Friday, February 29, 2008

New finding aid for Haymaker collection

Dr. Webb Haymaker was a neuropathologist at AFIP. We have a small collection of his papers and just put online a finding aid for them.

Medical trade literature finding aid online

We've finally had our database of medical trade literature (ie advertisements) converted to html and you can see a listing of items for this collection at the following URL. It's already obsolete as we continue to add material on a weekly basis. This isn't the best solution, but it will give a researcher a rough idea of what type of material we have and it's certainly more up-to-date than the 20-year old book that listed them, The Finest Instruments Ever Made. As we scan more of these catalogues, links to the scans will be added too.

OHA 168

General Medical Products Information Collection, ca. 1815-present
90 cubic feet, 144 boxes.
Finding aid available, arranged, active, unrestricted.
Artificial collection of product information, primarily advertisements and trade literature, on medical equipment, prosthetics, and pharmaceuticals. Arranged by manufacturer. Item-level finding aid.

More downloadable books on Internet Archive

The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War volume 8: Field Operations (1925)

The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. (1861-1865) Part I. Volume I. Medical History. (1st Medical volume) (1870)

Autopsy of President Kennedy (1965) by Pierre Finck, AFIP. From the Blumberg collection.

A Medical Survey of the Bituminous-Coal Industry (1947), Coal Mines Administration, US Department of the Interior. From the Vorwald collection.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How pharmaceuticals really are made

I'm sure most of us still hold to the old white-coated scientists in gleaming labs with ingredients never touched by human hands view. So read this fascinating expose.

Twists in Chain of Supplies for Blood Drug
New York Times February 28, 2008
Differing statements from the factory owner and traders highlight the difficulty of tracing the supply chain in China for the blood-thinner heparin.

Chinese pig intestines!

New book donated to museum

Civil War Museum Treasures: Outstanding Artifacts and the Stories Behind Them by Kenneth D. Alford, McFarland 2008. Includes a brief mention of the bullet that killed Lincoln and a picture on p. 25.

3 new scanned books on Internet Archive

Free for downloading, but very large files.

The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War volume 7: Training (1926) - this has a section on the Army Medical School which spun off of the Army Medical Museum, and in turn spun off the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, but whose role has been taken up by the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda.

A Catalogue of Surgeons' Instruments, Air and Water Beds, Pillows, and Cushions, Bandages, Trusses, Elastic Stockings, Inhalers, Galvanic Apparatus, and Other Appliances Used by the Medical Profession, Maw and Son, 1866

The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion. Part III, Volume II. (3rd Surgical volume)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Virtual Museums

I am increasingly amazed and fascinated with the growing presence of virtual museums and online exhibits. The internet is creating the perfect platform for these niche topics. I'd like to see the NMHM do an online condom exhibit. Check out the Museum of Food Anomalies. I like the fetus in the fried egg.

Thursday Lecture on African American Surgeons During the Civil War

Dr. Robert Slawson will be speaking on the topic African American Surgeons during the Civil War. The lecture will begin at 11:00 AM on February 28th. The lecture's for the Museum's docents, but Andrea said it's open to the public.

Ephemera - whadya do with it?

So what do you notice when you look at this box? It's a box of crackers? It's low fat? It's pink? It's a big breast cancer awareness advertisement?

The last is what I noticed. This is the type of ephemera which usually doesn't get saved, but is darn useful for doing exhibits. The question about where to file it then arises of course. We dropped this in a folder on Breast Cancer and didn't catalogue it in our General Medical Products Information trade literature collection.

Pathology article in Washington Post talks about value of saved tissue

"In a Va. Lab, Forging Links To Speed Cancer Advances GMU, With Ties to Italy, Aims to Be a Biotech Force
," By Michael Laris, Washington Post Staff Writer, Wednesday, February 27, 2008; B01.

New book donated to museum

We just received The Tropical World of Samuel Taylor Darling: Parasites, Pathology and Philanthropy by E. Chaves-Carballo, Sussex Academic Press, 2007.

