Names: the seemingly most telling piece of information about any archival item can often be the most misleading, or at least a bit of a dead-end.
Take two items crossing our rather cluttered desks today.
First: an obituary for University of Oregon Medical School alumnus G. Alan Fisher, M.D. (obit online here) needed to be added to the Biographical Files. A first glance at the inventory for the files didn't show an existing folder for G.A. Fisher (although there were several other Fishers present and accounted for). So, we dutifully checked the online newspaper archive for additional articles on Alan Fisher and created a new folder. Easy, yes? Except that curiosity got the better of us upon looking into the box containing Ericksen-Fleshman. Hmm, Alan B. Fisher, M.D.? Could the two Alans be related? Reading through the one news article on "Alan B." revealed that he had the exact same resume as G. Alan, and that, in fact, both apparently served as mayors of Gresham, Oregon. Funny coincidence, or reporter's error? We think the latter, and have consolidated the two files.
Second: a small donation from C. Conrad Carter, M.D., which consists of two reels of 16mm film. We asked Dr. Carter if he knew what the films were of, but he had no idea. His surmise was that "they might be McLean films" because Carter was at one time attempting to collect materials by or about A.J. McLean, M.D. (about which, a lot more information here). The film boxes themselves, which smell strongly of mothballs, have handwritten and stamped labels on them. The first, in a "Kodak Safety Film" box, has been stamped "Cine Office G.H.S."; the "From" section has the name "Dr. A.W. Smith" and the "To" box is addressed to "Dr. W.A. Peterson, Good Samaritan Hospital, Portland, Oregon." The second, in a "Cine-Kodak Panchromatic Safety Film" box, has the name "Dr. Ong" on a line above the "From" section. Dr. W.A. Peterson, still at Good Sam, apparently sent this reel to "Eastman Kodak Co., San Francisco, California," presumably for processing of some kind.
So, we do have a Bio File on a W.A. Peterson, but he was a Ph.D. with Tektronix and not an M.D. There were no persons named Peterson practicing anywhere in Oregon from 1931 to 1945 (which I find rather interesting, from a genealogical perspective), and the first appearance of a Ward A. Peterson, M.D., is in 1949 when he relocated to Newport from Boise, Idaho. He then moved to Eugene, and by 1958 was no longer listed as a registered Oregon physician. In either case, the Peterson name would seem to suggest that these films are not in any way associated with A.J. McLean, who was dead by 1938.
The Board of Medical Examiners directory does give us a listing for an Alan Welch Smith, M.D., practicing in Portland in the 1930s, and he certainly would have known H.F. Ong, M.D. We don't have a file on A.W. Smith, but we do have obituaries for Ong. Harlan Ong was a 1901 graduate of the Willamette University Medical Department and practiced in Lane County from 1901-1904. In 1904, he relocated to Portland where he practiced as a physician and surgeon specializing in occupational medicine. He was on staff at both Good Sam and Holladay Park Hospital until his retirement in 1956.
While the names don't reveal much about what these 16mm films might have recorded, they do tend to discount the theory that the films had anything to do with A.J. McLean and seem to imply a date range for production between the late 1940s and the early 1950s. Of course, only a 16mm projector (anyone got one they want to donate?) or a conversion of the film to digital media will answer the question of subject matter. Or, a really long time with a light box and a magnifying glass....