Thursday, December 31, 2015

A history of the medical school from 1940

For my last foray into writing for this blog in 2015 I want to bring you a unique history of the school that is so tied into the school's function it is hard not to chuckle a little.  The 1940 copy of Asclepia (University of Oregon Medical yearbook) contains a great history of the school written as if the school were a patient undergoing diagnosis and treatment.

The history was written by Roscoe Wilson and starts with the explanation that the school's chief complaint is "growing pains."  The history continues to provide insight into the changing functions, staffing, and scope of the educational and treatment services offered on Marquam Hill.  My favorite section is related to the fire that occurred on the medical school in May of 1919 which the author contextualizes in medical parlance as a case of "pyrexia."

According to the history:
"Dr. Robert Benson, then Professor of Pathology, went to his laboratory on the second floor and tried to save some his specimen bottles and slide boxes by throwing them into the waiting arms of medical students on the ground below.  However, many of the articles were missed and fell into the garden of an old German who lived next door and didn't like the school anyway; and for the next several weeks, he was picking pieces of pathological foetuses [sic] and tumor specimens from his potatoes."

This is immediately followed by another humorous anecdote:
"In the early days of the school, if a professor needed supplies, he simply bought them himself and sent the bill later.  Dr. (Pop) Allen was Professor of Anatomy and had bought some lab coats with large pink stripes which everybody in the department disliked.  During the fire, one of the lab technicians (name withheld) rushed in, gathered up the detested coats and threw them in the blaze."

These types of materials are great in that they provide a more anecdotal, humorous side to the history of the school then one might find by simply going through the records of the school.  This history is full of such stories and interesting tidbits.

We have a copy in our Archival Publications collections as well as our Ephemera Collection, give us a shout to research this cool, and unique view of the early school.

Till next year, dear Readers, have excellent weekend and talk to you soon!

As always,

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A very special Doernbecher visitor

As the year draws to a close and holiday celebrations of all kinds fill our calendars, I'd like to take a moment to share with you, dear readers, one of my favorite photographs in our collections. It depicts a very special visitor to what appears to be the old Doernbecher Memorial Children's Hospital, circa 1920s-1930s: 
Santa! He even brought along an adult-sized elf and a kid-sized reindeer for good measure. I sent this picture to a few colleagues when I came across it, and the consensus is, this is obviously the real Santa...

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Thinking Digitally

My digital minions: (from L to R) USB DVD/CD player/burner; USB 3.5" floppy drive; USB ZIP drive; and a USB SD card reader.

As some of you know I am currently taking courses in fulfillment of the Society of American Archivist's Digital Archives Specialist (DAS) certification, which I hope to complete in 2016.  DAS certification requires the completion of 9 courses and a test.  The courses cover the topics of models for digital archives, systems that are used to manage digital archival assets, and a variety of courses surrounding electronic records, their appraisal, access, and preservation.

I am mainly focusing on archives-related courses, however I anticipate rounding off that experience by increasing my knowledge in the realm of electronic records.

For today, I wanted to go over my recent course, which was titled "Thinking Digitally."  The reason I want to share some of this with you, dear readers, is that it could come as a surprise that many of the aspects of managing digital materials are derived from the same concerns and issues we experience in the analog realm.

The main thrust of the course was to get participants to think about these issues in a digital sense, then focus on their current skills and abilities and to adapt those when needed to changing environments, requirements, and standards.  The course asked participants to think about the long term ramifications of choices in how digital archives are maintained, especially when dealing with quality factors such as scanning standards, object fixity, and file formats.

We were given instruction on navigating some of the frameworks, models and standards that would be applicable in the digital archives world, such as looking at common metadata schema for digital objects, looking at models for digital archives (like the Open Archival Information System), and evaluating file formats and their preservation needs.

