LC Guest

Apr 182017
 

– Exhibit by guest blogger, intern Jessica Walker

All materials from the Catharine Macfarlane Collection, unless noted in gallery at bottom

Although routine pelvic and breast exams are standard now, that hasn’t always been the case.  In the early 20th century, doctors commonly thought that healthy women wouldn’t submit themselves to periodic examination without cause.  Dr. Catherine Macfarlane, however, thought that the modern American woman would, and she was going to prove it.  In 1938 she received a grant from the American Medical Association to study periodic examinations to detect early appearances of carcinoma.  The study lasted for 15 years.  Dr. Macfarlane made a lasting impact on early cancer screening and prevention.  Pelvic and breast exams are now a routine part of female physical health.  Through the research clinic operated by Dr. Macfarlane, it was proved that early, routine examinations lead to early detection, and therefore treatment, of many types of cancers specific to women.

 

In July 1937 Catharine Macfarlane attended the Medical Women’s International Association Fourth Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland. There she participated in a discussion on the screening and prevention of pelvic cancer. She lamented that many of the doctors participating found it unlikely that women in their countries would not submit to preventative screenings. American women, she thought, would, and she set out to prove it by opening the first cancer prevention clinic in Pennsylvania, one of the first in the country.

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Dr. Macfarlane was often praised as one of the forerunners in the fight against cancer.  The Cancer Control Research Clinic operated by herself, Dr. Margaret Sturgis and Dr. Faith Fetterman began in 1938 and involved a study of over 1,300 women.  By the time Dr. Macfarlane closed the research clinic, over 200 such centers existed around the country.

 

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Throughout the study, Doctors Macfarlane, Sturgis and Fetterman published several articles on their findings from the clinic.  This was one of the first articles, published in the Medical Women’s Journal in 1942.

 

 

Doctors Catharine Macfarlane and Margaret Sturgis at the Cancer Control Research Clinic, circa 1959

 

 

 

 

 

In addition to doing the work of research on the positive effects of early screenings and writing papers, Dr. Macfarlane also gave talks on the results of the cancer prevention clinic.

 

 

 

 

 

Doctor Macfarlane at an exhibit on cancer, circa 1949

 

 

 

 

 

 

Despite what the doctors at the MWIA meeting thought, women in American were willing and eager to participate in preventative screenings.  The experiment was a resounding success.  It drew the attention of not only medical professionals, but laypeople as well.  The results of the prevention clinic were reported on by newspapers and magazines from around the country.

 

 

from the Cancer Bulletin, circa 1951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Though her initial focus was on pelvic exams, Dr. Macfarlane expanded the focus of the research clinic in the 1950s to include a study of breast exams and self-examination performed by the women themselves.  She found that women were able to detect abnormalities just as soon as a doctor could.

 

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On the Evolution of Meeting Minutes: Formality and Degrees of Richness

 From the collections  Comments Off on On the Evolution of Meeting Minutes: Formality and Degrees of Richness
Jan 192017
 

-by guest blogger, intern Jessica Walker

Though to some meeting minutes may seem routine, and perhaps even mundane, that is precisely why they are so fascinating.  Minutes are found within most organized groups, allowing for a common format to compare across time, distance, and even topic.

The Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia was founded in 1868 as an educational organization for those who were interested in “the diseases and problems particular to women.”[1]  Of particular interest within this collection is the minutes of the Society, which contain a range of detailed descriptions of meetings as well as parliamentary procedure followed by the organization.  As all things do over time, the Society evolved, and the changes in the structure and leadership of meetings are reflected within the meeting minutes of the Society.

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Bound volumes of meeting minutes

Physically and intellectually, the meeting minutes and documents undergo a significant transition from the founding of the Society to present.  The early minutes, ranging from 1879 to 1923, were hand written in bound (unpublished) volumes.  They contain detailed dialogues, recording a paraphrase of who said what and on what topic.  Dialogues and discourses taking place during the meetings included topics such as a woman who gave birth to five children in one year around 1880 or a case where the umbilical cord was wrapped around the neck of an infant and the results of such.

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Minutes from a meeting dated December 1879

From the minutes, we can tell that each meeting dedicated significant time to case studies, autopsy specimens, and discussion, which reveal fascinating insights into the minds of medical professionals of the day.  It is because the minutes are so detailed that we are better able to interpret what a doctor may have meant when they used a particular phrase, or why a certain topic may have come up.  The observations provided by these minutes allow for valuable examination of changing medical thought, interests, and priorities up to the 1920s.

