Lisa Grimm

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Good-bye

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Jun 042010
Dr. Emeline H. Cleveland - awaiting your research interest

It’s true – we made it through each part of the move, including leaving the old building, getting into the new building, moving collections from two off-site facilities and remediating the worst of the Iron Mountain failures – but the economy is driving our team apart.

I’m off to new adventures of a non-archival nature; finances compel me to resume my previous IT career.  The archival profession as a whole should have an open discussion about why a career that requires at least one (and often more) advanced degrees and a high degree of technical skill typically pays so poorly; hopefully, at some point in the future, that will change.

While that will not happen soon enough for me, I can say unreservedly that I’ve had a blast in this profession, and especially here at Drexel – how many jobs combine detective work, fun with history, techie buzz and all-around camaraderie with an amazing team?

And my work will stay with me – when last in Seattle, I noted places where Amy Kaukonen (WMC 1915) had lived and worked in that city, and I can answer just about any question you might pose about the evolution of women in medicine (or at least point you to someone who might know where else to look for details – why not start with The Chaff?).  When looking for pet names, my first impulse is now to honor an early woman doctor – it’s no doubt a modern manifestaiton of Jeremy Bentham naming his cat The Reverend Sir John Langbourne, DD (perhaps this happens to other UCL alums as well?) – although I would maintain that Anna M. Longshore-Potts, MD, is much easier to remember.

It’s also been interesting to see how many search results we get from middle schools, especially those looking for information on women doctors during the civil war, such as Mary Edwards Walker, and those looking for Rebecca Cole and Eliza Grier.  It’s especially encouraging in light of the planning grant we recently received to develop more content (and context) for this age group – something I’ll be keeping tabs on from afar.

I look forward to a future blog post when the Correspondenzblatt der Homoeopathischen Aerzte goes online – while I may be moving on, this blog will be in the extremely capable (if very busy) hands of other members of the department, so do continue to follow along.  Hopefully, there will be a new hire announcement in the near future (and I’ll try not to leave anything too strange for that person in my soon-to-be-former office – we’ve got enough of that sort of thing in the stacks).

And here are a few other takeaways –

With that, I must say farewell – it’s been a wonderful opportunity to share some of our work here with you, and I’ll continue to keep an eye on future developments.  Watch for more to come!

A Bit of Good News

 Administrative, Happenings  Comments Off on A Bit of Good News
Apr 152010

We’re getting a Pew grant! The hard work of our crack grant-writing team* paid off and the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage awarded us a $75,000 Interpretation Planning grant to support the development of interactive online programs for young audiences based on our collections.

This will not be the first time we’ve looked beyond our usual academic researcher demographic and aimed for younger audiences; in 2006, we received a History Channel grant that led to a relationship with the Philadelphia High School for Girls. Using primary sources from the collection, the students learned about women in medicine by looking at the long history of Girls’ High graduates attending the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.

This time around, the focus is on ‘serious play’ (which, pictured at right, was rather different in the 1880s) – reaching students in grades 6-12 through online games and interactive features that incorporate original documents and photos. The spotlight remains on the history of women in medicine (as well as Philadelphia’s place in medical history), but the project should lead further into digital humanities directions. You can keep up to date on our progress via our new Twitter account – feel free to follow along!

*All three of them

Ada Lovelace Day: A Visit from Marie Curie

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Mar 242010

In honor of Ada Lovelace Day, we look back at May 23, 1921, when the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania hosted a distinguished visitor – Marie Curie.

Dean Martha Tracy (herself a WMC alumna, class of 1904) spoke at the occasion:

“…it is singularly appropriate that the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, firm in its hard-won position in the first rank of American medical schools, should greet with profound sympathy and due reverence this woman citizen of a fellow-republic who has likewise won through years of self-sacrificing devotion to research her deserved position as the foremost of living scientists.”

Curie was granted an honorary degree – but she herself was absent on that day due to illness (only the year before, she had begun to experience symptoms caused by exposure to radioactivity). In her place, her daughter Irène Curie accepted the honor; Mme. Curie recovered the next day, and a student took a photograph of her with Dr. Tracy to document her visit to the College.

Of course, the visit was not simply a social call – Mme. Curie was on a fundraising tour. Through a campaign organized by Marie ‘Missy’ Mattingly Meloney, editor of The Delineator, a popular women’s magazine, more than $100,000 was ‘raised by women‘ and Mme. Curie was presented with a gram of radium by President Harding ‘on behalf of the women of America.’

