Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lecture at the National Museum of Health and Medicine: ‘Utilizing Literature and Film of War to Facilitate the Warrior-Civilian Transition’

Here's an announcement for a pretty specialized lecture in the Museum tomorrow.

Lecture at the National Museum of Health and Medicine: ‘Utilizing Literature and Film of War to Facilitate the Warrior-Civilian Transition’

Dr. Brett Holden of Bowling Green State University has been an invited lecturer at a number of universities around the country and has been a frequent participant in conferences and symposia related to media and war, reintegration of returning service personnel and their families, veteran literature, the witnessing process in veteran recovery, soldier in American cinema, and wounded warrior programs, etc.

When: Thursday, November 20, 2008, 3:00 p.m.

Where: Russell Auditorium, National Museum of Health and Medicine, in Bldg. 54

Cost: Free! Open to the public! Light refreshments served at 2:30 p.m.

Questions? Call (202) 782-2200 or email, or visit

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Foiled again!

Mike mentioned a couple of days ago that we've been blocked by the Army from our Flickr accounts. Yeah. So now we have to load images onto a thumb drive or email them to ourselves at our personal accounts, and upload from home. Which is what I've just done. Inefficient. Inconvenient. A waste of resources/time. But we're Intrepid Archivists who will do what it takes. Here's the latest offering, a severely fractured skull of a Confederate soldier from the Civil War, Surgical Photograph 9 (SP009).

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Day in the Life....

Today was a really typical day with no excitement but a pretty good feeling of accomplishment at crossing things off my List. I basically worked on two things. The first was performing QA (quality assurance) on several curatorial log books that we've sent for scanning. Each one comes back in both JPG and PDF formats and I have to look at both for the QA. Not every single page, but enough to know the scans are up to snuff. You might wonder why I have to look at both formats. That's because when we first started scanning books the jpegs came back in whatever lovely color they actually had, but the PDFs inexplicably were in grayscale. I don't know that we ever figured out how or why, and they were fixed, but now I look at both. By the way, these books will eventually be uploaded to the Internet Archive. In my spare time.

The other project of the day had to do with a new book published by the Borden Institute, the publishing arm of the Army Medical Department and School. It's called War Surgery in Afghanistan and Iraq: a Series of Cases 2003-2007. We received a couple of discs of the pictures used in the book and while waiting for huge PDFs of the books I talked about above to load, I matched the loosely identified images from the discs to the ones in the book. I'm making a spreadsheet of captions for all of the pictures that will be uploaded, along with the images, into our (still internal) database as part of our Medical Illustration Service Library.

What I find compelling about this book, aside from the miracles the docs over there are working on our soldiers, is that it's fulfilling a mission much like the Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion did at the time of the Civil War; it's a valuable teaching tool. As Dr. David Lounsbury, one of the three authors, said in an interview with the International Herald Tribune, "The average Joe Surgeon, civilian or military, has never seen this stuff... "It's a shocking, heart-stopping, eye-opening kind of thing. And they need to see this on the plane before they get there, because there's a learning curve to this."

Balad Exhibit @ National Museum of Health and Medicine

Exhibit Design / Photos - Navjeet Singh Chhina
Art Direction - Navjeet Singh Chhina

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Our Flickr issues

We're being blocked by Walter Reed's IT dept now, so we can't go to, let alone upload, photographs on Flickr. We're hoping to get that changed.

We've been working on joining Flickr Commons, but that agreement is currently being reviewed by our Legal Department.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Coffee Talk at Museum: 'Borrowed Soldiers: Americans Under British Command, 1918' - Wed., 11/12, 2pm!

My buddy Mitch is talking about his new book for Veteran's Day (well, the day after).

Afternoon Coffee Talk at the National Museum of Health and Medicine
Title: "Borrowed Soldiers: Americans Under British Command, 1918"

Speaker: Mitch Yockelson

What: During the summer and autumn of 1918, two United States Army divisions, fresh from training camps in South Carolina, were attached to the British Army and participated in some of World War I's bloodiest fighting. Attacks against strong German positions on the Western Front resulted in high American casualties and the British were called upon to provide medical support. Historian Mitch Yockelson will discuss how the 'doughboys' were evacuated from the battlefield and taken to British
hospitals for treatment. Following the program, Yockelson will sign his recent book, 'Borrowed Soldiers,' (available for sale before and after the program.)

When: Wednesday, November 12, 2:00-3:00 p.m.

Room: Russell Auditorium (AFIP, Bldg. 54)

Cost: FREE!! Coffee also included.

Photo ID required.