A lot of the discussion around quality was centered on the capture.  Capture is the term we use when scan an image, document, or other material.  The standards used to capture the object determine the quality of the digital object and will have impacts on perceptions of authenticity, impacts on usefulness to patrons, and an impact on future stability and usefulness.  In ensuring high quality deliverables from our work we look at things like pixels-per-inch, resolution, sample rate, color range, bit-depth, window size and compression.

We talked metadata standards and how choosing one standard can impact interoperability of the materials in your system with the materials and structures of other systems, making it harder to share in larger aggregates of archives and other information materials.  Furthermore, in the digital world, some metadata schema allow you capture more detail which facilitates a wider scope of retrieval possibilities for a variety of circumstances.  Some schemas allow you to capture things like preservation metadata (who touched what, when, and how; were things migrated, using what), administrative metadata, and technical metadata (especially useful if materials have unique access requirements, like certain proprietary software programs).

Lastly, we discussed how these concepts inform later actions in the archives, such as access to the materials, display of assets, etc.

All this is to say that transferring documents, images and data of enduring value is not as simple as dropping things into a directory and then searching in Explorer.  One thing that can greatly help with delivering digital assets to this archives (or any, really) is to have a preliminary discussion with the archivist to determine what you have, how it is currently stored/arranged/described, and what potential migrations to more stable formats would be needed.  The more discussion, the easier and more direct the donation or transfer becomes, with the overarching benefit being that there is a lower chance of context becoming un-tethered during the process.

Do you manage electronic records?  Do have work that was created digitally and you are unsure how that can be maintained in perpetuity?  Give me a call and we can discuss.

Till next time,

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Holiday stories from UOMS students' families, December 1964

Looking through back issues of "What's Going On" (some of my personal favorites for institutional history), I came across a lovely spread in the December 1964 issue of the campus publication highlighting holiday tales from students of the University of Oregon Medical School. 

While there were some of the expected stories of the hardworking intern father and his lovely stay-at-home wife and children (with suitably adorable accompanying photos), I was very pleasantly surprised to see solid representation of female students and medical professionals. So, in honor of finals week, and as you settle in the holiday mood, please enjoy this sweet stories of former UOMS students!

The bacteriologist and the physiology graduate student...
The senior medical student...

The urology resident's large, lively family... 

The dietetic intern and the orthodontics graduate student...

Finally, my favorite, the student nurse and the husband who gave up his job in Tillamook so she could attend nursing school!

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Musical Medical School

A brief respite, dear Reader, from my regular onslaught of new accessions.  Today I am discussing the side-line research I've been doing for a number of months into an aspect of the medical school we do not often hear about: the student musical group.

When I was a student worker here I was always interested in the Forcep Four, a barbershop quartet that was active from the mid-1950s to the early1960s with several groups containing different members claiming the name during that period.  I was recently sent a copy of the Forcep Four's last recording in 1962, which can be heard here:

More recently, I sent out a call for information on the Four Fossae, a group active between 1979 and 1982 containing all members of the School of Medicine, 1982 class.  The Four Fossae participated in the All-Hill Talent Show for three years in a row and was known to practice in the concrete stairwell in the Basic Sciences Building.  The 1982 yearbook contains lyrics to one of their songs as well as group photographs of the Fossae performing.

Our Historical Image Collection contains a wealth of images of the first Forcep Four practicing and performing, as well as images of the late 50s early-60s Forcep Four (the one whose recording is above).

Since one of my passions is music, I will looking/searching for more bands, groups and acts from the history of OHSU and hopefully I'll be able to provide audio and video too if possible.  If you have information on any of the groups (or if you were in one) and want to send me details, recordings, etc. please contact:

All the best,

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Thirty-year throwback: The first heart transplant in Oregon

We recently provided images for OHSU communications staff as they prepared to celebrate a significant anniversary: thirty years ago, on December 4, 1985, the first successful heart transplant surgery in Oregon was performed at OHSU. The surgery, performed by Dr. Albert Starr, provided a 44-year old chronic congestive heart failure patient with a new future.

