-by guest blogger Chris Clement, Library Applications Developer, Drexel University Libraries

Doctor or Doctress is a digital history project that enables students to to understand and interpret history through the eyes of early women physicians by using primary sources. While much has been said about the content, the development and underlying technologies of the site have not been discussed.

Doctor or Doctress is built on top of a piece of software called Islandora, which provides a user-friendly interface that allows the addition of content to the underlying repository software, Fedora.  The content in Doctor or Doctress is broken down into stories, which are comprised of a timeline, a set of documents (images, books, audio, and video), and textual/narrative information. Each story and document in Islandora is a Fedora object that has a unique persistent identifier (PID) and a set of datastreams, which store the content of the uploaded document and any additional data associated with that object. The largest technical challenges of building this site were getting multiple types of content to display on a single page, integrating a timeline into each story, and tying everything together through administrative interfaces.

When I first started work on Doctor or Doctress, displaying multiple types of content on a single page in Islandora was not something I had seen done.  Every object in Islandora has a content type associated with it (PDF, large image, video, etc.)  To handle the unique display requirements, I created a new “story” content type. Story objects have additional custom datastreams that specify the IDs of related documents, story- and document-level metadata, and timeline data. I also created custom layouts for stories and documents to allow the display of images, video/audio players, and book readers on the same page. These layouts were loosely based on default layouts for individual content types.

Similar to displaying multiple content types on a single page, timeline integration and display was another feature I had failed to find on any other Islandora site.  After reviewing the features and capabilities of various timeline tools and libraries with the Legacy Center staff, we settled on Timeglider, a Javascript-based tool for creating timelines. To integrate Timeglider with Islandora, I implemented a mechanism to transform timeline data associated with a story into JSON, a format understandable by Timeglider. This mechanism took into account special timeline events that were associated with a story document, displaying that document’s thumbnail along the top of the timeline above the corresponding event.  Additionally, I wrote a custom event handler to define a custom popup window to appear when users click story document events.

Designing a way to allow administrators to create new stories, associate documents, and populate timelines was not trivial. Islandora provides a tool for building web forms for gathering data from users and populating whole datastreams when adding an object. For story creation and document association, I created a standard story-level metadata form, as well as a document-level metadata form, and set them up to populate custom datastreams on the story object. I designed an interface for populating the timeline for a story as well, allowing administrators to manage events, specifying a number of parameters such as start date, end date, title, description, and an option to link  a story document to an event.

Working on Doctor or Doctress was very rewarding. The unique nature of the site, combined with the underlying technologies, provided a set of interesting challenges to overcome. Tough decisions had to be made, but I think the end result speaks for itself. I am proud to have been a part of this project, and look forward to seeing it continue to grow.

Check out Doctor or Doctress here!  You can follow Chris on Twitter @Null_is_Null

To view all 36 volumes of Bradford’s Biographies of Homeopathic Physicians
on Internet Archive, click here.

Dr. Bradford, librarian and former lecturer on the history of medicine at Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia, completed his Biographies of Homeopathic Physicians in 1918. His Biographies consist of 36 massive scrapbook volumes, most with well over 300 pages. Inside a volume, you’ll find newspaper clippings, correspondence, photographs, notes from transactions of Philadelphia-area medical societies, and excerpts from William Harvey King’s History of Homeopathy and its Institutions in America. If you can think of a late 19th- or early 20th-century homeopathic physician (women physicians included), it’s likely there’s some information about him or her in Bradford’s scrapbooks »

Thomas Lindsley Bradford was born in New Hampshire on June 6, 1847. He attended Harvard Medical School and then the Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania, where he received his degree in 1869. Until 1877, Bradford practiced in Maine and traveled to various medical institutions in Europe and Great Britain. In 1877, he moved to Philadelphia to practice and was “a prominent figure in homœopathic circles”1. Bradford published various other works, including the History of The Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital of Philadelphia and A Characteristic Materia Medica. He was lecturer on the history of Medicine at Hahnemann Medical College of Philadelphia from 1895 to 1900, and served as the College’s librarian from 1894.

