Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Audio Tour at the NMHM

About a year ago, the Museum acquired the Tour-Mate audio tour system, which allows visitors to do a self-guided highlights tour of the permanent exhibitions. Just yesterday, we added an additional hour to the audio tour to include the new exhibit "RESOLVED: Advances in Forensic Identification of U.S. War Dead," and “Trauma Bay II, Balad, Iraq.” Come by the museum for a listen. We might even have the files available for download on our website soon.

St Elizabeths hospital history

We've got a lot of autopsy records from St Elizabeths hospital in our Neuroanatomical collections. A new article discusses the race relations at the hospital, especially between the long-term patients and the soldiers arriving after WW1. Ask for an interlibrary loan of "`These strangers within our gates': race, psychiatry and mental illness among black Americans at St Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC, 1900-40" by Matthew Gambino, History of Psychiatry, 19:4, 2008. I read it at work today - Matthew's used our collection in the past although not for this article.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Telemedicine from the first world

Here's an Washington Post article about a British couple who have set up their own charity to provide telemedicine around the world, based on just themselves, an assistant and a lot of energy. The Swinfen Charitable Trust sounds like a pretty amazing shoe-string operation. Based in England, it has links to the University of Virginia. It's apparent in this article that telemedicine is going to change the practice of medicine as the 21st century progresses.

New upload to the Internet Archive

Today we uploaded a new item to the Internet Archive. It's "A Guide for Uniform Industrial Hygiene Codes or Regulations for the Use of Fluoroscopic Shoe Fitting Devices," by The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists.

It sounds kind of boring. All right, it sounds really boring, but when you read it you have to say to yourself, "what were they thinking?" It's self-described as a guide "designed to minimize the amount of radiation to which persons are exposed during the use of fluoroscopic shoe fitting devices." In other words, shoe stores had x-ray machines that you stuck your feet in (and our museum has one of them (the machine, not the feet)) to see how well your shoes fit. I dunno, when I was a kid the salesman used to press down on the toe of the new prospective shoes and ask if I could feel it.

Anyway, you can see this guide here.

Blackhawk as sickbed reading, circa 1951

53-2024-1 GSW of lower femur (with comic)

Here's a picture that one of the assistant archivists brought to my attention today. This poor guy has a gunshot wound of his lower femur (shown with a Blackhawk comic book on the bed) during the Korean War, 1951.

Scanned on a computer old enough to require a scuzzy port to connect to the scanner, copied to a cd and then carried home to be uploaded to Flickr and blogged about.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Photos aren't us continued again

Thomas asked "what's going on" in a previous posts comments. I have no idea why Flickr is blocked. However for the USB ports, this is a response to a computer virus - kind of like using a sledgehammer to swat a fly.

Oddly enough, Australian papers rather than American ones seem to have picked the story up and here's one. This earlier Wired article says:

The problem, according to a second Army e-mail, was prompted by a "virus called Agent.btz." That's a variation of the "SillyFDC" worm, which spreads by copying itself to thumb drives and the like. When that drive or disk is plugged into a second computer, the worm replicates itself again — this time on the PC. "From there, it automatically downloads code from another location. And that code could be pretty much anything," says Ryan Olson, director of rapid response for the iDefense computer security firm. SillyFDC has been around, in various forms, since July 2005. Worms that use a similar method of infection go back even further — to the early '90s. "But at that time they relied on infecting floppy disks rather than USB drives," Olson adds.

So this is a problem that dates back 2 decades and was apparently addressed by anti-viruses, but this is the current response. Personally I think there's a second underlying reason and this virus is just the current cover story. However, USB ports and the Internet are the way computers work now - as much as the military would like to, they're not going to be able to singlehandedly reset technology to 1995 nor return the Internet to a DARPAnet.

I put in a request to have my scanner port opened again, but I honestly do not expect to get a response. At some point, probably right about now, having computers on the military's network will be too much trouble and I'll pull them all to stand alone. People can just go back to telephoning with their requests - which we will then be able to actually fulfill.

Friday, November 21, 2008

More discoveries

I found this series when doing research for someone the other day.

The initial photo of Albert Bauer, a soldier wounded in World War 1:

The first medical illustration demonstrating the surgical procedure used to correct it:

And the continuation of the procedure:

I haven't come across the final picture but hope I do. I'd really like to see the finished reconstruction.

Osler photos

And, like yesterday, here's an announcement of someone else's neat history of medicine website. At one point in the early 20th century, the Museum rebuilt McGill's medical collections after a fire. One of their professors has rediscovered what's left recently, and I'll try to post on that soon. In the meantime, check this out:

The William Osler Photo Collection

The McGill Library is pleased to launch The William Osler Photo Collection, a searchable and browsable website of 384 images drawn from the Osler Library’s collection of photographs of Sir William Osler (1849-1919), who graduated from Medicine at McGill University in 1872 and, after a brief interval, taught there for ten years. He went on to the University of Pennsylvania (1884-1889), Johns Hopkins (1889-1905) and finally became Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford and one of the most famous doctors in his time. There are photographs from all stages of his life, along with pictures of Lady Osler, his son Edward Revere Osler and other family members. The site was made possible by a generous donation from the John P. McGovern Foundation.