Albert Starr and team perform the first heart transplant procedure in Oregon, Dec. 4, 1985.
While we don't yet have as many images from the 1980s in our collections as from earlier decades (many photographs may still be in staff offices around campus!), we have a nice selection of images from the procedure and subsequent press conference.
The team on Dec. 4, 1985.
Heart transplant news conference
To read more on the event, check out this OHSU blog post. I was also struck by this piece, which appeared in the Skanner last year, about one often-overlooked contributor to Oregon's first heart transplant: "Special Event Honors Oregon's First Heart Donor". The story on how this family finds solace and purpose in the legacy of the donation in the face of a painful loss is definitely worth a read. 

A life-saving donation

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Adventures in Archives: Dr. Chauncey E. Marston House

Hello Dear Reader,
Recently I was invited to visit Portland State University's University Honors building after hearing from one of my archives colleagues that it was the home and perhaps business location of Dr. Chauncey E. Marston, a graduate of the University of Oregon Medical School.  I was told there were some documents from Marston's practice lurking in the attic and that I should visit and review.
The box in its original glory

I visited for the first time in October and went through the nearly disintegrated box of documents.  It contained a variety of well-labeled folders that had succumbed to moister, mold, and time.  The vast majority of the records were Marston's patient files, which carry a substantial HIPAA burden for archives to take on.  There were some individual pages of UOMS Library reading lists and recommended reads for various types of surgery.  From what I could gather from the records which included some photographs, Marston did a lot of mastectomies.

A close-up of the files, still in original order!
After reviewing the materials and meeting a small, but terrifyingly fast silverfish, I worked with the administrators at the building to bring the box down to the basement, where I could revisit with more safety supplies and fully review the documents.
Sample patient record without PHI.
I returned in November and brought surgical gloves and a particulate mask.  I was set up on a bench in the basement and went through the box again, this time much more thoroughly, noting the document conditions, and potential issues and research value of the remaining materials.  I was provided with a spray bottle containing a cleaning solution and was advised to spray the little black spiders if they appeared (I never saw them).
Archival folders, an envelope, surgical gloves and face mask--tools of the trade, sometimes.
From the one box of materials I was able to glean about a folder's worth of archival material that did not contain PHI, had not been damaged by water, had no indication of mold or mildew, and was not a home for the silverfish (the carcasses of which I uncovered as I dug deeper into the files).
My work area with "The Box" during my second visit in November
In the end that meant leaving the photographs and patient medical histories, even though some were from Vanport.  We would not be able to provide access to those documents without patient consent, which makes the research value drop for such a limited amount of material in such poor condition.  The poor condition was almost more of a barrier to acquiring as they would have disproportionately needed extreme care and handling and could have brought in pests, molds or other contaminants that can potentially contaminate other collections.
Example Vanport record
The silverfish was lurking in the financial documents.
As I finish up 2015, I hope to have some more fun or interesting posts in the next few weeks.  I feel like I say that, and then get really busy.  But here's to hoping!

All the best,

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Now Hiring: Student workers for LSTA Grant to Digitize Public Health Materials


OHSU HC&A is looking to hire 2 students for a grant-funded project.  The project involves the digitization of public health materials from the late 19th and early 20th century and assisting with data curation.  The recruitment period will be open for the next 2 weeks with interviews anticipated in December/January.

More details on the grant can be found here.

For more details on the position, please see below:
Functions/Duties of Position

  • Assist with processing and digitizing collections for grant-funded project.
  • Conduct research relevant to collections.
  • Page, shelve, and shift collections.
  • Assist with data curation.