Contact information:
Name: Jessica Stark
Phone: 202-782-2200

Friday, November 7, 2008

Found in the Archives

Found in the Lent Johnson collection - scores of unprocessed boxes from an orthopedic pathologist who worked at AFIP from the 1940s until he died around 2000 – 5” of “A Study of Malnutrition in Japanese Prisoners of War,” from the 174th Station Hospital, New Bilibid Prison, Philippines. This is actually a study of Japanese captured by Americans at the end of the war – so they were suffering from malnutrition while being in the Japanese Imperial Army.

I'd seen this years ago, just after Lent died, but didn't know that it was in the records that came to the Museum. Fortunately another researcher had been looking at them and noted there was a box labeled 'dysentery atlas'. Alan of Historical Collections pulled the box from the warehouse and brought it down, and in the bottom was this malnutrition study.

The dysentery atlas is good too - it's a photographic study also from World War 2 and goes with an unpublished manuscript of a second edition of The practical microscopic diagnosis of dysentery / by Frank G. Haughwout, Manila : Bureau of Printing, 1924. You can see the first edition at the National Library of Medicine.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Upcoming Programs at the NMHM

Here's a preview of some upcoming programs at the NMHM in 2009:

LINCOLN SYMPOSIUM IN APRIL 2009: In April 2009, NMHM will offer a unique
program to mark the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth, featuring
renowned lecturers and physicians who will discuss different aspects of
Lincoln's health. The program was recently endorsed by the Abraham
Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. (Visit to learn more about the
ALBC.) Plan now to attend the program in April! Visit to learn

BRAIN AWARENESS WEEK IS COMING! In just four months (March 16-20, 2009),
Brain Awareness Week will be upon us, and if you are a middle-school
teacher in the greater Washington, D.C. area, now is your chance to get
in on the action. Sign up today so that your students will have this
unique opportunity to talk to neuroscientists and learn about brain
sciences through hands-on activities. Don't miss out on the excitement
of the Museum's tenth year celebrating Brain Awareness Week. Visit to learn about this past
year's exciting program, then call (202) 782-2456 or email to learn more or sign up.

Calendar of Upcoming Programs:

* Free Docent-Led Tours! Plan now to visit the Museum and take advantage
of a free introductory tour led by a Museum docent. November tours are
set for 11/8 and 11/22. Tours start at 1:00 p.m.; reservations are not

* Forensic Family Discovery Cart: Whorls, Ridges and Arches! No two
people share the same fingerprints. Join a museum docent for
fingerprinting activities and learn how fingerprinting is used in the
identification of human remains. When: Saturday, November 8 and 22, 2:00
p.m. - 3:00 p.m. Cost: Free

* Afternoon Coffee Talk at the Museum! "Borrowed Soldiers: Americans
Under British Command, 1918": During the summer and autumn of 1918, two
United States Army divisions, fresh from training camps in South
Carolina, were attached to the British Army and participated in some of
World War I's bloodiest fighting. Attacks against strong German
positions on the Western Front resulted in high American casualties and
the British were called upon to provide medical support. Historian
Mitch Yockelson will discuss how the 'doughboys' were evacuated from the
battlefield and taken to British hospitals for treatment. Following the
program, Yockelson will sign his recent book "Borrowed Soldiers"
(available for sale before and after the program.) When: Wednesday,
November 12, 2:00 p.m. Where: Russell Auditorium, National Museum of
Health and Medicine (Bldg. 54, on the campus of Walter Reed Army Medical
Center.) Cost: Free! Coffee served!

Check out the Events Calendar for updates:

A bit of synchronicity with our Vorwald collection

In the 1960s, Dr. Arthur J. Vorwald had a stroke. When he died a decade later his widow donated his personal papers to the AFIP which sent them down to the Museum. Vorwarld worked on industrial medicine and hygiene including asbestosis. In the early 1980s, the AFIP was sued to open the records, which included patient information. The lawfirm that brought the suit was Baron and Associates led by Fred Baron who died last week - "Fred Baron, 61; Asbestos-Fighting Lawyer, Political Operative," Washington Post Saturday, November 1, 2008; B06.

The records have mostly been used by lawyers since then although there's a lot of history in them. One bit that has been looked at by a historian of medicine was the Donora Air Pollution Incident in which a town in Pennsylvania was poisoned. It's now the subject of a museum exhibit as this article points out - "Unveiling a Museum, a Pennsylvania Town Remembers the Smog That Killed 20," By SEAN D. HAMILL, New York Times November 2, 2008.

Preserving specimens?

