversy both on campus and in the popular press when former University President Leonard Laster first came to Oregon in 1978. Several of our oral history interviewees recall the episode, in which purchase of the house, promised to Laster upon his acceptance of the position, was denied by the state legislature. While the details are somewhat murky, it's clear that town-gown relations were strained by these domestic arrangements.

Bad feeling had already been generated in the community when the first president, Dr. Lewis Bluemle, decided to sell the original presidential residence, which had been a gift to the university from prominent Portlander Harold Miller. According to some accounts, the home was apparently not to Mrs. Bluemle's taste. The Bluemles subsequently moved into a rented home on Seventeenth and Elm; when Bluemle left and Laster came on, the State Board of Higher Education planned to purchase the home for university use. At the last minute, the legislature refused to authorize the purchase, and the Lasters were left homeless, with a van full of furniture. MaryAnn Lockwood, in her interview, credits the quick work of Board member Lou Perry with finding a suitable abode for the Lasters.

Once settled in to the newly leased house, the Lasters ran into controversy again, this time upon the demise of the washing machine. It being a rented home, the Lasters looked to the university to supply a new machine; a working machine was procured by Physical Plant staff from campus stores. The story hit the papers, and the media spin was that patients were being deprived clean laundry so that the President would not be inconvenienced. Needless to say, Laster's relationship with the media never did improve after that.

Finally, the Lasters moved into another home, one on Montgomery Street, which was subsequently donated to the University. It then became the longtime residence of President Peter Kohler, during his twenty-year tenure. The home now stands empty, since President Robertson has opted to retain his current house rather than move into the official residence. We'll all need to stay tuned to see what happens next...