Friday, March 27, 2015

NMHM reports new finding aids and updated guide to collections

The National Museum of Health and Medicine has recently posted over 100 new finding aids, as well as a new 254-page guide to its collections at The breadth of medical subjects highlighted in these new finding aids extends to the history of forensic medicine, entomology, electron microscopy, medical illustrations, nursing, penicillin research, photo-micrography, physical therapy, pathology, and yellow fever. For those interested in the history of the Army Medical Museum, new finding aids also chronicle its early work. Some particularly rich collections related to these subjects, which may be of particular interest to archivists and librarians in the history of the health sciences, are described below.

Forensic Medicine:

The Stahl Collection (OHA 315.5) contains materials from the first formal resident in forensic pathology at the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP), and the first Navy officer to enter that field, Dr. Charles J. Stahl. Appointed as an approved pathologist for the State of Maryland while completing his residency in the early 1960s, Stahl conducted autopsies in Montgomery County and Baltimore during off duty hours. After finishing his residency, Stahl then spent two years in Guam as the Chief of Laboratory Service and Deputy Medical Examiner from 1963-1964. In 1965, he began his assignment as the Chief of Forensic Pathology at the AFIP, where he remained for the next ten years. During this period, Stahl led the largest department at the Institute, helped develop an extensive educational program, and consulted on a number of high profile cases including the Vietnam War crimes that inspired the film Casualties of War, the deaths of three NASA astronauts at Cape Kennedy, and the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. After stints at the Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, the Department of Veteran Affairs in Tennessee, and Wright State University

Stahl became the Deputy Medical Inspector for the Naval Medical Research Institute; he returned to the AFIP in October of 1992, as the Chief Armed Forces Medical Examiner, and remained in that position until his retirement. Subjects in the collection include anatomical and clinical pathology, forensic pathology, development of forensic pathology at AFIP, aerospace pathology, AFIP training, Vietnam, forensic military cases, Project Gemini, Robert Kennedy, pathology at the Naval Medical Center, and the AFIP's Medical Examiner's Office.

Material in this collection is complemented by the Wright Collection (OHA 375.2), which chronicles the work of Dr. Donald Gene Wright who served as a medical technician and pilot in the Air Force, logging over 3,300 hours of B-52 time from 1958- 1965. Wright went on to earn his medical degree from the University of Missouri in Columbia in 1969 where he began his internship and residency, finishing at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. He completed his forensic residency at AFIP in 1984, received his training at the medical examiner's offices in Baltimore and Washington, DC, and became well-known as a specialist in the investigation of aircraft accidents and mass disasters. After retiring in 1990, he served for several years as Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for the State of Maryland. The bulk of the collection consists of over 15,000 slides from Wright's collection of forensic pathology cases. Manuscripts in the collection include military and professional service records, administrative material, lectures, articles, and material related to Wright's investigations and research, including some photographs.

Medical Illustrations:

The Civil War Medical Illustrations Collection (OHA 135.05) offers graphic depictions of the work captured by trained artists who were recruited by Army Medical Museum Curator John Brinton in the early years of the Civil War. Brinton had illustrators enlist as hospital stewards who were then assigned to duty in the Surgeon General's office. Given the number of casualties during the war, both the Confederacy and the Union needed to educate as many doctors as possible in the skills of military medicine. Medical illustrations were used to depict wounds commonly encountered but rarely seen by civilian practitioners, and were used to demonstrate surgical procedures and the reasons for those procedures. Many of the illustrations in this collection also subsequently appeared in the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion, a six-volume set of books that played a critically important role in illustrating the lessons learned on battlefields.

The Medical Illustrations Collection (OHA 229) is an artificial collection of medical art (completed primarily by Museum staff), and includes illustrations from the nineteenth century, World War I era, the interwar period, and World War II through the 1960s. This collection is organized into three series based on chronology. Within each series the illustrations are organized by the individual artists represented. The collection includes a wide range of military medicine subjects such as battlefield wounds, anatomical and pathological studies, hygiene and preventive medicine measures, and innovative surgical techniques.

Medical Research:

A number of collections with new finding aids also relate to medical research, primarily covering the period from the Spanish-American War to the Vietnam War. The Osborn Collection (OHA 258.05) includes material related to the service, medical career, and personal life of Dr. William S. Osborn, who joined the U.S. Army in 1899 at age 22 as a hospital corpsman. Osborn spent at least a year stationed in California before serving in the Philippines until 1902. He then graduated from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of the University of Illinois in Chicago in 1904 and went on to work as superintendent at the Wisconsin State Hospital for the Insane and the State Hospital for the Insane in Knoxville, TN during the 1920s. Items of note in the collection include notebooks from the Army Pathological Laboratory and Santa Mesa Hospital in the Philippines (1900-1901); letters written by Osborn to his colleagues and friends describing life in the Philippines; and three personal scrapbooks made by Osborn and continued by his daughter after his death. Additional items include material on his daughter Clare Osborn, a nutritionist, reprints on the subject of fevers in the Philippines, and photographs of the Army Pathological Laboratory and life in Manila.

The Elton Collection (OHA 153) includes papers and research material gathered by pathologist Norman W. Elton, primarily for his studies of yellow fever in Central America in the 1940s and 1950s, when he served on the Canal Zone Board of Health. Elton served in the Panama Canal Zone and Philippines during World War II and was appointed a Colonel in the Medical Corps and Director of the Board of Health Laboratory at Gorgas Hospital in the Canal Zone in 1948. Elton published widely on various subjects in several medical journals throughout his career and became one of the foremost experts on yellow fever in the 1950s. Additional background material on the Board of Health Laboratory and yellow fever research dates to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Materials include Panama Canal Zone government documents, correspondence, patient records, reprints, notes, photographs, newsclippings, maps, X-rays, and slides.

The finding aids for these and other collections are available by contacting the Museum at:

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