Thursday, June 14, 2007

Radio silence

Today is my last day at work before hopping a train and heading out East to the Annual Preconference of the Rare Books & Manuscript Section of the American Library Association, being held in Baltimore, MD. I am traveling sans laptop and am very much looking forward to several days of being unplugged. I'll be back on June 26, full of tidbits from the conference and back amid the interesting collections here. In the meantime, enjoy this interlude of radio silence.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Digging for diet manuals

Some time ago, I received a call from a local colleague whose institution had been the beneficiary of a number of book donations containing older medical titles--titles which her institution had no interest whatever in keeping, or even really looking through. Graciously, she offered me access to these materials to see whether anything of note jumped out at me, offering to let me take whichever titles would find a welcoming home here at OHSU.

After some hours looking through the books, I selected 29 titles to bring back for our collections. The most unlikely acquisition I picked up in this way is available now in the PNW Archives Collection: Diet manual, University of Oregon Medical School Hospitals and Clinics (Portland, Or. : University of Oregon Medical School Hospitals and Clinics, [1959?]). Of all the things to come back around to us through a donation to a completely separate institution, I never would have imagined seeing this piece of ephemera--let alone seeing it, spiral bound, in fairly good condition.

Since the history of the dietetics internship program here is now well known to me (and to some of my more dedicated readers, from an earlier post), I actually gave a little gasp when I originally saw it. It takes its place with a handful of other diet manuals from the OHSU hospitals and clinics, those from 1970, 1975, and 1980. Who knows, maybe out there in someone's garage is a whole set of them, just waiting patiently for the chance event that will bring us back together again...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Anatomy at the Bleeding Edge: exhibit goes online

Now available in the exhibits area of our website is the online component of "Anatomy at the Bleeding Edge," first mentioned in these pages June 1 when the physical component was installed in the Main Library lobby.

The virtual exhibit includes captions for each image shown--something the physical display actually lacks this time around. The theory of exhibits is a robust field, and certainly requires no elaboration from our small quarter; but I do personally find that variety is the spice of displays. So, after the "more-is-more" exhibit on McLean (which featured longer descriptive captions for exhibit pieces), it's nice to see the "less-is-more" approach taken here, with a single card in each case noting simply our responsibility for the display.

Images speak volumes, and a viewer's visceral reaction to an image without context can bring to light hidden prejudices or fears. And in an homage to a show like Body Worlds 3--well, visceral is the watchword!

Monday, June 11, 2007

The value of ephemera, or, Why we'll take it all!

A recent post on the Britannica Blog, entitled "What Are Conan Doyle's Undershirts Doing in Texas?" refers to a New Yorker article and applauds (I think) the collecting habits of Tom Staley, director of the Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The Center's collections contain everything from sandwiches to socks--indeed, whatever comes in with materials donated by or associated with persons of note.

The desire to obtain all materials associated with a particular figure, before the donor has a chance to "go through" the collection to remove anything thought to be irrelevant, is certainly one we have here in Historical Collections & Archives. We had to convince the donor of the Herbert Merton Greene Collection that, yes, we would really be interested in the Freemasonry materials as well as the pill maker, and that the photographs of Greene with his family and friends are just as valuable as the photos of him in military dress or at the office. Just this past Friday, we had a visitor who was describing to us the way in which she was dismantling an important collection of papers in her possession, trying--she believed, helpfully--to locate institutions that might be interested in any one piece. A photo of one locale could go to that town's historical society; old magazines might be donated to a library. What the owner of the papers was failing to realize was that the true value in the collection lies in its association with a famous personage, and that removal of individual items--no matter how systematic--would inevitably lead to a nearly complete loss of value for those materials. Hopefully, our respectful comments on her approach to dissemination of the collection will have had a positive impact.