 

As librarian, Bradford seemed to be protective of his books, and there is no doubt in my mind he was (a bit) strict with the medical students who came in to use his books. The title page in his scrapbook, for example, advises: “These books are not to be taken from the Library Reading Room, and are to be kept under lock and key. Excerpts may be made from them by any responsible person. It is hoped that they may never be mutilated by literary vandals. They represent much labor, but it has been a labor of love.” I wonder if these “literary vandals” were the types to scrawl quotes such as “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” (T.S. Eliot’s “Prufrock”) in the margins while twirling their mustaches…?

 

For the past couple weeks, I have been working on making Bradford’s Biographies available on Internet Archive (IA). Last time we here at the Legacy Center uploaded a book to IA, we had some…struggles. However, this time, after browsing the forums, we decided to try one poster’s suggestion of uploading books as .pdf files, rather than going through the process of file re-naming, zipping, etc., etc. All 36 volumes of the scrapbooks had been shot using our camera several years ago. The master .tiff files were really large, so I began the process of converting all to .jpg files. Unfortunately, converting to .jpg files with a resolution of 12 did not reduce the file size enough to create a PDF (Adobe Acrobat really, really hated them) so, taking advice from my colleague, I tried downgrading to a 10 resolution, at which level the images still looked good. Initially, we were concerned about the image quality because IA makes derivatives from the uploaded file, which in our case had been already been through some downsampling. However, a test upload proved our fears wrong.

The next hurdle to overcome: Acrobat still really, really hated some of the files; well, those over 2 GB.  It was back to the drawing board (I mean scouring the internet in desperation) to find a solution. One helpful person posted a blog about their issues with saving large .pdf files (Adobe just won’t save if they’re over 2 GB): save them as  PDF/X. For some reason unbeknownst to me, or perhaps because this format is meant “facilitate graphics properties,” it worked! While I got an error message that my PDFs did not convert “properly” to PDF/X, it still saved successfully, and honestly, they look better than the regular .pdf files did. So from .tiff to .jpg to .pdfx, the pages of Bradford’s “labor of love” slowly became upload-able, and one step closer to being accessible for anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Uploading the files to IA was the easiest part. There’s even a option to save the basic metadata that’s input at the time of upload, so I didn’t need to enter it 36 times, although the addition of fields such as “contributor” and “rights” had to be added manually after the objects were derived (usually a few hours). And something else to keep in mind: don’t try uploading with Mozilla Firefox; use Google Chrome, as Chrome’s upload limit is 4 GB as opposed to Firefox’s 2 GB. Fortunately, I was smart enough to check up on this before attempting the first upload.

Like Bradford writing his Biographies, uploading them for me “represent[s] much labor, but it has been a labor of love.”

To view all 36 volumes of Bradford’s Biographies of Homeopathic Physicians on Internet Archive, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


  1. King, William Harvey. History of homoeopathy and its institutions in America; their founders, benefactors, faculties, officers, hospitals, alumni, etc., with a record of achievement of its representatives in the world of medicine. New York, Chicago: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1905. 

Our long-awaited (and worked upon) digital history project is finally what we can call “complete”!

Please welcome Doctor or Doctress: Exploring American history through the eyes of women physicians. Doctor or Doctress is not just a digital collections website or online exhibit; it is both, and something more.

Our original intention for Doctor or Doctress was “to enable students to become history detectives, conducting their own research in American history by exploring the stories of pioneering medical women.” We wanted to create a website that featured our collection material as ‘stories’; as a new way to discover, engage with, and interpret primary source documents. We wanted to create a site that would allow primary source material to reach and be interesting to high school students. High school students are generally underserved by resources like digital collections and online exhibits. Students don’t know to look for them, and if they find them, may not know how valuable and engaging they can be. Such sites don’t often market to high schools students; however, at least in the archives field, outreach to younger people is a hot discussion topic, and one that many repositories are acting upon.  But that’s another blog post.

Our ‘stories’ are created around primary source documents. These materials are put into a larger historical context, giving students a chance to place individual people in events during American history, and allowing them to connect with history in a more meaningful way.  The core documents of each story can be explored in several ways: a digital version of the original, through an excerpted typed transcript, or through an audio file (a huge hit with students!). Discussion questions help guide interpretation and give students a focus when interacting with historical documents.