Dr. Chaves-Carballo used our collection a little bit to write this biography of the pathologist at Panama's Gorgas Hospital. We have Darling's pathological reports and autopsies of the hospital in OHA 177 Gorgas Hospital Autopsies and Pathology Reports, 1900s-1970s. Darling discovered the fungal disease Histoplasmosis (although according to the book he thought it was a protozoa) and a picture from us of a 1905 autopsy report of the first case is on p. 66. The autopsy records also showed how many cases of malaria (called estivo-autumnal fever) was killing people.

6th World War 1 history online

I got the scan of the very large The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War volume 6: Sanitation (1926) up for downloading at the Internet Archive today.

Washington Post article on Walter Reed

"Trying Some Disney Attitude to Help Cure Walter Reed," By Steve Vogel, Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, February 25, 2008; B01.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

When you thought there couldn't be anything better than fabric brains....

Unbelievably, there is also a Gallery of Wood Brain Art. They produce figured wooden brains customized to reflect your research interests or particular features of your own brain, working either from 3D or 4D fMRI scans, jpgs or from psychological or medical diagnoses.

Speaking of Brains....

I am absolutely impressed with a new find in the museum world, The Museum of Fabric Brain Art. Wow. I'm thinking of creating The Museum of Fabric Bezoar Art--I already have one hand-crafted item in my personal collection.

Brain Awareness Week at the NMHM

For the ninth year, the NMHM will host a Brain Awareness Week (BAW) program for middle school students. This year over 800 students from DC, VA and MD will visit the museum between March 10 and 14 to participate in hands-on activities with area neuroscientists to learn more about the brain. Hopes are to inspire the next generation of neuroscientists.

Included in our Partners in Education are several of the National Institutes of Health. This year the National Institute on Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) is the lead institute from NIH. They will coordinate the efforts of NIA, NIAAA, NIMH and NIDA. NINDS has just launched a new web page that describes the program.

The NMHM also has a new web page about BAW, including our new BAW mascot.

Some medical trade literature with gender issues

I put up on Flickr 4 scans from 3 pieces of medical trade literature responding to a posting on another blog about gender and advertising. Here they are:

duJur-Amsco's' "Communication Capsules for Inner Space - the new... Stenorette dictating systems" cover. Circa 1961. Accession #2002.0042.

"Essence of Womanhood" Published by Personal Products Corporation, Milltown, New Jersey. Makers of MODESS TAMPONS. Circa 1960. Accession #2002.0042.

"Essence of Womanhood" doctor's ordering form. Published by Personal Products Corporation, Milltown, New Jersey. Makers of MODESS TAMPONS. Circa 1960. Accession #2002.0042.

"Lady, your anxiety is showing (over a coexisting depression)" folder cover for "The Nervous System anatomical illustrations" published by Merck, Sharp and Dohme, West Point, PA. Circa. 1969. Advertises Triavil "a broad-spectrum psychotheraputic agent for the management of outpatients and hospitalized patients with psychoses or neurosis characterized by mixtures of anxiety or agitation with symptoms of depression..." Accession #2002.0042.

Trade literature and advertising can be fascinating.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Plastination and repatriation

Global Museum had links to a couple of articles of interest.

The first is on plastination - Gunter von Hagens developed this technique for preserving tissue in the 1980s and currently has exhibits touring the US including one in Baltimore now. The article deals with the question of where the human remains come from before they're plastinated. The Baltimore Sun's blog goes into more details.

The second is on repatriation, or the return of material originating with another culture. This article focuses on New Zealand, but the NMHM has repatriated material in the past, and has had ceremonies in its space.

Flickr picture viewing, OR What Boing-Boing meant to us

Last month, without us knowing it, Boing-Boing ran a bit about our Flickr sites (links in sidebar). This is what happened to traffic on the 3 sites we have (after we fill the free 200 pictures, we start a new one). This was all a surprise to us because we can't access BoingBoing either.

1/18/2008: 14,386 views, accounts 1 & 2 combined for the previous year and a half.