The minutes from the 1920s to 2009 thoroughly cover what happened during the meetings, but do not contain the depth of discussion as the early minute books.  Later meeting papers offer more formal, parliamentary procedure style minutes, as many meeting records seem to do.  Although these types of minutes are still extremely useful in tracking what organizations were talking about at any given point in time, the uniqueness of an organization seems to be lost when parliamentary style minutes take over.  Per usual, the meeting was opened with the reading of previous meeting minutes, which then flowed into the “scientific program” portion of the meeting, followed by “private business” (consisting of reports on membership and committees), and closed with new and/or unfinished business.

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122 years later, meeting minutes from May 2001

Of particular interest in this portion of the meeting minutes is the detailed topics covered during these scientific programs.  Speakers presented papers on topics such as laparoscopic surgery or pregnancy following the amputation of the cervix, as well as hosting events where several speakers discussed broader topics, such as sexual education.  As interesting as the topics are, often what we learn from the minutes is that they happened, but not what the response was.  Fortunately, the Obstetrical Society did record some of these scientific sessions, and some of the recordings are preserved at the Legacy Center Archives.

From founding to present, the meeting minutes of the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia have had some aspect of parliamentary procedure woven into the meetings.  However, it is when procedure begins to take precedence over content that the individual voices of an organization can become muffled in the meeting minutes.  Though the minutes of the Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia vary in depth and detail over time, they allow for a comprehensive look into the functioning of a medical society.  Minutes describe what is going on in an organization at any given time in varying degrees of detail, and often reflect the changing nature, order, and leadership of an organization.  This particular society is an excellent example.

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[1] “Constitution and bylaws.” (1998) Box 1, Folder 5, The Obstetrical Society of Philadelphia records, 1868-2015, Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center Archives.

 Posted by on January 19, 2017

Hidden Collections 2015

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Hidden Collections 2015
Apr 132016
 

-by guest blogger, intern Daniel DelViscio

In 2015 I participated as an intern for the HCI-PSAR program hosted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR). I had processed a few collections before this for HSP, but as I think most archivists would agree each collection is its own animal, which is why we follow guidelines and not strict rules that allow for flexibility when processing. The two collections I worked on for this project were great examples of how collections can be totally different and in response you have to tailor your process in making sense of them for researchers. The Isabel Smith Stein collection on Elizabeth Cisney Smith was a collection of personal papers while the Kiwanis Club of Jenkintown was a collection on a local chapter of a global philanthropic organization.

Elizabeth Cisney Smith in class

The first of these collections I worked on was at the Drexel College of Medicine Legacy Center: Archives and Special Collections. The Elizabeth Cisney Smith collection was one compiled by Dr. Smith’s children and detailed her life as a female doctor in the early 1900s. As you may imagine this collection was rich in content and I often found myself struggling with trying to adhere to MPLP (More Product Less Process) standards and not delve headfirst into each folder for the entire time I was working on it. The collection came in four well-maintained boxes and was already arranged into a semblance of order by Isabel Smith Stein, Dr. Smith’s daughter. The contents served as an account both biographically and autobiographically, of Dr. Smith’s life, and there was a definite narrative to the collection before I ever started working on it. Having this narrative colored my processing of the collection and I wanted researchers to be aware of the reason why the records were arranged that way while still being very usable.

Kiwanis Club charter night

The second collection was the Kiwanis Club of Jenkintown, a collection housed at the Old York Road Historical Society. The Kiwanis Club is a global organization started in 1915 with volunteer labor and community improvement in mind. This collection contained materials for the Jenkintown chapter, which was chartered in 1949. The kinds of records that came with the collection were completely different than the Elizabeth Cisney Smith collection. In it I found an assortment of administrative records, financial records, and even a few plaques and loose photographs. The collection came to me with sparse labeling as to their contents aside from the folders housing the documents. In situations like these the processor needs to discern an order from the collection. This differed from The Elizabeth Cisney Smith collection in that right off the bat there was an attempt by Dr. Smith’s children, primarily Isabel Stein Smith, to arrange the collection in a certain order. This was not the case for the Kiwanis Club of Jenkintown collection. When the collection came to me it was an assortment of records in no particular order, but as I delved into each box I found that an order naturally presented itself in the types of records I was finding. This discovery dictated how I was to order the collection, a task which was difficult, but ultimately very satisfying when I was able to step back and look at the complete set of boxes arranged nicely with their appropriate labels.

Kiwanis Club of Jenkintown unprocessed

In all I found the process of making sense of both the collections to be a wonderfully rewarding experience. Seeing the progression of loose materials in various formats find their way into an order that someone else can use is pretty gratifying. It strikes a similar chord if you’ve ever built something from Legos by looking at a picture of what you’re building.