Our development team customized the out-of-the-box Islandora software, allowing it to support this complex interpretive content and functionality that makes Doctor or Doctress stand out from standard collections management databases.  Islandora’s potential for an innovative collections management database and exhibit showcase had not been fully explored, so our work was new and, of course, quite challenging at times.  However, the end result meets our requirements, is attractive, and functions well, and because Islandora is open-source, others can learn from our project.

It’s hard to believe that the project formerly known as “the digital history toolkit” is now complete, and ready for Phase II development (which will include more content and possibly more interactive features).  From post-it notes to the web, it’s been a challenging, but satisfying, journey to Doctor or Doctress.

The American Women’s Hospitals (AWH) was started in 1917 to provide, register and finance American women physicians for war work; to offer medical and emergency relief to refugees; and, later, to provide international public health service. The following is an excerpt from Virginia Metaxas’s article on the AWH use of field information to publicize and raise funds for their ongoing work. The full article can be found here.


by Virginia Metaxas, Ph.D., Professor of History and Women’s Studies, Southern Connecticut State University Legacy Center 2010 M. Louise Carpenter Gloeckner Fellow

Refugee camp on the island of Macronissi, circa 1922

The largest American Women’s Hospitals projects in the 1920s and 1930s were in Greece, where long term medical aid was desperately needed, due to the devastation left by the First World, Balkan, and Greco-Turkish Wars.  To meet the vast needs for medical relief, President Esther Pohl Lovejoy found that she had to spend much of her time fundraising.  As early as 1919, she realized that she needed to capitalize on human interest stories as well as factual material in order to procure private and public support of the AWH projects.  In a letter written to Dr. Ruth A. Parmelee, a physician and medical missionary working in Harpoot [now Harput] Turkey, Dr. Lovejoy succinctly said:

We are very much interested in the work you are doing and we should greatly appreciate a more complete description of the cases you are meeting.  I observe that your total number of treatments for the month of August was something over three thousand.  It is very helpful in this office to have letters descriptive of conditions that are of human interest.   In other words, stories of suffering and heroism such as will help us in our effort to secure funds to continue this work. 1

Dr. Parmelee, who served in Greece for three decades in various capacities under the auspices of the AWH, took Dr. Lovejoy’s advice to heart.  She became, in a very real way, an impassioned advocate for the continued support of the Christian Greeks and Armenians she worked among both in Turkey and in Greece.  Without exaggeration, Parmelee was one of the most articulate reporters of conditions witnessed by AWH staff abroad.  Having grown up in Turkey, the daughter of missionary parents, and a fluent speaker of many of the Near Eastern languages (Armenian, Greek, Turkish), she may have had a particularly empathetic feeling for the people with whom she worked. Through her four decades of work in Turkey and Greece, she sent a constant stream of information from the field to the AWH office in New York, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in Boston, other professional medical women’s organizations, and to the general public in the form of medical reports, professional and newspaper articles, books, private and public letters, speeches, lectures, and more.  Dr. Lovejoy was supreme at this sort of activity, publishing three major books and hundreds of professional and lay articles, giving speeches and lectures, and participating in other promotional activities too numerous to count.   She required all of the AWH physicians working in the field to send statistical data as well as ‘stories’ for use in publicity materials used for fundraising.  These abundant and varied materials, many of which are located in the Records of the American Women’s Hospitals, are a windfall to historians seeking documentation of the work of the AWH.  It is also the task of the historian to identify biases in sources and to situate their significance in a larger context.

Dr. Ruth Parmelee and nurse. Salonica, Greece, 1922.

Dr. Esther Pohl Lovejoy, 1918.