At about 3:30 pm:

1: 18,435 views
2: 5,442 views
3: about 660

At 4 pm:
1: 18,896
2: 5,705 - 3 minutes later - 5731
3: 930

4:11 pm:

1: 19,030
2: 5,877

6:00 pm:

1: 20,476
2: 6,731
3: 1,230

7:15 pm:

1: 21,231
2: 7,292
3: 1,379


11:00 am:

1: 25,101
2: 9,752
3: 2,120

9:00 pm:

1: 26,905
2: 10,844
3: 2,439



1: 28,686
2: 11,803
3: 2,738


9:30 am:

1: 30,589
2: 12,706
3: 3,045

2/6/2008: 56,232 combined views

Midday, Bill Koslosky called me and did a brief interview so I had a clue what was going on. We could tell that people were suddenly accessing the sites, but had no idea why.

Amazing, isn't it? They might have gotten our name wrong, but boy did they do some good linking for us. We're still putting pictures up daily, and waiting to hear back from Flickr about joining their Commons project so check out the links on the bar on the right.

Morgellons disease and AFIP

A few week's ago the Washington Post Magazine published an article on Morgellons Disease which was not a condition that I was familiar with. Last week I came across an article stating that the Pathology Institute was asked to look into it - see "CDC enlists military to study skin ailment," Washington Times January 18, 2008.

Online artifact catalogues

We're attempting to build one right now with KE Emu software. This article gives an idea of what we're striving towards - "British Museum takes collection online; Ancient history meets cutting edge technology" by Ian Williams,, 14 Feb 2008

Obviously the British Museum is far larger - the article notes, "Around 275,000 of the museum's more than seven million treasures spanning two million years of history have already been uploaded to the new site, and the remaining items will follow over the coming months." I do think though that we'll get plenty of interest in our collections when we are able to make this work.

Museum 'alumni' - Marc Micozzi

Sometimes we're asked what former staff members are doing. Dr. Marc Micozzi became the Museum's director in 1986, and left in the early 1990s for the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. An internet news search on the Museum brought up this press release from last year - "Marc Micozzi Appointed to Prestigious Advisory Board of UC Irvine Extension's 'Spa & Hospitality Management'' Certificate Program."

Museum publication scans online

We're scanning tens of thousands of photographs each year, but also a few books. Here are links to ones that we began putting up on the Internet Archive last week. These are very large files - hundreds of megabytes - and there's a lot of reading that can be done here.

WW1 Medical History:

The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War volume 1: The Surgeon General's Office (1923)

The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War volume 2: Administration American Expeditionary Forces (1927)

The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War volume 3: Finance and Supply (1928)

The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War volume 4: Activities Concerning Mobilization Camps and Ports of Embarkation (1928)

The Medical Department of the United States Army in the World War volume 5: Military Hospitals in the United States (1923)

Instrument Catalogues:

An Illustrated Description of First-Class Achromatic Microscopes, Apparatus, Specimens, etc., Miller Brothers, 1879

Museum History:

The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology - Its First Century by Robert S. Henry (1962)

The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion was written by the Museum's curators, principally George Otis and J.J. Woodward. Not our scans, but we'll be uploading ours as well, including the missing 3rd Surgical volume -

The medical and surgical history of the war of the rebellion, (1861-65) Medical 1

The medical and surgical history of the war of the rebellion, (1861-65) Medical 2

The medical and surgical history of the war of the rebellion, (1861-65) Medical 3

The medical and surgical history of the war of the rebellion, (1861-65) Surgical 1

The medical and surgical history of the war of the rebellion, (1861-65) Surgical 2

Higher Rates of Breast Cancer Linked to Nighttime Lights

The Washington Post published a story last week reporting on the work of researchers in Israel. The scientists "overlaid satellite images of Earth onto cancer registries" and found that women who live in neighborhoods that have a lot of nighttime light, or those who work the graveyard shift, such as nurses and flight attendants, have a greater risk for breast cancer - as much as 60 percent higher. The key may be a lack of melatonin which is produced primarily at night; however, production of melatonin drops when light is present, especially light on the blue end of the spectrum, such as that from computer screens and fluorescent lights.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Museum Doodle

Talk about a hoppin' afternoon at the museum. The Pre-K to pre-teen crowd turned out in hordes to create Jackson Pollack-style artwork at the NMHM.