The Medical Woman’s Journal also documented the endeavor it described the lack of radium in post-war France and Mme. Curie’s financial position:

“Madame Curie is a teacher of science and she has a teacher’s salary. She is one of the richest women in the world in scientific lore, but she has given the fruits of her labor to her laboratory. So she could not afford to travel westward.”

In a later issue, Madame Curie’s trip and the overall fundraising effort were described in an editorial as ‘Women’s Gift to a Woman for the Benefit of Mankind‘ – it went on to note that:

“Every progressive step taken by women has been secured by fighting against custom and prejudice; it has been a continual revolt against the established order. That is the reason women make such good revolutionists.”

For thousands of other blog posts on women in science and technology, check out Finding Ada – and for more on the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, follow us on Twitter. Thanks for visiting!

From the Collections: Constant Diversity?

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Feb 262010

The Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania had a long tradition of diversity; in addition to opening the doors to a formal medical education to American women of many backgrounds, including a former slave like Dr. Eliza Grier, it also helped to educate women from around the world – and that’s back when it was such an usual move that international students made headlines, just for coming. In 1885, there were three such ‘exotic’ women attending WMC at the same time – Dr. Anandibai Joshee, class of 1886, who was the first Indian woman to earn an MD; Japan’s Dr. Kei Okami, class of 1889, and Dr. Sabat Islambooly (yes, it’s a typo on the caption – and a very old one), class of 1890, from Syria – so naturally, a photograph was taken to honor the occasion:

By 1904, the College could boast alumnae hailing from ‘…Canada…Jamaica, Brazil, England, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Russia, Syria, India, China, Japan, Burmah, Australia, and the Congo Free State. Its living alumnae number about a thousand, and are found in nearly every part of the American republic and in many foreign countries, among them Egypt, India, China, Japan, Persia and Korea.’

Indeed, in the early twentieth century, the press loved nothing more than featuring women medical students from around the world in their native costumes – this example is from 1928 (although perhaps what is more interesting is that as late as 1928, a newspaper with a general readership could make a pop culture allusion to Gilbert & Sullivan and have it understood):

While a commitment to diversity waxed and waned throughout the years, it is interesting to note that it was strong in a very public way, at a time when it was not necessarily a popular stance. At the height of the Second World War, WMC admitted students from Japanese internment camps, although it is clear from a few not-so-subtle hints in the Faculty Minutes that not everyone was happy about their presence – one of them was nearly forced out on several occasions, and made to repeat work – all while being closely monitored.

But even within the wartime Japanese-American community at WMC (admittedly, a very small one), there was no single path that defined their experiences. Dr. Toshiko Toyota began her studies with the class of 1943, but the resulting chaos surrounding some Japanese-American students (and not a little suspicion from someone in the faculty – it seems from existing records that her time as a student was made as difficult at possible) delayed her schoolwork and pushed her into the class of 1944.

By contrast, Dr. Emma Hatayama, class of 1945, started at WMC in 1941; she had been advised as an undergrad to apply to east coast medical schools because of the increasing suspicion with which Japanese-Americans were viewed in the west, even prior to 1941 – but according to her oral history, she managed to avoid many of the tribulations other Japanese-American students suffered, largely by being in the right place at the right time – as she started her medical education on the east coast prior to the US entering the war, she was not subject to the restrictions placed on others.

Dr. Mary Sakaguchi Oda, class of 1946, was the sole Japanese-American student in her class; she was in medical school at UC Berkeley when war broke out; a California native, she was sent with her family to Manazar War Relocation Center in 1942, where Ansel Adams them (and where they suffered a number of family tragedies in 1944). After graduation, she returned to California to practice medicine.

Dr. Ruby Inouye, from Seattle, had been a pre-med student at the University of Washington in 1941; after the attack on Pearl Harbor, she found herself in the Minidoka War Relocation Center in Idaho with her family. In 1943, she was able to transfer to the University of Texas to complete her undergraduate education – while her family stayed behind in the camp. Organizations such as the National Japanese American Student Relocation Council worked to find places for Japanese-American college students at universities outside the ‘restricted area’ – and families who would house and ‘monitor’ them as required by the terms of their release from the camps. She arrived at WMC in 1944.

But Dr. Inouye was not the only Japanese-American student accepted in 1944 – Dr. Kazuko Ono (later Bill, whose family was in an internment camp in their home state of California, and whose education had been similarly interrupted) started at the College the same year. They are pictured together here in a College event from 1947:

In a class of fewer than 35 students, two who required considerable ‘extra’ administrative work certainly stood out – and it is interesting that there is no record of any Japanese-American student coming across discrimination from the faculty after Dr. Toyota’s experience.