Lovejoy’s and Parmelee’s work in reporting what they saw and heard, and their calls for support and action, built upon a tradition set in motion earlier by secular and missionary Americans who had served in various Near Eastern locations.  In the context of rising nationalisms in the region, Americans had witnessed many years of conflict between the Muslim Turks, who they often characterized as feared,  despised, and uncivilized “Mohammedans,” and Greeks and Armenians, who they characterized as “Christian martyrs,” especially in the context of resistance to Ottoman rule.  Indeed, late nineteenth and early twentieth century reports from American missionaries and diplomats had resulted in widespread public awareness of the plight of Armenians and Greeks in the waning final years of the Ottoman Empire.  Many grassroots organizations, both religious and secular, conducted massive public fundraising campaigns so that American citizens knew of and contributed to saving the thousands of “starving Armenians” displaced by the conflict in the area.2  The Greek genocide and forced population exchange of 1922 became part of the American consciousness through the efforts of American witnesses who sought to form public attitudes and possibly achieve humanitarian intervention. These unprecedented international human rights campaigns helped shape America’s national and international identity.  3  AWH fundraising efforts shrewdly adopted these familiar tropes as a means of obtaining the funds to provide medical relief.  They joined the chorus of voices speaking against the growing evidence of ‘Turkification’ perpetrated by the Kemalist government, policies that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of Christian populations in the region. Read the full article.


  1. Italics mine.  Letter to Dr. Ruth A. Parmelee from Chairman EL (Esther Pohl Lovejoy), November 26, 1919, Records of the American Women’s Hospitals, Acc. 144, Box 9, Folder 73.  The Records of the American Women’s Hospitals are located at Drexel University College of Medicine, The Legacy Center Archives and Special Collections, Philadelphia, PA 19129.  Thanks to the generosity of the M. Louise Carpenter Gloeckner, M.D. Summer Research Fellowship, I was able to spend several weeks at the archives during the summer of 2010.  I am very grateful to have received this support and for all the wonderful help of the staff there, including Joanne Murray, Director, Margaret Graham, Digital Resources Archivist, Lisa Grimm, Assistant Archivist, (who left shortly after I arrived) and Karen Ernst, Administrative Assistant.  Their expertise and welcoming ways made my stay there very productive and joyful. 

  2. A recent treatment of the Armenian genocide and the response by the American public and government can be found in: Peter Balakian, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America’s Response (New York: Harper Collins, 2003).  

  3. See Barbara Reeves-Ellington’s dissertation “That our daughters may be as corner stones: American missionaries, Bulgarian nationalists, and the politics of gender” (Graduate School of Binghamton University State University of New York, 2001) for a critical study of the role of American women missionaries in shaping U.S. ambitions for empire during the nineteenth century in the Ottoman Empire. 

Kuhlenbeck with bookFor the past several weeks, I’ve been processing the extensive Hartwig Kuhlenbeck collection. Kuhlenbeck, born in Germany in 1897, was Professor of Anatomy and, later, Emeritus Professor at Woman’s Medical College, and served as Major of the Medical Corps of the United States Army during World War II.  He traveled all over the world, including the Alps, Alaska, the South Pacific, India, South America, and spent several years in Japan at the Imperial University and Keio University in Tokyo as Dozent of Anatomy and Comparative Neurology during the 1920s.  He’s an interesting man with an interesting collection.  While Kuhlenbeck deserves an entire blog post to himself, one item in his collection is just begging to be written about.

Kuhlenbeck saved various memorabilia from his travels: souvenir postcards and stationery, maps, museum booklets, hotel receipts.  Fun stuff to look through, and much the same as we save from our vacations today.

In 1951, Kuhlenbeck spent several months in South America, lecturing (in Spanish, of course) at the Neurological Clinic of the University of Montevideo, Uruguay; the Hortega Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina; and the Universities of Santiago and Concepcion in Chile.  He visited “a number of additional Medical Schools and Scientific Institutions…[to collect] material for comparative neurological study.” He also collected a shrunken head, allegedly from the Jivaro people.

The Jivaro are South American Indian people living in Ecuador and Peru, north of the Marañón River in the eastern part of the Andes mountains. They are war-like and well-known for their talent of shrinking heads to the size of apples.1 Kuhlenbeck described the head-shrinking process as such:

In the manufacture of the skin tsantsas, the separated head is split by a cut from the apex across the occiput to the rear end of the neck stump and carefully peeled away from the skull; the skinned skull is thrown away. The skin sack is then cooked for several hours in a boiler, where water and plant juices, known to the Indians as conducive to shrinkage, are mixed. Then the head-hunters sew the incision to guide the peeling skin and again achieve a further shrinkage, and at the same time shape [the head] by placing hot stones in the neck opening of the skin sack, and roll the stones back and forth. Furthermore, the outer side of the head is flattened with smooth stones and modeled. Finally, hot sand is poured through the neck opening into the interior of the hollow head; so that the final drying and shrinkage is caused, which can be completed by a kind of incense on the fire.