Here's a really interesting article in Chemistry & Engineering News about replacing the old standbys of formalin or alcohol to preserve tissue. Brian Spatola of our Anatomical Collections is quoted in the article.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

A day in the life...

Today Walter Reed was having a disaster planning episode which involved locking down the AFIP building so all of the collections staff went out to the warehouse. I was running a bit behind because yesterday a curator at the National Gallery of Art called to say that while the Gallery found something interesting while a conservator was cleaning Thomas Eakins' painting of the Museum's first curator John Hill Brinton. The partially-cleaned painting has what was thought to be a curtain in the upper left corner, but instead appears to be a flag or heraldic device. They had hoped it would be a medical one that I'd recognize, but I was in the dark... More research to follow, but the painting should look great when it's finished in a few months.

Up at the warehouse, Kathleen and I inventoried boxes of early 20th century journals that the AFIP library had transferred to us years ago, and then helped restack Neuroanatomical's Yakovlev Collection's library. Kathleen also had been editing a finding aid of the James Moore Ball Ophthalmic Museum collection which is a very large group of material on eyes and vision from the turn of the 19th century. I had to leave early to go to another building to get my warehouse ID card renewed and then popped back into the museum to update location in our database. Look for the Ball finding aid to show up on our main website soon.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Kolff-Brigham artificial kidney

I also scanned and uploaded this booklet, which took about one-millionth of the time the Gillette book did. You can see this one at the Internet Archive too.

The project from the dark side

is finally done. What an extended, painful experience, getting the Gillette Receipt book photographed, photoshopped (oh, about 3 times) and pdf'ed. It's awaiting your viewing pleasure on the Internet Archive. Let's just say it was a learning experience.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Another forensics exhibit

Well, this one is a few years off, but today I received the Fall 2008 issue of Memorial News, the newsletter from the National Law Enforcement Memorial. When the National Law Enforcement Museum opens in 2011, it will feature an interactive forensics exhibit, thanks to a generous donation by Target. "The Target Forensics Lab will feature six stations - fingerprinting, trace analysis, blood spatter analysis, DNA, toxicology, and firearms toolmarks and impressions - plus materials on forensic accounting, entomology, and a realistic medical examiner's office. Museum visitors will be able to 'take the case,' choosing one of four real crimes featured in the Museum, collecting evidence and analyzing it in the lab before identifying a suspect."

The museum will be in the 400 block of E Street NW, very near the Memorial at Judiciary Square.

October 26: Halloween activities at Museum

Halloween Activities at the NMHM!

When: Saturday, October 25, 2008 (see times below for specific activities)

What: Pasta skeleton craft activity for ages 5-12 (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) and scavenger hunt (10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m.)--prizes while they last!

Museum featured in Washington Post

The Post ran a nice bit in their pre-Halloween edition of the Weekend section yesterday, with author Amy Orndorff saying "Have you ever played that Halloween game where you're blindfolded and told to stick your hands in bowls that contain eyeballs (peeled grapes), tongues (pickles) and teeth (uncooked popcorn)? It might not be convincing, but the idea -- being close to things that were once inside a person -- is downright creepy. That is the same shiver-inducing, stomach-churning sensation that one feels while walking through the National Museum of Health and Medicine.... So skip the pickles this Halloween, and check out the real thing."

I can't say I've ever played that game, nor felt that about the Museum in over two decades, but read "A Gory Way to Learn About Your Health" and stop by the Museum.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Virtual museums

We came across a 2006 article from the NY Times yesterday that I thought vastly interesting, about how 75% of all visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art never cross the threshold. My first thought was "the admission fee!" but as you'll see, I misinterpreted this statement. I'm so used to free admission to great museums in Washington that I was taken aback on my first visit to the Met, seeing it was going to cost me $20 to get in. Worth it, of course, but a bit of culture shock (good pun, no?).

No, what the article meant was the Met has, as of 2006, 15 million visitors a year to its website, a huge number compared to the 4.5 million people who pay 20 bucks a pop. I understand the $20 is a suggested amount but, as one who works in a museum and has something of an understanding of what makes it go, I feel pretty guilty strolling in free.

It's this same kind of attempt to raise awareness of our museum that drives Mike and me and other staff to post samples of our stuff to our Flickr accounts (and hope, wish, hope for a Commons account), to the Internet Archive and to this blog. We have pretty cool things, just like the Met, that we want to share with everyone. No sense hiding our light under a basket, is there? We'd love to have the same kind of presence the Met has, and to see the same kind of numbers hitting our sites.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Another couple of days in the life of the assistant...

