Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Dirty Job, but Somebody Has to Do It: OHSU HC&A Moves the School of Dentistry Artifacts Single-handed

Although it might appear serene from the outside, it’s truly never a dull moment for the Oregon Health & Science University’s Historical Collections & Archives. In fact, sometimes it’s downright dirty! It’s not unusual for a day’s work to include dusting off 19th century periodontal probes, transporting heavy boxes across campus on a rickety library cart, and using a screwdriver to remove heavy metal plaques from the wall. Over the past year, HC&A has worked in close partnership with the OHSU School of Dentistry as they prepare to move from the building up on Marquam Hill to their beautiful new facility on the South Waterfront.

The OHSU School of Dentistry has a rich history, beginning in 1899 as the North Pacific Dental College located on NW 14th Ave and Couch, becoming the University of Oregon Dental School in 1945, and moving to its former location on the hill in 1956. An incredible assortment of materials, the School of Dentistry donation includes photographs of former SOD faculty and students, commemorative plaques, and documents, as well as a large collection of dental tools and equipment.

Among the most exciting and unique of the donated artifacts, HC&A is caring for and safely storing the beloved Ernest Starr Memorial Museum of Dental Anomalies, formerly displayed on the 5th floor of the Marquam Hill building. Consisting of over 100 human teeth, the anomalies collection illustrates a variety of tooth deformities, including hypercementosis, concrescence of the upper molar, and flexion of the lower bicuspid (to name a few).

Ernest Starr Memorial Museum of Dental Anomalies in their former display case
One of the two largest donated artifacts (and the most nerve-wracking to transport safely) was the dental unit, complete with hand drill arm, porcelain spittoon, waterline attachments, and hand drills. Providing power to the hand drills, dental units revolutionized dental procedures by increasing the speed, efficiency, and effectiveness of the drills. They also provided a convenient means of administering air and water during procedures.

Archivist Karen Peterson and Logistics staff member Reuben Chitala with the dental unit in its new storage space in the Old Library

 Archivist Karen Peterson and HC&A Student Assistant Crystal Rodgers with the dental unit

HC&A would like to give a special thanks to Mary Anne Haisch for coordinating the transfer of these materials to the archives as well as OHSU logistics staff members, Reuben Chitala, Francisco Merino, and Steven Oster, who safely packed up and transported many of the larger, more fragile items from the SOD to the HC&A storage in the Old Library. And to the countless others who contributed in some way to this move - we couldn’t have done it without you!  

Logistics staff members Reuben Chitala and Francisco Merino preparing boxes for transport

We feel truly privileged to take these materials into our care and hope word will spread of their availability for public viewing at the archives. To make an appointment to view the materials, please email Archivist, Karen Peterson at peterska@ohsu.edu or Head of Historical Collections & Archives, Maija Anderson at andermai@ohsu.edu.  

Archivist Karen Peterson and HC&A Volunteer Erica Edwards, cleaning and packing artifacts previously on display in the School of Dentistry

Archivist Karen Peterson and Student Assistant Crystal Rodgers cleaning and packing artifacts previously on display in the School of Dentistry
-by Crystal Rodgers, HC&A Student Assistant-

Interactive storytelling on Philadelphia's 1793 yellow fever outbreak

The experimental history journal The Appendix just published a fascinating interactive piece on Philadelphia's 1793 yellow fever outbreak. Created by web developer and historian Rachel Ponce, "Surviving History: The Fever" is reminiscent of the Choose Your Own Adventure books of the 1980s, augmented with historical accuracy and references to primary sources. The protagonist is a physician, Dr. John Brooks, navigating eighteenth-century Philadelphia during one of the worst epidemics in U.S. history.

There are 20 unique endings to the story, and you can earn 20 different achievement badges for playing.