During his visit to Ecuador, Kuhlenbeck wrote in his Tagebuch (you view the relevant pages and translation here) about the day he purchased the shrunken head:

An old Indian woman, sitting there on a blanket spread out on the street, offers a variety of handicrafts for sale at which I look. As I exchange a few words with her, she pulls out of a basket a blackish, shrunken head,  the size of a small human fist, with a long dark mop of hair, which she offers to sell to me for a few dollars…It is apparently one of those designated as Tsantsa Trophies of the Jivaro (Jibaros), the wild Indian tribes of the tropical jungle in the upper Amazon.

Clearly not as skeptical as some would be when offered such merchandise for a measly few dollars, Kuhlenbeck seemed to believe it was the real deal:

The head, which the squaw offers to me, is obviously true – it shows the face of a young person of about 20 to 30 years, with slightly Negroid and some feminine traits. I am therefore not quite sure if it was a young man or is a woman. In the latter case, the value would only have been a very little as a trophy for the Jivaro. Also, it is probably a half-breed head, perhaps the one Zambos. The lips are sewn, as is generally the case with these heads, with only a single thread loop. Nevertheless, this  shrunken head offered to me is an unusual showpiece with an almost living facial expression. Therefore, I pay the high price and put the head, like an apple, in my coat pocket.

shrunken headNow, meet Jürgen Jivaro (we here at the Legacy Center have dubbed it as such, feeling it needed a name).  The question is, “Is it authentic?”  Authentic in this case – a true tsantsa – means a shrunken human head prepared with correct ceremonial and religious rituals by the Jivaro people.   I’m still undecided, but signs are pointing to it being a forgery – whether human, it’s very difficult to tell.

My first foray into Jürgen’s authenticity was to find out what Kuhlenbeck himself had written; luckily for me, he mentioned the date of his South American tour in a short autobiography.  From there it took several hours of paging through his Tagebuch (day book, literally) until finding some mention of the Jivaro – a tough task considering my German is a bit rusty!  With the help of Google Translate (quite possibly, the bane of foreign language teachers everywhere), I soon discovered the means by which Kuhlenbeck acquired Jürgen (as excerpted above).

Well, Kuhlenbeck seemed to harbor little doubts as to the authenticity of the shrunken head, but that didn’t settle it for me.  So I did some digging.  One helpful article, “Shrunken head (tsantsa): A complete forensic analysis procedure,” listed diagnosis criteria for authenticating shrunken heads.  Jürgen fit only four of these criteria well.2   Another article, a case study written in 1975 about two shrunken heads in the nearby Mütter Museum3, seemed to present evidence that Jürgen is not authentic.

So what did I find out about authentic tsantsa and forgeries?  A ‘forgery’ or ‘fake’ can be either a shrunken human head not prepared with the correct ritual (sometimes referred to as “tourist heads”2) or one made of an animal head (commonly sloth); animal hide; or even plastic.Here’s what I found about our shrunken head, and why I believe it’s not authentic, but (best case) a “tourist head” or (worst case) a fake composed of animal skin.

While Jürgen’s skin is smooth and polished with what could be charcoal, and there are stitches up the back of its head, it is clearly missing some qualities authentic shrunken heads share.  Yes, it’s not uncommon for the hair to be cut or for the string attached to the top of the head to be absent.  However, while Jürgen’s ears seem to be blocked with some sort of material, they’re not pierced.  Its eyes are not completely shut, let alone sealed.  This, and the fact that its lips are sewn through with only one thread as opposed to three, seem to point to the head being a forgery.  The Jivaro made certain the lips and eyes were sealed and sewn tight to ensure the spirit could neither see nor escape.  Additionally, the thumb-sized depressions found on the temples of authentic tsantsas are not noticeable.2,3

Blocked, unpierced ear

Side view showing eyes and lack of depression

Back of head showing stitching

Kuhlenbeck also mentioned that the shrunken head he purchased had “an almost living facial expression.” It has been stated that the Jivaros would purposefully distort the heads to ridicule their enemies and made no attempts to make the facial expressions look ‘alive.’3

All this evidence leads me to believe Jürgen is a forgery, much as I would like it to be authentic. Without the use of high-powered microscopes or DNA testing, we probably won’t know whether it is a human head. So what do you think? Is Jürgen authentic or just a clever forgery?