For a week that started out with a holiday, it's already been a long one. I started both days by performing quality assurance on boxes of images that have been scanned and on the metadata related to them, all of which have been uploaded to an online database. This involves sampling the box at 1% and comparing the info and image online to the item in the box. This is a very good time for the iPod. However, most of the action has centered on something called a charette. I'd never heard the word before a few weeks ago so I looked it up: it's defined as an "intense design exercise."

As I'm sure we've told you before, the museum is being relocated when the Walter Reed Army Medical Center closes in a few years. We're being sent just a mile or three up the road in Maryland and we're having a new museum built. Sounds great, doesn't it? Lemme tell ya, even as a bystander not having any importance to the project, it's a lot of work. Which brings us to the charette.

Yesterday and today, representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers, some Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission people, other Army people with interest in the process, the architects, some other people never identified to me, and museum staff in varying numbers, met for some scrutiny as to what we do and in what amount of space. Under BRAC law, we can't have a larger building than what we currently occupy even though most of us are overwhelmingly crowded. However, the designers are listening and noting, and we have high hopes that with professional design assistance, the space we'll occupy will be more functional and efficient even if no larger. So yesterday most of the collections staff were called in to talk about our space and give a general overview of how it's allocated.

Today we were asked to be more specific so collections staff met again and most of the day was spent poring over schematics of the building and creating a spreadsheet that spelled out how much space in each area is used for collections storage, researcher, processing, and office space (to give you an idea of how crowded we are, my "office" space is about 15 square feet and Mike's is not much more), and common storage areas for materials like empty boxes. There's a certain amount of overlap in a couple of areas, such as one largish room functioning as a combination of storage, processing, researcher, registrar, and office space for three different collections, so it took us a while to parse that kind of thing out.

The committee also wants to know what our anticipated growth is for the next several years. This information is probably the hardest of all to come up with. It's not like the spigot opens and closes with regularity, and that we control the flow. Some years in the archives we might accumulate another 10 linear feet of material. A middle amount might be 250 feet. A few years back we got 3000 bankers' boxes added to our collection. Yes, 3000. And for about the last six months of this year, just off the top of my head, I could come up with about 130 feet of material that came in in about 6-8 donations/accumulations. Finally, this 130 feet does not include the 22 cubic feet of video tapes that were delivered on Tuesday. We anticipate exponential growth over the next few years but have no real way to predict just how exponential it will be, unless "a lot" is an acceptable measurement.

Still haven't finished that "receipt" book but I have plans to do so tonight after the treadmill.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

AFIP Director's Message: The Joint Pathology Center A New Beginning

This is Dr. Mullick's message from the new AFIP Letter.

AFIP Director's Message: The Joint Pathology Center A New Beginning

As most of you know, the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) directed the Department of Defense to establish a Joint Pathology Center (JPC) that would provide diagnostic pathology services; pathology training; pathology research; and would modernize and update AFIP's current Tissue Repository, as long as creating such a center would be consistent with the final recommendations of the 2005 Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission. The Commission, as I'm sure you recall, had recommended disestablishment of the AFIP.

I can now report to you that the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs has concluded that a Joint Pathology Center can indeed be established in DoD and still meet the requirements spelled out by both the BRAC Commission and the 2008 NDAA. I can further report that implementation plans are now being finalized to establish the Joint Pathology Center as part of the new Walter Reed National Military
Medical Center.

Can I tell you exactly what the JPC will look like in terms of personnel, money and space? No, I can't. Those issues are still being worked out and it will likely be another few months before the road ahead is paved with the level of clarity and direction that I know you all are seeking. But what I can tell with clarity and direction is that we all need to embrace this process as a new beginning - an opportunity to help build a Reference Center for pathology for the federal government that's not only finely tuned to meet the current needs of our service members and their families, but one that's flexible enough to incorporate the technologies and techniques that will characterize the future of pathology. This Pathology Reference Center should provide the "final diagnosis" in difficult cases. The education and training should provide a professional level type of expertise that achieves academic legitimization and a CME function that will provide solidification of pathology expertise; and research should be of the highest caliber. The Tissue Repository should be maintained and modernized by using the best talent to provide unique cases and is supported by the best and most modern techniques.

I fully understand that many of you are disappointed and frustrated by the disestablishment of the AFIP and the transition to a Joint Pathology Center. And as someone who has spent much of my professional career here, I can certainly understand this. All of us - regardless of when we began our work with the AFIP - instantly became rich with an inheritance bequeathed to us through decades upon decades of splendid service by others who had helped make the Institute a world leader in pathology consultation, education and research. Such an inheritance is difficult to let go of; but let go of it we must so that we can focus on transferring as much of that wealth as possible to the Joint Pathology Center.