Jan Holland-Chapman, director of the DC and Montgomery Co. Abrakadoodle mobile art program, volunteered her time and resources to create an Abrakadoodle extravaganza. Expecting no more than 25 or so kids, Jan showed up for story time and a little painting with marbles and tempera paint--unbelievably about 200 people (kids and adults) showed up and created fabulous, one-of-a-kind works of art. This event was planned to compliment "Expression of Hope" an art exhibit of paintings by and about people with lysomal storage diseases to raise awareness about these rare conditions. A big thanks goes to Jan for her generous support of this program (and to docents Regina and Delores for all their help). To learn more about Abrakadoodle and their programs for parties, events, summer camps, etc., visit or email Jan at

Social concerns with medical technology

The New York Times has a couple of interesting articles today which deal with how medical technology - in these cases genetic testing and vaccination - may be sidetracked by social issues. This is the type of information that it's hard to carry with an object when you add it to a museum collection, I think. And note that the second article, on Gardasil vaccination for cervical cancer and genital warts ran in the Style section!

The DNA Age
Insurance Fears Lead Many to Shun DNA Tests
Published: February 24, 2008
Afraid of having genetic information used against them, many Americans do not take advantage of its growing availability.

Fashion & Style
Vaccinating Boys for Girls’ Sake?
Published: February 24, 2008
A new front for the fight against cervical cancer involves boys.

Another favorite photo

Here's another photo from the MAMAS collection (introduced below). Paperwork that came with the photo didn't have a name for this creature other than "mooch bug." I think, as a librarian/archivist, that it's a perfectly descriptive term, even if you wouldn't find in the Library of Congress Subject Headings.
MAMAS A44-24-1

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Introduction to one of our collections

Hi. I'm Kathleen Stocker, an assistant archivist at the museum. I've been there about 2 1/2 years, fresh out of graduate school and my first foray into the archives world. I love my job.

I was hired to begin processing images for a massive digitization project. The first collection I worked on is known as MAMAS (Museum and Medical Arts Services). MAMAS photographers were sent out by the Medical Museum during WW2 to document medical and surgical cases and, when things got slow, they shot a lot of other things like scenery and calmer activities. Of the hundreds of thousands of images we've digitized in the last couple of years, here is my favorite:

D45-416-34G (MAMAS)

This is the only information we have about this picture: "C-46 air evacuation from Manila, Philippine Islands."

I think the photo's a classic. It portrays such a feeling of calm and control. The soldiers are obviously all wounded, but they're in safe hands now, maybe on their way home. Mundane activities occupy the sergeant at the desk. And the nurse looks like a 1940s movie star, with just enough light on her face to make her the real subject of this photo, an elegant emblem of caring and competence.

Washington Post on dental care

Today's Washington Post has an excellent article on the problems of dental care in Louisiana. It's well worth reading about the volunteer work that Dr. Folse does.

Their ongoing report, "The Other Walter Reed" was on the same page too, so might as well link to it. We in the museum are completely in a different world from the patient care issues beyond passing each other in the cafeteria though.

Pictures of the Museum, its exhibits and its environs

My friend Bruce Guthrie stopped up for a tour a few weeks ago. He's an amateur photographer and took a lot of shots of both the exhibit floor and behind the scenes.

Julius Fabry's infected femur after George Otis' reamputation of it at the hip.

In the behind the scenes shots, you can get a brief glimpse of all 5 collections - Archives, then Historical, Anatomical, Neuropathology and Human Developmental Anatomy. The pictures with an asterisk at the top - * - have a caption you can read by clicking on the pencil.

Brain slices stained and mounted on glass for study.

Civil War bones with the bullets that caused the damage still attached.