Sources cited:
1. “Jívaro.” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014.
2. Charlier, P.; Charlier, I-Huynh; Brun, L.; Herve, C.; and de la Grandmaison, Lorin. “Shrunken head (tsantsa): A complete forensic analysis procedure.” Forensic Science International, 222 (2012): 399e1-399e5.
3. Mutter, George L. “Jivaro Tsantsas, Authentic and Forged: A Study of Two Shrunken Heads in the Mütter Museum.” Transactions & Studies of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia 43, no. 2 (1975): 78-82.

As April rolls into May, our (now named!) digital history project is now in its beta testing phase.  We are sending it off to our project advisors and to The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage (our grant funders) for some feedback.  We’re especially excited to hear back from all the students and teachers who have tested out our story content and site functionality over the past three years.  While we still have some kinks – design-wise and interface-wise – to work out, we can say that we’re happy with the outcome, albeit exhausted.

More news about “Doctor or Doctress?” coming in September as we plan for our ‘official’ launch.  For more project and grant information, see our earlier blog, Playing with the Past: A Digital History Toolkit, or visit the interpretation planning section of our website here.

 

Well before (okay, at least a few months before) our digital history project will be launched, we visited two Philadelphia-area high schools last month to test our website in its beginning stages.  We focused on one story: “Two Women, Two Paths: Eliza Grier and Matilda Evans.” (An earlier blog post about testing the story content can be found at: Two Women, Two Paths.)  Our goal was to find out how the students navigated our as-of-yet rather basic site, and to make changes to the design, navigation, and user interface based upon our results.

As of now, our story includes about five ‘core documents,’ the ones we rely on as evidence; several ‘related documents,’ meant to enrich the content; a ‘background,’ which tells the story and gives general historical context pertaining to it; questions to consider while browsing through the documents; and a teaser video.  Each core document has attached to it a brief description, an image of the original, a transcript of the excerpted sections and audio to complement it, questions for discussion, and a ‘why it matters’ section, designed to let users know why this document is important as evidence to the story (or in general!).

Whew! Not too much content to fit into one page (for the stories)…or a pop-up window (for the documents), correct?

So several of the staff members here, along with a colleague from the Drexel Library, set out to see how students interacted with the page, knowing that the feedback might mean a lot more work, but in the end would create a better user experience.

Not surprisingly, many students watched the video first.  Some felt it was too short; the video was only 60 seconds.  Others felt the video was “too general” and would have liked it to provide more information about the story.

Students also seemed to like having the transcript and the audio for the documents.  They questioned the placement of the audio player, and some didn’t know the transcript was underneath the player.  Other students found the navigation on the viewer to be troublesome.  However, a lot of students commented they enjoyed being able to see the original document, and that the transcript and audio made it easier to figure out the handwriting and follow along.

Because our project is still in its early development phases, students had various comments about navigation: they found it hard to scroll from horizontally, as an example.  Many students said the pictures and the videos caught their eyes first; this is what we kind of expected, although it’s good to have confirmation.  Another rather common comment was that they way the content was presented felt a bit overwhelming; they wanted a cleaner layout with more visual components and one that was more aesthetically pleasing.

Overall, we found that students enjoyed going through the stories, and may wanted to “know more.” (Ah, the nature of archival material!)  Although they enjoyed using it, most said they wouldn’t visit the site unless it was for an assignment, which isn’t too surprising.  They found the questions and the ‘why it matters’ section useful for hypothetical assignments, although many admitted they wouldn’t bother with those if they were just browsing out of interest; again, not surprising.

While we have much feedback to wade through and changes to be worked out, it was fantastic seeing students enjoying seeing all this “old stuff” and really digging the images of original documents.

 by intern Claire (Tracy) Ulmer
This article is also posted on the HCI-PSAR blog. 