Think about a pathology center that continues to maintain and modernize AFIP's Tissue Repository so that the Military Healthcare System can access its assets for clinical care, research and training.

Think about a pathology reference center that will be an independent professional entity that is centrally located so that it's better able to provide world-class subspecialty pathology care to service members, their families, and other federal agencies. And imagine such care employing the best interpretive technology, including immunohistochemical staining, telepathology services, and immunofluorescent technology.

Think about a pathology center that will include a molecular pathology laboratory that will provide state-of-the-art PCR and Fluorescent In Situ Hybridization (FISH) technology to directly support diagnostic services and other military treatment facilities - a laboratory that will focus on providing tumor marker and pharmacogenomic diagnostic studies.

Think about a pathology center that will provide opportunities for resident and fellow rotations for all pathology residencies with the Military Healthcare System, as well as a robust online Continuing Medical Education program for pathologists throughout the military.

Think about a pathology center that is enthusiastic about the future of pathology, such as the future I detailed in my previous message - a future that relies heavily on pathology informatics, large-scale experiments, development of new subspecialties, and personalized medicine tailored to the individual and his or her environment. Imagine all this and more and I'm sure you can envision the many possibilities the Joint Pathology Center could create.

Then think about this. Some of the most spirited minds in pathology exist right here in this Institute. And a spirited mind never stops within itself. It is always aspiring and going beyond itself. If it does not advance and press forward and stand at bay and clash, it is only half alive. Its pursuits are boundless; and its food is wonder, the chase, and the belief in a better tomorrow.

Let's harness this power, embrace a new beginning, and help build the best Joint Pathology Center possible as a reference center for pathology for the Federal Government.

The Smile Train

I've been lucky enough to be in a position to make some donations to The Smile Train. If you're not familiar with this organization, they have figured out a way to repair cleft lips and palates in children all over the world for as little as $250, and in as little as 45 minutes. For those of us used to American medicine, this is miraculous.

How do they do it?

They train medical teams in-country using virtual training software, thereby eliminating costly travel and training expenses. Since 1999, their administration and overhead, as a percentage of total expense, has averaged about 2%. Two percent!

The Smile Train trains staff in 75 of the world's poorest countries and since 2000 has repaired cleft lip and cleft palate in more than 355,500 children. They were recently in Iraq where the circumstances dictated taking in a mobile operating theater (essentially a tricked-out 18-wheeler), where 66 children were treated and 15 Iraqi surgeons, anesthesiologists, and nurses were trained.

This is a remarkable organization for what they do and how they go about it. They have received 501(c)(3) status from the IRS and certified charity status from the Better Business Bureau.

Note that this post is not an official or unofficial endorsement by the Department of Defense, the Army, the AFIP, the museum, or the archives. Just me.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Medical museum articles online

My colleagues Sam Alberti and Simon Chaplin have articles in the online journal museum & society This should be a good issue.

Special issue: Constructing Nature Behind the Glass edited by Samuel J. M.M. Alberti and Christopher Whitehead


Constructing nature behind the glass
Samuel J.M.M. Alberti

Repair work: surfacing the geographies of dead animals
Merle Patchett and Kate Foster

The matter and meaning of museum taxidermy
Rachel Poliquin

Nature dissected, or dissection naturalized? The case of John Hunter’s museum
Simon Chaplin

From natural history to science: display and the transformation of American museums of science and nature
Karen A. Rader and Victoria E. M. Cain

Rethinking the value of biological specimens: laboratories, museums and the Barcoding of Life Initiative
Rebecca Ellis

Book Reviews

Ken Arnold, Cabinets for the Curious: Looking Back at Early English Museums Paula Findlen

Conal McCarthy, Exhibiting Māori: A History of Colonial Cultures of Display Julia Adams

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hours and hours and hours in the life of the peon archivist

Mike occasionally writes about A Day in the Life of a [chief] Archivist and I thought I'd chime in with what it's like if you're not the lead dog, so to speak.

We got a request for a scan of a "receipt" book that belonged to Horace Gillette. It's a hand-written, late-19th century book of recipes for a variety of things from pharmaceuticals to lamp black. I know this because I've looked at of this.....blessed least 6 times now. All 120 pages.