Pictures of the Forest Glen Seminary
are also on Bruce's site. This former girl's school was used by the Army as part of Walter Reed Army Medical Center during World War 2 and up through the 1990s before part of it was sold for development as condos. The rest is still owned by WRAMC and holds the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research which is doing important work on malaria vaccines. We've got some interesting bits in the Archives about the school, including this large WPA-era painting on display, showing psychiatric patients on the grounds.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Book review out

The staff writes regularly for various publications and this seems like a good place to mention them. I got a copy of something I wrote in the mail a couple of days ago - “Book Review: Rehabilitating Bodies: Health, History and the American Civil War. By Lisa A. Long,” Journal of Southern History 74:1 (February 2008), 196-197.

We're also all writing a regular column for Scientist Magazine, edited by the Museum's Director Dr. Adrianne Noe and I'll try to get a list of those up.

So what about that blog name?

It's historical. I found it in a quote from one of the former curators. World War II confirmed the Army Medical Museum's primary role in pathology consultation. James Ash, the curator during the war and a pathologist, noted, "Shortly after the last war, more concerted efforts were instituted to concentrate in the Army Medical Museum the significant pathologic material occurring in Army installations." He closed with the complaint, "We still suffer under the connotation museum, an institution still thought of by many as a repository for bottled monsters and medical curiosities. To be sure, we have such specimens. As is required by law, we maintain an exhibit open to the public, but in war time, at least, the museum per se is the least of our functions, and we like to be thought of as the Army Institute of Pathology, a designation recently authorized by the Surgeon General."

After the war, it evolved into the tri-service Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

Letter on "A Family Album is One for the History Books"

At the beginning of the year, the New York Times ran an article that caught our archivist eyes:

A Family Album Is One for the History Books
Published: January 1, 2008
Photographs of William Howard Taft’s mission to the Far East, now on view at the Nippon Club, were found in an unlikely place.

I recalled that we had similar photos of Taft donated fairly recently, so Kathleen checked the collection and found them. We sent a letter to the Times that it didn't run, so here it is now for the Taft fans.

To the editor:

We read with interest "A Family Album is One for the History Books," (January 1), of the Harry Fowler Woods scrapbooks containing photographs from the 1905 return to the Philippines of William Howard Taft. The National Museum of Health and Medicine archives also has photographs of Taft in the Philippines, taken at his 1901 inauguration as the first Governor-General of the islands. Osborn also took pictures of the Filipino memorial services for the assassinated President McKinley, as well as Douglas MacArthur's father, military governor Arthur MacArthur. The photographs are part of a recent donation, the William S. Osborn Collection of scrapbooks, diaries, and dozens of letters that Osborn created during his service as a hospital corpsman in the wake of the Spanish-American War, as well as items from later in his career as a physician in Tennessee and Wisconsin. Many of Osborn's pictures were cyanotypes, which remain a lovely cool shade of blue. The scrapbook can be viewed by appointment.


Kathleen Stocker & Michael Rhode
Archivists, National Museum of Health and Medicine Washington, DC

Technology left behind, or an Intro to Our Neat Photos

Once upon a time, when one used horses in battle, one had to protect them as well. Germany's use of poison gas in World War 1 meant that one had to have a gas mask for one's horse too. This is Reeve 17408 and can be downloaded full-size from our third Flickr site.

Welcome to an experiment

Hello. My name is Mike Rhode, and I'm the chief archivist of the Otis Historical Archives, one of 5 collecting divisions of the museum. The entire museum staff's been invited and we'll see who else joins us here. Since Blogger is blocked by the IT department at work, this will be a labor of love (or something of the sort) done after hours.

Due to a large scanning project, we've been generating digital content - a lot of digital content - and trying to figure out how to make it available to the public more easily. Our 3 Flickr sites for favorite photographs selected by Archives staff - 1 and 2 and 3 - became a major success last month when BoingBoing linked to them, so I thought I'd try another element of the Web 2.0 concept to get information out. There's at least one other medical museum blog that I know of - Biomedicine on Display: Medical Museion @ University of Copenhagen.

We've been fairly aggressive about posting material on our collections and Museum to our website, so click on the link in the upper right corner and explore that too please. More to follow.