Monday, November 22, 2010

The historical frontier

I spent much of the past six years facilitating research on the history and culture of Chicago. While Chicago is a fascinating place, it’s also exceedingly well-documented. Every year brings hundreds of new publications on "Chicago studies," and researchers have to work hard to find a new angle or an untapped resource. That’s one of the things that made it so exciting to come to the Pacific Northwest, where many untold stories hold rich opportunities for new research.

For example, in my first week on the job I learned that the most comprehensive work on the history of medicine in Oregon was published over 70 years ago! Olof Larsell’s The Doctor in Oregon: A Medical History (Portland: Binsford & Mort, 1947) documents the unique development of the practice of medicine in Oregon from the late 18th century to the mid-1940s. While there are inevitable errors in the 600+ painstakingly detailed pages, I’ve already found it an indispensable source for reference and research.

Needless to say, a lot has changed in medicine since 1947 - as has our perspective on the early history that Larsell wrote about. Who will write the next definitive work on this subject?

Image: Olof Larsell forging new research frontiers. See the online exhibition, too!

3 comments:

Emily said...

I nominate Karen.

Maija said...

Seconded!

Karen Peterson said...

This, I would love to do. A project for retirement, perhaps.