It's a small book, about 4" x 5.25" with hand-marbled paper on the cover and bound after the fact; that is, after the "receipts" were written, by being sewn through the top edges of the pages with twine or something similar. What I'm getting at here is because of its age and the way it's bound I can't slap the thing on a scanner, but had to photograph Since then, I've sent every.sing - oh, you know what I mean - through Photoshop and have had the hardest time keeping the color consistent from page to page. I'm sure there are PS users out there who could whip this out in no time, but I'm not one of them. In the process I compressed the files too much and now they're so soft they're pretty much unreadable. Time to start over.

I've brought the original shots home to work on on my own time because I figured it was my ineptitude that caused the first batch to fail and I'd already spent two days on it at work. My next try of the first half-dozen pages resulted in more of the same problems with color consistency, so now I'm trying yet again by opening them in Camera RAW format which gives me greater control. I sure hope it works because I'm pretty darned sick of this book by now. When I finish it (and I will!!) I'll post a link to it so you can see this albatross for yourselves.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What is a medical book?

Sometimes I'm glad I don't work at the National Library of Medicine. They're supposed to be the library of record for medical books, but what is a medical book? One of my neighbors has a new book out - Raising a Child with Albinism: A Guide to the Early Years by Susan Leslie DuBois (Editor). Is this a medical book? Probably. NLM doesn't have a copy yet though.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flickr success

We keep a log of all of our reference requests and I recently compared the number we have answered so far this year with the number last year at this time. I was pleased and surprised to see we're up between 25%-33%. The log doesn't say how the requester found us but it might be a good piece of information to add to next year's stats. My theory is that much of this increase comes from our Flickr accounts because many people are asking for "permission to use." I think advertisers, photo researchers, book illustrators, and the like are casting about for images and find exactly what they're looking for among our accounts.

Here's an example of how our collections are reaching an ever-wider audience. I handled this request recently and just today received in the mail a copy of the publication in which the image was published. El portavoz, a free community newspaper in Costa Rica, used one of our Reeve photos to illustrate an article about war wounded:

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

On retirement and a job well done

One of the Archives staff is retiring.

Tom Gaskins has been part of the Museum staff since 2004, but he was a mainstay of AFIP for years longer than that. He's been with the Institute for seventeen years, joining us from the Federal Records Center in Suitland. Tom singlehandedly ran the fifty-year old Medical Illustration Service Library of 3,000 boxes of hundreds of thousands of photographs. The library was the Department of Defense's official medical photograph repository from 1949 on. He inherited all of the responsibility for the Library as staff left and weren't replaced.

Tom's sense of duty and responsibility preserved the Library, through at least two moves, and in spite of disinterest or worse on the part of some. As well as safeguarding the material, Tom kept it being used. A photo request given to Tom was done quickly and well.

Tom joined us due to the Information Manufacturing Corporation scanning project. The initial plan was to do a lo-res scan of the Library and then discard the originals. Fortunately we were able to work around that and add the collection to the Museum. There's overseas photos from World War II, extinct diseases, and Vietnam helicopter dustoffs being found and scanned. Sometime soon we hope to show thousands of pictures online - at the moment you can see a few hundred at our Flickr links.

Tom's been an integral part of making possible hundreds of thousands of scans - 350,000 this year alone. His knowledge of the collection and willingness to share it has been the only thing that's enabled us to make sense of the staggering amount of pictures. Without Tom, the project wouldn't have gotten off the ground. He's also done work in the Archives, such as scanning all of our Civil War photographs.

While I have hopes of filling Tom's position, we certainly won't be able to replace him.


Here's a UK conference on military medicine -


The second international conference exploring the history of military medicine and health care since 1660 15th, 16th and 17th April 2009

at The Army Medical Services Museum

Sessions include

18th Century
The Napoleonic Wars
The American Contribution
The First World War
The Second World War
Military Nursing

For further details and booking form contact:

Army Medical Services Museum
Keogh Barracks, Ash Vale, Aldershot, Hants, GU12 5RQ
Tel: 01252 868820. email:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Army Times on Resolved

The Army Times that is out today gave a two-page spread to the Resolved exhibit.

NLM lecture - Universal Health Insurance Provided by Government

Due to an overwhelming response, Dr. Reiser's lecture has been moved to NLM's Lister Hill Auditorium. All other details of the talk remain the same.

History of Medicine Division Seminar
Tuesday, September 23, 2008, 2-3:30pm
Lister Hill Auditorium, Bldg 38A, NLM
Bethesda, MD

"Universal Health Insurance Provided by Government: Explaining Historically Why America Has Resisted This Concept."