The url is

Photos aren't us continued

Today the AFIP's IT department reached in and turned off our USB ports so we no longer have access to the 3/4 of a terabyte of hi-resolution scans on our external harddrives. They also made our scanners non-functional at the same time, as they plug into USB ports, so we can't make new scans for people either.

On the positive side, I talked with an ex-AFIP staffer who worked in the Medical Illustration Service from the early 1960s through the mid-1970s. He's given Historical Collections a moulage kit he worked on and we're going to do an oral history with him.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

In other news... excellent History of Embryology site launches

This press release came through the Caduceus history of medicine list today:

Making Visible Embryos,

An online exhibition by Tatjana Buklijas and Nick Hopwood, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge, with funding from the Wellcome Trust.

Images of human embryos are everywhere today: in newspapers, clinics, classrooms, laboratories, baby albums and on the internet. Debates about abortion, evolution, assisted conception and stem cells have made these representations controversial, but they are also routine. We tend to take them for granted. Yet 250 years ago human development was nowhere to be seen.

This online exhibition is about how embryo images were produced and made to represent some of the most potent biomedical objects and subjects of our time. It contextualizes such icons as Ernst Haeckel's allegedly forged Darwinist grids and Lennart Nilsson's 'drama of life before birth' on a 1965 cover of Life magazine. It also interprets over 120 now little-known drawings, engravings, woodcuts, paintings, wax models, X-rays and ultrasound scans from the fifteenth to the twenty-first century. It displays the work of making visible embryos.


One image on their site is from our museum - a His Embryograph - but we have similar collections of wax models, embryos and embryo models as discussed in the article. The two photographs here are from our collection. Some of the embryological collection is on display and I've heard that a reworking of it is underway.

Photos aren't us

As you've seen previously, last week Walter Reed blocked access to Flickr so we can't upload photographs for people to use or just enjoy. At the same time, they also blocked access to uploading services such as Rapidshare or Yousendit that we had been using to send photographs to requestors with same-day service. We switched back to burning and mailing cds this week. However today, the military implemented a policy of blocking USB ports on all networked computers (see below for details), and since they had previously required all their computer networks to be hooked together (changing our email addresses overnight but not actually notifying us about the change so all our email was bouncing), we're affected . Since all of our gigabytes of hi-resolution scans are on external hard drives that connect via USB, and we can't upload pictures to the internet, we are at the moment out of the photo library business and will not be providing publishable quality images to researchers. We may still be able to email small images. We apologize to our users. To be honest, since the CAC cards required to turn on the computers, the mouse and keyboard are all via USB, I don't actually expect to have a functioning computer at work. I would suggest calling the Museum if you have a question about coming in to do photo research since we will still be able to provide you access to the original image, unless it was electronic in the first place.

Here's the policy as sent out by Walter Reed's Department of Information Management (DOIM):

Effective immediately, the use of USB storage devices are suspended on all DoD NIPRNET and SIPRNET computers.

This rule will be technically implemented beginning 19 1800 November 2008 and will be applied across the entire network on all computers. Implementation of this rule will impact all memory sticks, thumb drives, USB external hard drives, and camera flash memory cards. USB connected printers with internal and external media storage (e.g. SD Cards, etc.) may also be impacted.

Other USB connected devices such as keyboards, mice, CAC readers, and blackberries "SHOULD NOT" be affected. Any user that experiences problems with such devices after technical implementation is asked to call the DOIM help desk or follow the procedures noted below for faster service.

These actions are being completed as part of an Army-Wide Information Assurance initiative to protect the DOD network from intrusion and continuous attacks. In order to further protect our network we ask all users to adhere to posted rules and allow us the opportunity to find secure alternatives (if those exists) to meet mission needs.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Today's discoveries

Did I ever tell you how much I like my job? Sometimes there's too much of it, but usually it's a journey of interesting discoveries.

Today I worked on a reference request that included anything we have on the Polish Relief Commission in World War 1. Searching for images for someone else is almost like spending someone else's money. I have all the fun and it's on someone else's dime. Cool.

We have about 100 pictures that include the Commission's name in the caption. Some of them, like some of just about everything, are, sorry, boring, but some just grab you right off and demand a second look.

Here's what I mean.

Reeve 31754 Polish Relief Commission (Col. Gilchrist). Little Polish girl.

Reeve 31756 Polish Relief Commission (Col. Gilchrist), opening public bathing place, distribution of cigarettes.

Reeve 31765 Polish Relief Commission (Col. Gilchrist), three waifs, fatherless & motherless, from effects of typhus fever, near Dora-Husk, Poland, 1920.

Reeve 31770 Polish Relief Commission (Col. Gilchrist), delousing Bolsheviks on the highways, 1919-1920.

Reeve 31933 Polish Relief Commission. (Col. Gilchrist). American equipment in the near east. Foden Thresh steam sterilizer with A.P.R.E. to Poland.

Reeve 31935 Polish Relief Commission (Col. Gilchrist). Cases of cholera left by retreating Bolsheviks near Villna, 1919.

Now admit it. Don't I have a great job?

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.