It’s not clear whether she was simply the victim of bad timing or a particular individual with a grudge – but she and her fellow Japanese-American students went on to successful careers after graduation, although some continued to face discrimination in the years immediately following the war; but whether that was down to racism or sexism (or both) is another question entirely.

From the Collections: Harriet

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Feb 172010

She became famous at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, generations of medical students consider her part of their alma mater(s) and she’s even been considered an off-the-beaten-track tourist attraction – but who was ‘Harriet?’

Hahnemann Medical College in the 1880s was still very much a homeopathic institution – but that did not mean its professors overlooked basics such as anatomy. Enter Dr. Rufus B. Weaver, Professor of Anatomy. Weaver was an 1865 graduate of Penn Medical College, a institution that lasted from 1853-1880, and also known as the Penn Medical University – incidentally, it was co-ed from the start, as were a few other eclectic medical schools of the era. It was a purely homeopathic school which shared a founder with Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania (although a few early graduates later became homeopaths, teaching at Woman’s Med was always allopathic) in Dr. Joseph Longshore.

Weaver joined the Hahnemann faculty in 1869, first as a ‘demonstrator’ of Anatomy (‘demonstrator’ was a common job title for medical school faculty members in the nineteenth century), and later as a full professor. At some point during his career there in the 1880s, he crossed paths with Harriet Cole, an African-American cleaner at the College (you can find her described in more colorful fashion, as it were, by Time Magazine in the 1930s). When she died of tuberculosis in 1888, she willed her body to the College (although it’s equally possible that there was some opportunism at work on Weaver’s part). He set about dissecting her nervous system, a process that took him over five months of full-time work, and mounted it for display. While the intent was to employ Harriet (or, more accurately, what was left of her) as a teaching aid, the results were considered so tremendous that she was later submitted for display at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago, winning a number of prizes.

Harriet returned to Hahnemann as first ‘worked’ as a teaching tool, and later as a museum piece; restored by Hahnemann-trained cardiologist Dr. George Geckeler in the 1960s, she became part of the fabric of the institution and greeted medical students at Hahnemann’s Center City Philadelphia campus – even through mergers and related administrative upheavals.

Harriet remained in Center City until a recent renovation to the Hahnemann Library – she moved to Drexel University College of Medicine’s Queen Lane campus in 2008. While she is no longer part of the curriculum, Harriet still oversees current medical students; she is posted just outside the bookstore in the Student Activities Center.

While some who see Harriet in passing do not realize she was part of a real person, Weaver’s groundbreaking work with ‘Harriet’ continues to be referenced in medical journals – even as recently as 2005. While we know very little about Harriet Cole’s life, hopefully this sheds a little light on someone who made Weaver’s scientific efforts a success – and who deserves more than a brief footnote in his biography.

And…We’re In!

 On the move  Comments Off on And…We’re In!
Jan 042010

Apologies for the lack of updates, but the move has been something of a time killer. The good news is that we have been comfortably ensconced in the new building for a month now, and while we have yet to get absolutely everything moved in from our off-site storage (both locally-housed and at Iron Mountain), we are more or less up and running. Here are a few things we learned during this most recent move:

  1. New buildings can be dustier than ‘old’ archives
    The new compact shelving (left, with your cruise directors posed by photographer Dan Burke) is wonderful, but we had to wipe it down with old t-shirts before moving in the first portion of our holdings. Then there was a bit more construction work done which added yet more dust – but luckily, it seems this layer will be cleaned up by people who actually do that professionally, rather than by a few archivists.
  2. New buildings mean many visitors
    While I’ve moved offices before, this is the first time I’ve experienced a nearly-daily stream of visitors coming to tour the new space. It’s certainly not unpleasant to see people taking notice, but it does behoove one to keep things tidy – not always an easy prospect in this line of work!
  3. New buildings have glitches
    While this is a no-brainer, the challenge has been trying to predict what those will be before they pop up – and who is responsible for fixing them when they do. So far, we’ve been relatively lucky and have managed to avoid any showstoppers.
  4. New buildings generate ‘stuff’
    Starting the day we moved in, various departments appeared with ‘potentially important stuff’ – the accessioning table filled up rapidly (and stayed that way).
  5. New buildings have no impact on ‘regular work’
    On-site and remote research has continued apace – we’ve been a bit slower in responding to requests, but we have yet to completely turn anyone away. The same is true of grant applications, College events, digital projects and the like; we may have to offer a bit more expectation management than normal, but the world does not stop for anyone – certainly not us!
  6. New building t-shirts don’t design themselves
    But we still hope to get around to doing that in the near future – I still have my ‘I survived the server migration’ shirt from the late 1990s, and it’s only fair to commemorate this event in the same classic style.