Stanley Reiser, MD, PhD, George Washington University

Since the founding of the United States, political and social values and events have exerted a telling influence on the structure of its health system and the division of responsibility for providing the resources to access its care. Lack of understanding the nature and significance of these developments has been a continuing source of the failure of proposals to enlarge the entitlement of Americans to health care, introduced in the 20th century and up to now. This presentation considers this history and the lessons it carries for us today.

All are Welcome

Sign language interpretation is provided. Individuals with disabilities who need reasonable accommodation to participate may contact Stephen Greenberg at (301-435-4995), e-mail, or the Federal Relay (1-800-877-8339).

Due to current security measures at NIH, off-campus visitors are advised to consult the NLM Visitors and Security website:

Exhibit Design for MHS

A day in the life of, exhibits...

Exhibit Design for Military Health System
I had the privilege of art directing and designing
this for MHS.  

Yea, I worked this up using
Photoshop, Indesign, & Cinema-4D.  The artwork
was inspired by and uses photos from the respective
websites, but the mural is just a comp. I just love engineering
structure. This one was tough as hell though. Comments please.

credit of photos
Department of the Army,
Department of the Navy,
US Coast Guard,
US Air Force
and of course several images from the National Museum of Health & Medicine archives.

Art Director - Navjeet Singh Chhina
Design- Navjeet Singh Chhina

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Poster exhibit talk at National Academy of Sciences

Mike Sappol's speaking about his new exhibit. By the way, we just moved a box of exhibit catalogues from the last National Library of Medicine poster exhibit. If you want a copy for free, email me.

"The new and excellent method of skin grafting"

In this 1872 letter from George Otis to a soldier's lawyer that I found today, the Museum curator (and surgeon) recommends "the new and excellent method of skin grafting" if other methods of closing an ulcer fail. Otis goes on to note that he can't help with the man's pension, "and take only a scientific, and I trust humane interest in his case..."

George Otis was a good man, I think.

Art exhibit by Museum staffer

Archivist Donna Rose has an exhibit of her artwork in Baltimore.

She makes collages by tearing apart magazines. Fortunately this behavior hasn't spread to work.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix Bios

Civil War Women has two new posts of interest--Clara Barton and Dorothea Dix.

Both of these remarkable women are mentioned in the NMHM's exhibition "To Bind a Nation's Wounds"--Clara Barton also appears in the new exhibition, "RESOLVED."


Saturday, September 13, 2008

AFIP in new New Yorker article on 9-11

This article is largely about NY medical examiner Charlie Hirsch but also mentions AFIP rendering a second opinion on lung sections - probably the environmental pathology branch. Read "A Cloud of Smoke: The complicated death of a 9/11 hero," by Jennifer Kahn, September 15, 2008 - it's look at the limits of a medical examiner system.

The problem of electronic records

The New York Times has a good article on government electronic record keeping problems - "In Digital Age, Federal Files Blip Into Oblivion," By ROBERT PEAR, September 13, 2008, in which they summarize "Countless government records are being lost to posterity because workers do not regularly preserve documents."

This is true. It's a problem we face in the Museum. We're attempting to handle it by mounting more on our website, but largely through committing to KE Software's Emu catalogue which permits the electronic record to be linked to the catalogue record describing it. We're funded through 2009 and we hope to have most of the data and records in the museum uploaded into it by next summer.

AFIP mentioned in two newspaper articles

Ed Huffine, formerly of the Medical Examiner's office, is featured in "Stringing Together The Clues of DNA: Fairfax Lab Solves World's Mysteries," By Michael Laris, Washington Post Staff Writer, Friday, September 12, 2008; Page B01.
A urinalysis test developed at the AFIP for Salvia divinorum, a potent hallucinogenic herb, is discussed in "Popularity of a Hallucinogen May Thwart Its Medical Uses," By KEVIN SACK and BRENT McDONALD, New York Times September 9, 2008.

Walter Reed medical center history conference

With the level of communication, you couldn't tell we actually work on the same base, but I got my hands on a CFP from the WRAMC history office.

Call For Papers

Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Centennial Symposium 1909-2009

Date: April 29, 2009

Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, D. C.

Theme: Walter Reed and A Hundred Years of Army Medical Care

Background: On May 1, 1909, medical officials transported patients from the old and condemned, Washington Barracks General Hospital to the newly constructed Walter Reed General Hospital, and thus began the legacy of this world recognized military medical institution.

Papers: Papers should focus on the significance of Maj. Walter Reed, the army physician, or Walter Reed Army Medical and its medical institutions and history.

Participants are to submit a prospectus that includes the title of the paper, thesis or theme, overview and a brief bibliography.

