Friday, November 10, 2006

Box: $5. Looking in box: priceless

So, this morning I went up to our storage room to pull some materials for today's visitor, a young man who is doing a school project on his great-grandfather, a World War I surgeon. I went up to get some items from the Medical Museum Collection, one of our least-used resources. I planned to pull out the German surgical field kit, the nurse's pocket drug kit, and the venereal kit.

Opening the box in which I expected to find the venereal kit, I found a lot more: a set of twenty glass lantern slides donated by former UOMS faculty member Harry Sears. I had assumed that these materials had been pulled out of the Museum Collection sometime between the taking of the digital picture circa 2000 and today. But, lo and behold, there they were, tucked into a little cardboard box with a handwritten sheet indicating the subject of each slide. There are two of the Marquam Hill site before ground was even cleared for the first building up here, and a shot of E.S. West, Wren Gaines, and Hance Haney posing with their catch along the banks of the Willamette. The whole set of twenty was put together for a presentation made to the faculty wives in 1950, so there are also shots of faculty members' children. All in all, more options for display at our next glass lantern slide show!

But, oddly, that wasn't the best find of the morning. In yet another box, I found two boxes of silver bromide glass negatives, donated (and probably taken) by O.B. Wight when he was serving as a major with the Base Hospital 46 in World War I. The digital picture does not do this set justice. We oohed and aahed over each image, some of which were reproduced in the book On active service with Base Hospital 46, edited by Wight and two others from the unit. The plates are in the original boxes from Lumiere & Jougla in Paris; a sticker affixed to one box suggests that Wight shipped them home par avion to relatives here in the States. One plate, an image of the wards decorated for Christmas, is badly cracked, and the others are unbelievably fragile. It's really astonishing that they have lasted this long already. But their immediacy is undiminished--you can positively feel the cold looking at the muddy fields of France.

We can't show these plates on the Balopticon, so interested parties are encouraged to make a trip up to the History of Medicine Room to have a look. We'll be more than happy to stand around for a bit more time marvelling at these beautiful, unique items.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Oishi Seinosuke: the rest of the story...

No, we didn't find more information in the Archives yet about 1895 graduate Dr. Oishi Seinosuke (see previous post), but we did receive a wonderful short biography of him from our man in Japan, Joseph Cronin. Mr. Cronin translated into English this work, Oishi Seinosuke and the Great Treason Incident, written by Kitamura Shingo in 2001.

Here we learn much more about Oishi than we knew previously: where he grew up, his early education, why he came to America and how it changed him, the forces in Japanese society which contributed to the actions he took--even that Oishi was the eighth man called of the eleven put to death that cold January day in 1911. A tragic story, an interesting story, an important story.

Thanks to this generous donation, we are now only the third library in North America to hold this title in our collections, and the only library on the West Coast of the continent. We expect that this will be of great value to researchers interested not only in the history of OHSU and the history of medicine, but the social history of Japan as well.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Heart valves, digitized

In April of this year, we received a fantastic donation of various models of the Starr-Edwards heart valves, along with a Kay-Shiley valve and a pig valve, from former OHSU faculty member Jeri Dobbs (see the April library announcement).

Along with the valves themselves, Mr. Dobbs donated seventy-one 35mm slides of the valves before and after implantation, valves designed by other
researchers, and various images related to the design and testing of the Starr-Edwards models. We've just had these slides digitized, and so are able to present two of them to you today (apologies to those on dial-up access).

Shortly, you'll be able to see all 71 in the OHSU Digital Resources Library. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Medieval surgical pharmacopoeia

I received today in the mail our latest donation from self-published author Leonard D. Rosenman, M.D. We have several of his works already, all translations of medieval medical texts. The latest volume is called A medieval surgical pharmacopoeia and formulary, and like the rest of his efforts, it has plenty of information to delight, amaze, and amuse.

The book includes a glossary; Rosenman notes (with some understatement, I think, given our post last week on mania a potu): "The vocabulary of the medieval surgeon included terms no longer meaningful to most readers." I particularly like the class of substances called cicatrixatives (say that a few times fast!), which of course includes the narrower class, sigillatives. (That's a word form I haven't seen since I was in graduate school and studied under a sigillographer!)

The book has seven appendices, five of which are excerpts from the works of medieval surgeons and two of which include pharmacopoeias from "the millennium preceding the medieval surgeons." People often think that nothing new came around between the fall of Rome (the first one) and the Renaissance, but the men and women of the Middle Ages deserve much credit for advancing sciences as well as arts in that period.

Before I take off my medievalist hat, I must point out one last interesting thing from Rosenman's book: Appendix IV, "A therapeutic incantation," is an excerpt from Theodoric's Chirurgia. Rosenman writes: "Every one of the great [medieval] surgical authors credited his Lord for his successes. However, it is unusual to find a prayer so closely mixed into a treatment as we read in the following..."

What I find so compelling about this short text is the way it resonates with another item here in Historical Collections & Archives. We have three examples of Sinhalese olas, books written on palm leaves, all of which may have been donated by John Weeks (although the provenance is a bit obscure). One of them was translated, in part, a few years ago by a relative of a library staff member who could read the Pali Sinhalese. He reported that the first two leaves of the ola contain the recipe for "King Devil Oil," but that the following leaves (most of the text) are instructions for administering the oil to the patient, including the chants that should be recited during treatment. The whole document, including the recipe, is written in rhyming poetry. It was probably meant to be chanted or sung, and the spacing of the words, as well as decorative flourishes at the end of the lines, indicate the pace at which the words were to be chanted.

How cool is that? Two examples of the interrelatedness of religion and medicine, from two different epochs and two different continents, both in the same library collection!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Gaines Hall and its former uses

At the Emeritus Luncheon last week, an emeritus asked me whether I knew anything about a rumor that Gaines Hall used to be a syphilis hospital. This was a new one to me! I knew that the building had started life as a hospital, but I had never had occasion to check into which hospital it was, exactly.

it turns out that Gaines Hall was originally built as the Portland Medical Hospital in 1930. This was about nine years before the TB Hospital opened across the road, so it would have been sufficiently isolated from the rest of campus to have housed communicable diseases (no need to go all the way out to North Portland, as the Pest House did!).

The Portland Medical Hospital isn't listed in some of our--admittedly spotty--records of 1930s-era hospitals, and so I turned once again to Olof Larsell for more information. Originally located on Lovejoy Street, the Portland Medical Hospital was begun in 1916 by Dr. Noble Wiley Jones. The opening of this thirty-five bed hospital met the as-yet unfilled need for a facility devoted to chronically ill patients. After the First World War, a larger and more modern hospital, with fifty-six beds, was built on the medical school campus by Dr. Jones and his partners at the Portland Clinic: Tom Joyce, Frank Kistner, and Laurence Selling. They intended to eventually turn the hospital over to the school as a research unit.

The start of the Second World War put those plans permanently on hold. In 1943, the school began a concerted effort to educate additional nurses for the war effort, and the building was obtained and used to house the nursing students. Currently, the building holds some units of the Information Technology Group (ITG) and the Department of Psychiatry. I hear that there were bathtubs in the building until quite recently, which may in fact still be there to this day. I'm just wondering whether the folks who work in Gaines Hall treat themselves to short soaks during the afternoon lull...