Friday, March 04, 2016

What's in the History of Medicine Room? Portable Medicine

A recent research appointment gave me the opportunity to pull a wide range of doctor's bags from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries from our artifact collection. From saddle bags, to buggy bags, to the tidy black bags that we all recognize, we have many examples of instrument and medicine kits designed for the provider on the go -- a far more common circumstance even 50 years ago, especially in rural healthcare in states like Oregon.

Inspired by our abundance of artifacts that fit under the "portable medicine" theme, I've selected a number of my favorite kits for display in the History of Medicine Room. If you're planning on visiting us in the next month or so, you'll have the opportunity to get up close and personal with these often quite ingenious kits!

Linen surgical kit, used at Fort Vancouver, c. 1880s:
Detail: needles stored in animal skin
Small insulin kit, c. 1910s, Eli Lilly & Co:

 Dobb kit-style medical bag, containing blood pressure cuff and stethoscope, early 20th century:

Pocket tooled leather surgical kit, belonging to Dr. J. A. Reuter, who practiced in the Dalles, OR, c. 1890s:

 Cigarette-case style pocket medicine kit, containing single-use doses of camphor, ergoline, etc., c. 1920s-1940s:

I have to admit this last case makes me think of a glamorous 1940s lady-about-town, slipping into her elegant gold case for a dose of camphor when the occasion arose. [Disclaimer: this is historical imagination, not historical analysis! Please do disabuse me of this flight of fancy, history of medicine folks!]

A lot of people don't realize that, like our rare books and archives collections, our artifact collections are also open for research. You can search by keyword in this inventory list or for images of artifacts in our digital collections if you're looking for something specific -- or drop me a line and I can connect you with the right materials!

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