Prospectus: Due December 1, 2008

Send to:

Sherman Fleek
Command Historian
Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Office Public Affairs
6900 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington DC, 20307-5001


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Military funeral at Arlington

Acres of headstones"
A woman emailed me a couple of months ago, asking if she could use one or two of my Flickr photos in a video she wanted to make to honor her father, who was buried at Arlington National Cemetery last spring. Of course I said yes, and went back to the cemetery to take some specific pictures for her. Please take a few minutes to watch her video and see parts of this iconic cemetery that needs just a one-word name: Arlington.

The cemetery's official website has details of its fascinating history that dates to America's Civil War. I think we who live here may take it for granted, but it really is a special, sacred place.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Did Daniel Sickles visit his leg in the Museum?

Someone emailed the question "Did Daniel Sickles visit his leg in the Museum?" in today.

Here's a bit I ran across a few years ago. A very old doctor wrote his reminiscences of people who knew in the US Army Medical Department in "Personal Recollections of Some Old Medical Officers" by Henry Crecy Yarrow, Military Surgeon January 1927, pp 73-74:

One day he [Curator George Otis] received a visit from a fine looking gentleman of military bearing, who announced himself as General Dan E. Sickles, and stated that he understood his leg, which had been amputated in consequence of a shell wound received in the battle of Chancellorsville, was on exhibit in the Museum. Dr. Otis replied that it was and with that courteous urbanity of manner for which he was celebrated, invited the General to accompany him to the main hall of the Museum. He pointed out several interesting specimens, but the General, apparently losing patience, said, Oh, yes, yes, but let us come to my leg!" They finally reached the case where the leg was exhibited and the General examined it very carefully for a few moments, when he turned to Otis and said with some harshness, "Where is my foot?" What have you done with my foot -- that should have been shown too." Otis replied that there seemed to be no necessity for saving the foot as the part saved showed why a surgical operation was necessary. The General became very angry and anathematized the museum very freely."

Diabetes and hearing loss

As part of my once-in-a-while campaign to spread the word about the long-term effects of Agent Orange, let me pass along to you a report from the NIH about the connection between diabetes and hearing loss.

"The link between diabetes and hearing loss was evident across all frequencies, with a stronger association in the high frequency range. Mild or greater hearing impairment of low- or mid-frequency sounds in the worse ear was about 21 percent in 399 adults with diabetes compared to about 9 percent in 4,741 adults without diabetes. For high frequency sounds, mild or greater hearing impairment in the worse ear was 54 percent in those with diabetes compared to 32 percent in those who did not have the disease."

How does Agent Orange fit in? As I noted in a prior post, the Veterans' Administration has stipulated that Agent Orange causes diabetes. So, once again, all of you Vietnam vets out there - if you have health problems, contact the VA.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Make your own museum specimens

With Halloween a few weeks away, those inspired by the rows of "wet specimens" at the museum can make their own at home!

RESOLVED exhibit spotlighted today

More links for you this evening, this time featuring our newest exhibit RESOLVED: Advances in Forensic Identification of U.S. War Dead.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Links to Pass The Time

Since I've been away from the blog for a while, I thought I'd dive back in with the most routine of blog posts: links, links and more links.

Friday, August 29, 2008

From body parts to Rodin sculpture

Here's an article that features our former exhibits guy, J. Carey Crane, and shows him getting to move a Rodin sculpture.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

We're famous! Sorta.

Today we received an email from that two of our photos that we posted on our Flickr accounts have been picked up under the Creative Commons license for use on their website. I posted one that they used and looking at it now, I wonder what I thought was so great about it. But if it brings us traffic to our Flickr pages, I guess it's all right.

Engravings du jour

This one's largely for Joanna of Morbid Anatomy. We had a researcher looking at the 19th Century Army Medical Museum this week so I pulled down a book I enjoy using - Mary Clemmer Ames, Ten Years in Washington: Life and Scenes in the National Capital as a Woman Sees Them (Hartford, CT: A.D. Worthington & Co, 1874). This is from when a guidebook had opinions and was proud of them. Here's five plates that we've scanned from the book, because they relate to medicine or the Civil War.

NCP 000788

NCP 000787 "All that remains above ground of John Wilkes Booth..." - now that's a guidebook!

NCP 000786

NCP 000785 "The City of the Slain"! Talk about accurate!

NCP 000784

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

We are not alone

The Medical Museion in Copenhagen has a blogpost about their storage problem, which amazingly enough, appears worse than ours! Something to feel good about!