We expect the rest of the collection to appear some time in January – and then a complex integration project will begin!

Latest Construction Photos: Nearly There!

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Sep 152009

Despite last week’s torrential rain, some brave members of Team Archives went to the Queen Lane campus to check on the progress of our new building – and it’s almost at the ‘finishing touches’ stage. Without further ado, a quick photo tour:

An exterior wall, just outside the lobby

Stairs off the lobby head down to the Archives, as is right and proper

Inside the future stacks – note the rails for the compact shelving

We will host future researchers here, in the reading room

Office interior – the windows may be well above eye level, but they still allow natural light!

From the Collections: Women’s Suffrage

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Aug 262009

Today marks the 89th anniversary of the 19th Amendment going into effect (which, oddly, doesn’t get an artistic rendering from Google). In a few short weeks, as part of the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership, we’ll be kicking off Vision 2020 at the National Constitution Center and we will also be involved in quite a few events to celebrate the 90th anniversary of women’s suffrage next year as well as working toward the centennial in 2020. In light of that, here are a few items from the collection related to winning the right to vote.

Although it was at the forefront of women’s medical education in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it may come as a surprise to some to learn that not all Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania students and faculty were in favor of the suffrage movement. This editorial in the student magazine from 1912, was very much opposed to the notion, even though the author (an anonymous female medical student) agreed, in principle, that women should have the right to vote – it just wouldn’t be a good thing for the nation as a whole.

However, that was most definitely not the majority view; another anonymous student satirized the anti-suffrage viewpoint held by some men under the none-too-subtle pen name ‘J. Ilted’ in this poem from the very next issue of the magazine.

Throughout this period, there are notices of pro-suffrage meetings being held in the Philadelphia area (such as this one), and some WMC faculty members were by no means quiet about the issue.

Dr. Ellen C. Potter (WMC 1903) issued a call to arms in 1912, lamenting the fact that contemporary young women medical students were apathetic compared to the previous generation’s struggling pioneers. Dr. Potter was a very popular professor and later a pioneer in public health and preventive medicine, which was a cause taken up by not a few suffragist physicians.

One of those was Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, who was a regular visitor to WMC, serving as commencement speaker when her schedule permitted (she was the leader of the National American Woman Suffrage Association for a number of years); her death, only a few months after the passing of the 19th Amendment, inspired the creation of the Anna Howard Shaw Memorial Deptartment of Preventive Medicine – although it was no easy task. The department was not officially created until 1930, even though a campaign was begun in 1920 to raise funds.

Despite earlier anti-suffrage positions from some students, there is no indication that anyone chose not to take advantage of the college holiday afforded by the 1920 election; the account in the Bulletin recorded that, ‘…the casting of our first ballots assumed the solemnity of a religious ceremony.’ Students took the opportunity to do some of the above-mentioned fundraising, ‘…collecting the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s ‘thank-offering’ for the Anna Howard Shaw Memorial.’

It may have been a working holiday, but it was a most welcome one.

Louisville Floods & Racing History

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Aug 052009

The entrance to the Derby Museum is just to the left of this gateIt’s typically an extremely rare occurrence when my worlds collide – oddly, this is the second time it has happened this year.

As many in the archival world know, I write about horse racing. And some in the horse racing world have a vague idea that I’m an archivist, but people in both spheres are probably a little unclear about what happens in the other one.

Here’s the short version for each group – first, for the archivists: horses run around a track and I comment on it. American horse racing has a long and storied history that could be more (and here I’m dropping in a professional buzzword) accessible – but more on that later. For the racing folk: archivists preserve documents, photographs, ephemera, etc. from the past so that people (and not just historians) can learn about (and from) that shared past. We also do a lot of complicated things with digitization and metadata – while the usual adjectives employed to describe our profession are ‘dusty’ or ‘musty,’ that’s only a small part of what we do.

Quite often, the archives (and the archivists who work there) are located in the basement – and that becomes a major issue in, say, a flood. The Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs just completed a renovation to their basement (where the storage and, as ever, archives are), including new shelving, when they were hit by a flash flood yesterday.

