Friday, December 05, 2008

Portland in pictures

Local author Donald R. Nelson has just published a new book on Portland history: The South Park Blocks, a neighborhood history is now available for purchase, just in time for the Christmas holiday.

We here in Historical Collections & Archives became aware of the new project several months ago, when Nelson was searching for information on L. Victoria Hampton, MD, an 1889 graduate of the Willamette University Medical Department. Hampton maintained an office at 475 W. Park from 1896 through 1920. The South Park Blocks features Dr. Hampton's office and an illustration of her by Nelson (we have no photographs of her here in the collections, alas).

You can talk with Nelson about his new endeavor, and meet other Oregon authors and artists, at Holiday Cheer: A Celebration of Oregon Authors and Artists being held this Sunday, December 7, at the Oregon Historical Society. A complete list of participants is available from the OHS web site. Plus, I see that there will be juice, cookies, and vodka--just what the economy ordered!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

How much is that volume in the closet?

The value of books has been much on my mind in the past few weeks. Not the cultural value of books, or their intellectual value, or the value they impart to young minds or society at large. No, just the money, ma'am. Of course, to some extent, the market value of books reflects their greater cultural value--Gutenberg Bibles being expensive for good reasons. Oftentimes, though, market value reflects purchasing trends or societal fads--first editions of Harry Potter books, for example, are expensive for different reasons than incunabula.

Establishing a market value for old and/or rare volumes is the province of certified appraisers, and I always urge people who ask my advice on such matters to get themselves qualified help. When appraisers aren't an option and one just wants a sense of the approximate value of a given title, one can turn to some great resources on the web. Since I myself have been using a few of these sites heavily of late--and since this is the season of sharing--I share three musts and a handy below:


For trustworthiness in matters of market value, certified appraisers can't be beat. Happily, many of them list their current stocks on the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers' web site here.

Because not all reputable dealers belong to ILAB, you can also find great information on book values from viaLibri, a free site that provides cross-site searching of 18 online sales catalogs of rare and used books, as well as individual booksellers' sites. It does include ILAB-LILA, so you could start and end your searching here, but you also get a lot of what I might call "extraneous" listings. The thing I like about viaLibri (besides the name) is that you can see a huge range of sellers' prices for most titles, and you get to know who values books high and who sets prices lower. This information will help you interpret the information you're seeing--and will also come in real handy when you go to buy something later. (And, if you get frustrated with the huge numbers of hits for popular titles, you can uncheck certain databases in the upper right corner of the main search page.)

Your Old Books
Really the best place to start, if you are new to the used and rare book market, is Your Old Books, a publication of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Section of the American Library Association. Plus, there's a little section on donating your books to a library (in case you decide they're not worth selling for cash!)


ABC for Book Collectors (PDF)
For amateurs who don't have a sense of how to read booksellers' blurbs and want to know more of the lingo, John Carter's must-have reference is available online from our friends at ILAB-LILA.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Where's the beef?

Is it the "Iowa & Boston"? Could be....
A light-hearted take on the holiday meal for these serious times:

[Item from the University of Oregon Medical School Library Records, Accession No. 1998-015]

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Financial cycles: nothing new under the sun

News outlets began reporting yesterday afternoon on a financial assessment issued by OHSU Monday morning--negative impacts of the economic downturn on major employers still passing as news. The details of the current belt-tightening plans can be seen in stories from the Oregonian, the Portland Business Journal, and the Portland Tribune. But historical perspective on the crisis can be found in the archives, where we learn that financial ups and downs are as predictable as the Oregon seasons of rain and sun.

In July of 1980, then University President Leonard Laster wrote a memo to the (then) UOHSC community about the hard times that were just coming upon them. He begins his memo strongly: "Despite indications to the contrary, I am absolutely confident that the Health Sciences Center will continue to exist and prosper for decades to come, serving the people of Oregon as a unique, invaluable, outstanding, and cherished university. The rumors of our institutional demise are grossly exaggerated."

Rising to the rhetorical moment, he builds over four paragraphs to the stirring conclusion:
Since the announcement of our situation, I have received countless calls from supporters in all types of professional pursuits in which they voiced their vigorous commitment to the future of the Health Sciences Center. We are not alone. We are not undervalued. We shall continue our upward thrust toward greater achievement in the service of humanity. From today's adversity we shall pluck tomorrow's triumph. Let us evidence no despair but rather renewed confidence in our mutual destiny.
And so it goes. And so go leaders.

Monday, December 01, 2008

In memoriam: Roy Laver Swank, 1909-2008

A small obituary notice in Saturday's Oregonian alerted readers to the death of Roy Laver Swank, M.D., four months shy of his one hundredth birthday.

Dr. Swank was born in Camas, WA, in 1909, and attended the University of Washington as an undergraduate. He obtained an M.D. and a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1935. After completing his internship and residency at the Peter Bent Brigham in Boston, he took fellowships in pathology (Harvard), physiology (Karolinska) and neurology (Montreal Neurological). Swank returned to Boston and joined the staff at the Brigham and at Harvard Medical School, where he became an instructor in neurology. In 1948, he moved to Montreal to join McGill University as an assistant professor of neurology. It was in Montreal that Swank first began to investigate multiple sclerosis, and first developed the idea for the Swank low-fat diet.

In 1954, Swank came to Portland to serve as chief of the Division of Neurology at the University of Oregon Medical School. In 1961, he developed a blood filter for removing microemboli from the blood. In 1972, he published the first edition of his well-known book, The Swank Low-Fat Diet. In the early 1980s, Swank and Arthur J. Seaman confirmed the abnormality of plasma in MS patients and began experimenting with plasma transfusions as treatment for MS symptoms. For many years after his official retirement from the chair of neurology in 1974, Swank continued to see patients and conduct research on MS.

In his oral history interview with Joan Ash in 1998, Swank talks about his education, his research, and his years administering the Division of Neurology at UOMS. Along the way, he compares medical school to pulling ice (but with alcohol):
SWANK: So in those four years at medical school—now that we’ve gotten out of the university—I got interested in research, because that was part of the job, to do research, and I was allowed—I chose, really, a job similar to what my friend had been doing. I was going to work out the pyramidal tract, which was the cortical-spinal tracts from the brain down to the legs, in the rabbit, because they hadn’t been done satisfactorily. And I went to work and diligently worked hard. I was a hardworking individual, anyway. At the age of fourteen I had gotten a job pulling ice in the local butcher shop, there in Camas, and they paid me the top wage because I pulled ice so well. I even delivered ice for a while. I was not very big at that time.

ASH: What do you mean, pulled ice?

SWANK: You know, they freeze it; then you’ve got to pull it out of the freezer.

ASH: So it was heavy?

SWANK: Yeah. You had to slide it into a cooling area. My father, at the advice of the doctor, wouldn’t let me continue the next year because it might break my bones somehow or other and I wouldn’t get full growth, and that went by. But, nonetheless, it just gives an idea of the kind of—of how I enjoyed working and I was quite willing to work very hard.

Well, that’s what I did in medical school, too. I spent an enormous amount of time on my research, and I had to take the schoolwork also, along with it. I remember so well, I’d come back to the fraternity Saturday night, after I’d been working all day Saturday, and they’d be having a big party, and everybody was a little bit drunk, because that was time of—hard liquor was the common thing and the manly thing to do. I remember my only experience was, well, I’d go on in and see if everybody was having a good time, girls and boys and so forth, and I would have a few drinks, get sick, and come out and vomit on the steps, and go back to bed [laughter].