Job Requirements

  • Enrolled in Undergraduate Program (minimum 6 credit hours), OR Graduate Program (minimum 4.5 credit hours).
  • Attention to detail combined with ability to balance multiple responsibilities.
  • Strong experience using desktop PCs and Windows XP/7/8, including Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, etc.) and Internet/WWW.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills; tact and discretion in communication.
  • Ability to repeatedly lift and move objects weighing 20-50 lbs.; pushing and maneuvering loaded book trucks; bending and stooping
  • Ability to handle rare and fragile library materials.
  • Demonstrated interest in archives and/or special collections.
  • Previous library work experience.
  • Experience with scanning equipment and software.
  • Enrollment in MLS or library technician program.
  • Undergraduate or graduate training in history or a related field.

Additional Details

OHSU is an equal opportunity, affirmative action institution. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment and will not be discriminated against on the basis of disability or protected veteran status. Applicants with disabilities can request reasonable accommodation by contacting the Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity Department at 503-494-5148.

How To Apply

Apply here online. Be sure to upload a resume and a cover letter.

Please search for “IRC50566” exactly to find this position on the OHSU HR website.

Best regards,

Thanksgiving at Base Hospital 46, 1918

The valley where Base Hospital 46 was located in 1918. A small arrow (in pencil) points to BH 46 at far right.
Several weeks ago, while pulling out the fantastic Grace Phelps Papers for a visitor, I came across a number of mementos that Ms. Phelps saved from her time as Supervisor of Nurses at Base Hospital 46 during World War I (she attained the rank of Captain in the U.S. Army). The folder includes striking photographs, ephemera, and even poems written by soldiers recovering in the hospital. Such items really bring to life the experiences of Phelps and her colleagues at the base. The image above shows Base Hospital 46 in Bazoilles-sur-Meuse, France. In Phelps's own words, from the back of the photograph: 
This is the valley where we have been during the time since we arrived on the 16th of last July. The arrow points to B.H. 46. The little round o is 42, the place where we were stationed for the first two days. The Commanding thought he liked the other side of the river so we moved. The day we moved we had our first order for surgical teams to go to the front. Such a time as we had getting the girls ready. Our baggage had not arrived so we had to borrow clothes for the nurses. We had them ready in less than two hours from the time we got the order. At that time there were no lights allowed -- all travel was in the dark. The party had not gone far when they had an accident and one of the nurses got a cut in the forehead, but they dressed the wound and on they went.
Amidst all the tumult and sorrow and drudgery of their time in France, the staff and soldiers of Base Hospital 46 still found time for small comforts, including Thanksgiving. From the same folder in the Phelps Papers, here is a Thanksgiving menu from the Nurses Mess on November 28, 1918: 
Looks pretty tasty, I must say!
 I love the poetic commentary hand-inscribed on the menu: "If you have eaten all of this / I'm sure your [sic] goin' to feel amiss! Wow!" 

Reading over the menu and looking through the pictures, I found myself thinking of those nurses, physicians, and soldiers of Base Hospital 46 doing their best to celebrate traditions like a cherished American holiday as best they could, so far from home. It really gives one cause to reflect on one's own good fortune and gratitude.

This week, like many of you, all of us at HC&A are feeling very thankful. We're so grateful for our talented, supportive colleagues in our department and at OHSU Library, our OHSU and community collaborators, and of course our wonderful supporters and friends (like you, dear reader!). All of you help make our work preserving and sharing the history of the health sciences a fun, challenging, and rewarding task. 

From the gang at HC&A, Happy Thanksgiving! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

New Acquisitions: Public Health-related materials

I decided to call this one a new acquisition because I haven't had the time to really dig in and see if I can figure out the exact provenance (who created, or otherwise maintained these items, think: chain of custody) of these materials.  The items were transferred to us from the Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine (Soon to be a school) and are composed of a variety of materials related to Harold Osterud and William Morton, both previous directors of the department.
Teaching slide
Lecture slide on "Immunity"
The inventory of the collection is as follows:

-Glass lantern slides (primarily teaching, but some potential research on the slides)
-35mm slides with similar content as the glass
-Audio recordings of lectures
-Video recording
-A handful of photographs and 4x5 negatives
-Copies (draft and final) of Physician Manpower in Oregon Data Book (1974)
Obsolete video formats
Audio recording of public health lectures
This is a small collection, but contains some rare gems in both content and formats.  Audio and video formats on reel-to-reel, coupled with glass slides and 35mm slides makes for a visual feast of public health lectures and programs.