This fall I processed two collections as part of the HCI-PSAR Internship Pilot Program, facilitated by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR). As part of this project I received guidance and supervision from professional archivists at the Drexel University College of Medicine Archives & Special Collections where I processed the Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D. papers and at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society, where I processed the Philadelphia Canoe Club records.

The end goal of this internship pilot program was to make better known and more accessible the hidden archival collections held at the numerous small repositories throughout the five-county Philadelphia area (as well as to work out any kinks in the program!). While I certainly aided in this end goal, it was not the end goal I had for myself.

Other than an assignment for an archival studies class at Drexel University where I processed a collection of just 50 pages, I had no experience in processing archival collections. Sure, I had all the theory, knew all the lingo… but processing a comparatively small-scale class assignment and an actual collection are two very different things! This internship was a chance for me to merge my knowledge with experience.

I first processed the personal papers of Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D. and then the organizational papers of the Philadelphia Canoe Club. Over the months I learned first-hand what I recall discussing in all of my archival studies classes: what one wants to accomplish following archival theory is very different from what one might be capable of accomplishing given situational circumstances! It is theory versus reality, and it can be as frustrating as all get out.

Jessie Laird Brodie, MD collection before processing

Time, of course, is always a limiting factor, and my biggest challenge as I felt the pinch while processing both collections, particularly when I had to remind myself that I did not have time for minutia. Time versus thoroughness became my internal mantra. This factor inevitably led to compromise between the ideal and reality. For example, for the Jessie Laird Brodie, M.D. papers I was not able to organize or describe the 800 some odd 35 mm slides beyond, “The slides appear to be of Brodie’s travels outside the United States and are generally labeled with the country shown in the slides, but do not always have a date.” While frustrating, I had to accept that this area of the collection was simply not going to receive as much attention in terms of physical or intellectual arrangement.

Limiting how much attention I could give the two collections was a particular difficulty for me. The desire to get into every nook and cranny, figuratively speaking, was immense. As someone looking to enter the archival profession, where such detailed work is generally not possible due to time constraints, funding, and backlogs, pulling back from the minute was something I had to remind myself of every day I worked on the collections. Certainly starting with a collection of personal papers this was more difficult, but working on an organizational collection at the Chestnut Hill Historical Society was comparatively much easier. Folder labels were typically obvious and straightforward; for the most part I did not have to spend time double-checking that the contents of a folder were what the folder title purported them to be.

Jessie Laird Brodie, MD collection after processing

After working with two types of archival collections, there were two key principles I have since taken in mind: there are numerous ways to process any given collection; time and experience will help me to ferret out the best way to process various types of collections in the shortest amount of time possible. Also: always double check to make sure you pull all of the boxes belonging to one collection so you do not end up with a surprise box at the end when you go to put the collection away!

Hahnemann Medical College records

Funded through the Council of Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundations Grant, the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections (PACSCL) has begun its second venture into uncovering the “hidden collections” of Philadelphia area repositories. Here at the Legacy Center, our PACSCL processors will be delving into the records of Hahnemann Medical College, one of the predecessors of the Drexel College of Medicine.

Hahnemann Medical College, ca. 1890

Hahnemann Hospital and Nurses' Building, 15th Street, ca. 1910

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania was founded in Philadelphia in 1848 by Constantine Hering, Jacob Jeanes, and Walter Williamson. Homeopathy was becoming a somewhat popular alternative to traditional medicine, and the school was one of the first homeopathic medical schools in the United States. The College continually faced financial problems, and in 1867, Hering resigned his position after additional conflicts about the pathology and diagnostics department, and opened a new school, the Hahnemann Medical College. The two colleges merged in 1869 as Hahnemann Medical College. The College continued to focus its education on homeopathy until the 1920s and 1930s, when it began teaching traditional medicine. In 1941, Hahnemann Medical College began admitting women.