New shelving to an archivist is a precious commodity – we are rarely lucky enough to get shelving that is truly designed for archival use and it is difficult to raise money for it (as we have been doing in our archives for many a long day) because it’s not immediately apparent to someone outside the profession how much the right shelves help protect and maintain the collection.

But of course, even the best compact shelving cannot save the collections from the archivist’s second-greatest fear – water. At least one of the comments on the Courier-Journal article by Jennie Rees is wondering why the historical collections were stored in the basement, where they would be subject to flooding – and while that may seem unusual to the public, that’s essentially standard practice; except for the few institutions that have successfully implemented a visible storage project, cultural institutions cannot take up exhibit space with shelves and processing space – and you need a large open space for most useful shelving systems. Best practices may seek to get the archives and artifact storage above the flood line, but it rarely happens – indeed, when our archives moves into our new building, we will again be in the basement. (It may come as something of a surprise to some to discover that water damage happens even when collections are stored on higher levels – leaky pipes are a constant source of worry in the archival world).

Regardless of how the water gets in, archivists usually respond in just the way the Derby Museum staff did – by creating a human chain to get the materials and artifacts to higher ground. To add insult to injury, several museum employees lost their cars to the floodwaters while working to save the collections – but the good news is that it seems nothing was lost – just made very wet. Conserving wet materials is not as easy as just letting them dry off – the most effective approach is to have them freeze-dried and dealt with by a disaster mitigation firm. Obviously, that’s not cheap, but some organizations are lucky enough to have insurance to cover those costs – I don’t know whether that’s true of the Museum, but I hope they are able to get their collections back to the pre-flood state I enjoyed when visiting the Museum only last month.

Public libraries are rarely that fortunate – and the Louisville Public Library sustained very serious damage to both the physical plant and the books and computers (as did several of the branch libraries). In their case, a fund has been set up and donations are being accepted; keeping libraries running can be a challenge under the best circumstances, but the combination of a down economy and a major disaster is one that no library director wants to face – it’s a worthy cause.

I mentioned accessibility above and the lack of accessibility to horse racing history was, rather serendipitously, the topic of Teresa Genaro’s article in The Saratogian today (a note to the archivists reading – Teresa writes the rather wonderful Brooklyn Backstrech blog and was one of my co-bloggers for this year). She noted how difficult it was to authoritatively establish basic facts not only from the more distant past, but even statistics from recent years – and as someone on both sides of that fence, I couldn’t agree more with her conclusions. American racing history is fairly widely dispersed – there’s the Keeneland Library, the currently-damp Kentucky Derby Museum, the International Museum of the Horse, the National Museum of Racing and the National Sporting Library and while there is some crossover, for the most part, each has a different collection policy and research goals.

That list does not even begin to take into account an individual racetrack’s holdings (and who knows what happens when they close – where are the records of Ak-Sar-Ben? Who will take on those of Hollywood Park?) including their film and video storage. Other sources of racing history, like the Daily Racing Form or Equibase, tend to be considerably more proprietary about their information. Unlike the aforementioned libraries and museums, making their information accessible is not the goal – and while that makes a certain amount of sense in their business models, it would be nice if they turned their data over to one of the aforementioned institutions or had a records management policy that involved making that data available online (with a preservation copy elsewhere) after a certain time period – I’d be happy to recommend a number of Kentucky-based archivists for the job.

It’s difficult enough for researchers to find the information they are looking for under normal conditions; dealing with a disaster like the flooding in Kentucky makes the archivist’s goal of preserving the past and providing access that much more difficult. The only potential upside is that the spotlight these cultural institutions unwittingly find themselves in brings in some much-needed funds for repairs and, hopefully, future improvements that serve both the collections and the public.

Construction Update: July

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Jul 162009

We were lucky enough to get some updated photos of how construction is proceeding; while it’s certainly exciting to see the exterior come together, we were thrilled to get some previews of our actual workspace as well.

Building exterior: those partial windows at the bottom left will be ours.

Inside (and, you’ll notice, down the stairs, as is the rule for archives): we’re reasonably sure this is where the compact shelving is going.

Interior: this looks to be the reading room (or the office watching over it – we’re not entirely sure which side of the wall we’re seeing).

Interior again: Finally, an office! And, in an even more exciting development, we can see what I understand is a ‘window’ – something nary a one of us has had at work for years. Granted, it’s above eye level, but it’s still natural light.

Now we just need to figure out how and when we’re moving everything…