A smattering of photos
Physician Manpower in Oregon Data Book
This collection will be accessioned pretty soon, but until then it is still open for research, so just drop us a line with a date and time you would like to visit and we will bring these out for you.

Next week, more new accessions, OR perhaps a little story about a recent adventure in an attic that lead to a materials review in a basement.  Good Time!

Till then,

15 transcripts just added to oral history digital collection!

HC&A student assistant Crystal Rodgers just finished adding 15 more transcripts to our oral history  collection in OHSU Digital Commons! The collection now includes a whopping 104 transcripts.

This latest batch includes interviews with distinguished geneticist Dr. R. Ellen Magenis; beloved dermatologist and activist Dr. Frances J. Storrs; HC&A's own former archivist Karen Peterson; Knight Cancer Institute founding director Dr. Grover Bagby; and many more. We'll continue adding new transcripts as they're processed.

You can also consult our complete list of interviews to see all the participants in this program. Interview transcripts and recordings are still available for checkout from OHSU's Main Library, and DVD copies of interviews are also available for a fee.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In honor of Veteran's Day: Resources on veterans, World War I and World War II

Cliff Morris, who joined Base Hospital 46 in 1942 after training at UOMS, kisses his bride Irene Ehlers.
The experience of veterans is woven throughout the fabric of OHSU's history. In honor of Veteran's Day, I want to highlight some of our primary sources that concern the experience of those who have served. Our collections are especially rich in materials related to Base Hospital 46 (World War I) and the 46th General Hospital (World War II),  the University of Oregon Medical School's organized contingents of volunteer medical personnel during the wars.

Base Hospital 46 nurses and officers, Camp Lewis, WA, 1918

We have many archival collections that were created by or contain information on OHSU's veterans, including significant holdings of documents and images. Some images have been digitized and are available to peruse via our Digital Collections. In addition, our Oral History program features quite a few stories from veterans among our OHSU faculty and alumni.

Archival collections & manuscripts on Archives West:
Collections with materials on World War I
Collections with materials on World War II

Digitized images:
Digital Collections images of World War I
Digital Collections images of World War II

Library Catalog items:
Base Hospital 46 (World War I)
46th General Hospital (World War II)

Oral histories (search by keyword, such as "World War II"):

46th General Hospital nurses marching in Oran, Algeria, ca. 1942
If you have questions about our holdings, or have specific reference questions related to these materials, email me at or call 503 494-5587 and I'll be happy to act as your guide to these rich resources.

Friday, November 06, 2015

Regulating Birth in Oregon symposium at Oregon Historical Society, November 17th

Our friends at Oregon Historical Quarterly are presenting a symposium that is likely to be of interest to many of our readers. The full-day event will be at Oregon Historical Society on November 17th. The program includes talks on midwifery, reproductive politics and policy, and genetics.

Registration is $35 ($25 for OHS members), though the evening keynote presentation is free to all. The full announcement is below.

Regulating Birth in Oregon

A symposium presented by the Oregon Historical Quarterly

Sybil Harber of Lakeview, OR, circa 1895, Midwife. OHS Research Library bb007000

The Oregon Historical Quarterly, in collaboration with Dr. Christin Hancock of the University of Portland, presents a symposium that promotes scholarship on the broad subject of regulating birth, from legal, social, political, religious, and cultural perspectives. A special issue of the Quarterly will be drawn from the scholarship presented.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
10:15am - 4:30pm
Oregon Historical Society
with free keynote presentation at 7pm
$35 / $25 members