Drs. Charles Bailey and Joseph DiPalma

 

In the 1960s, Hahnemann rid itself completely of its homeopathic past and focused on the mid-20th century medical practices prescribed by the American Medical Association and the Association of American Medical Colleges. The faculty organized and directed laboratory work and clinical research programs, and implemented the modern teaching methods of the second half of the 20th century. Hahnemann was re-inventing itself as a nationally known academic medical center with prominence in cardiac surgery and cardiology, oncology, transplantation, training of non-physician health professionals, community health and community mental health. In 1981, it became a university with four fully accredited schools: the School of Medicine, Graduate School, School of Allied Health Professions, and School of Continuing Education.

In 1995, Hahnemann University merged with the Medical College of Pennsylvania (formerly Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania) under the Allegheny Health Education and Research Foundation. In 1998, with bankruptcy looming near for AHERF, Drexel University began operating the school as MCP Hahnemann University School of Medicine, and in 2002, it became the Drexel University College of Medicine.

The Legacy Center’s Hahnemann Medical College records include the papers from former deans, faculty members, and academic departments. To learn more about the Hidden Collections project, visit “About the Project”. Meet our hard-working processors, Steve and Annalise, on the “Project Team” section.

Interested in reading more about Hahnemann Medical College? Check out An Alternative Path by Naomi Rogers.


Constantine Hering, M.D., the father of homeopathy in America, was born on January 1, 1800 in Oschatz, Saxony, in Germany. In 1817, he began studying medicine at a surgical academy in Dresden. By 1820, he was enrolled at the University of Leipzig and during his studies there, he turned to homeopathy after injuring himself during a post-mortem examination. Refusing the traditional treatment of the time – amputation – he turned to homeopathy and was healed. Hering became a practitioner of homeopathy and was a great advocate for Samuel Hahnemann, the father of homeopathic medicine. In 1826, he graduated from the University of Wurzburg with a doctor of medicine. He then spent the next 7 years in South America researching zoology and botany on the orders of the King of Saxony. Hering, however, continued working in homeopathic medicine at hospitals and a leper colony. In 1833, he immigrated to the United States and opened his own medical practice.

A homeopathic medicine case, likely Hering's

Homeopathy is based on the principle that ‘like cures like’ – so a substance which causes symptoms in large doses will treat those same symptoms in small doses. Just as drinking several cups of coffee might make you stay up all night, taking the essence of coffee in small, highly diluted doses will help you sleep more easily. While this may sound counter-productive, the concept of ‘like cures like’ is sometimes used in traditional medicine, like using small amounts of pollen to de-sensitize a person allergic to it.

The idea of treating like with like dates as far back as Hippocrates, an ancient Greek physician who lived from 460 to 377 B.C.E. He is known as the father of western medicine. When Samuel Hahnemann discovered this method of treatment in the 19th century, he embraced it as an alternative the harsh medical treatments of the time, which often included blood-letting and purging. It is not difficult to see why Constantine Hering turned to homeopathy when he was at risk of losing a limb.

 

Hering, ca. 1850s

Once in Philadelphia, Hering founded the Hahnemannian Society of Philadelphia. He promoted the use of homeopathic medicine and, in 1835, along with several other doctors, he founded the North American Academy of Homeopathic Medicine in Allentown, Pennsylvania – the first homeopathic medical school in the United States. The Allentown Academy remained open until 1842. In 1838, the Homeopathic Medical Society of Philadelphia was founded. The Homeopathic Medical College of Pennsylvania opened in 1848 and in 1867, Hahnemann Medical College opened, both in Philadelphia. The two schools merged in 1871. Constantine Hering also published several scholarly journals, including the American Journal of Homeopathy (1835) and the Philadelphia Journal of Homeopathy (1852). He wrote several books as well, like his The Logic of Homeopathy (1860s). Hering continued practicing homeopathic medicine until his death in 1880.

 

Hering in his study, ca. 1870s


The Legacy Center holds Hering’s papers as well as those of his son-in-law, Calvin Knerr, who took over Hering’s practice after his death. The finding aid for this collection can be found here: Constantine Hering and Calvin B. Knerr Family Papers. In addition to the family papers, the Legacy Center has Hering’s collection of the works of Paracelsus, a 16th-century Swiss German physician who founded the discipline of toxicology. A PDF catalogue listing of the works in the collection can be found here: Paracelsus catalogue.