Friday, May 29, 2009

Theresa Butler retiring today

Long-time Museum Staff Assistant Theresa Strong-Butler is retiring today after 40 years of government service, almost 20 of that at the Museum. Theresa filled one of those behind-the-scenes rolls that every museum needs, but you don't hear about. She ordered keys, supplies, and the like for the Museum and handled other administrative tasks. We wish her well as she pursues a new career in 'retirement'.

"Red Cross Work on Mutilés at Paris - 1918"

We just uploaded this 1918 film to the Internet Archive. Everything says it uploaded fine, but as I can't actually view it from work, I'll have to take their word for it.

See it here.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

DAVID MACAULAY: Author Talk & Book Signing

When: Friday, June 12, 2009 (1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.)

Saturday, June 13, 2009 (10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.) & (1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.)

Where: National Museum of Health and Medicine

What: Join David Macaulay for a discussion about his new book, "The Way We Work," as he illuminates the most important machine of all -- the human body. Your body is made up of various complex systems, and Macaulay is a master at making the complex understandable. He shows how the parts of the body work together, from the mechanics of a hand, to the process by which the heart pumps blood, to the chemical exchanges necessary to sustain life. A book signing will follow the discussion.

This event is being held in conjunction with NMHM's temporary exhibition, "David Macaulay Presents: The Way We Work, Getting to Know the Amazing Human Body," which features the famous author's original artwork for the book.

Bring your kids along! This event, as well as the exhibit, is great for teaching children about the human body.

Cost: FREE!

Parking is available. Photo ID required.

Information: or (202) 782-2200

David Macaulay bio:

Born on December 2, 1946, Macaulay was eleven when his family moved from England to the United States. An early fascination with simple technology and a love of model-making and drawing ultimately led him to study architecture at the Rhode Island School of Design. He received his degree in 1969 after spending his fifth year with RISD's European Honors Program in Rome. Macaulay is probably best known for a very thick book called "The Way Things Work" (1988), an exhaustively researched compendium of the intricate workings involved in almost anything that functions. It was followed by "Black and White," winner of the 1991 Caldecott Medal. Over the next decade, Macaulay published eight additional books, and in 2003 he began a volume about the workings of the human body—the results of which comprise this exhibition. In 2006, Macaulay was named a MacArthur fellow.

Able and Baker--the Space Monkeys

Today is the day, 50 years ago, that the space monkeys Able and Baker were shot into space for 9 minutes of weightlessness before they returned to earth. Able is close to my heart, as one of my favorite specimens in the musuem's collections. When vets were removing electrodes from Able, her heart stopped beating as she lay on the operating table. Able's body was sent to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology for a necropsy. I went down to Otis Historical Archives today and rummaged through about 3 boxes that contained slides, films, x-rays, notes, diagrams and an autopsy report. Little Able weighed 5 lbs. at autopy and was 1-1/2 years old. It was amazing to read the first-hand descriptions, although the slides made me wish I hadn't peeked--necropsies of cute little monkeys are not so pleasant.

She did her duty and became a hero in our nation's space race. We have Able's skeleton in our Anatomical Collections--the Smithsonian has her pelt. She's not currently on display.

I hope you'll enjoy Baker & Able's story on NPR's site:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Leprosy found in 4000 year old skeleton

We've got a lot of material on leprosy here, so this article is pretty interesting -

A Skeleton 4,000 Years Old Bears Evidence of Leprosy
Published: May 27, 2009
The oldest known skeleton showing signs of leprosy has been found in India and may help solve the puzzle of where the disease originated.

1512 alchemy book avaible online at NLM

NLM's History of Medicine Division is proud to announce that a new Turning the Pages Project has been released on the TTP kiosks in the Library and on the Web:

The project features Hieronymus Brunschwig's Liber de Arte Distillandi, printed in Strasbourg in 1512.  The book is a practical manual on chemical, alchemical, and distillation devices and techniques used to manufacture drug therapies, and it includes a number of hand-colored woodcuts featuring scenes of laboratories, distillation devices, and doctor patient scenes. 

Special thanks to Anne Rothfeld, who curated the project, and Michael Chung, Glenn Pearson, and George Thoma, who created another visually beautiful project through their incomparable programming skills.  Also special thanks to Roxanne Beatty for encoding the files for the gallery page.


Michael J. North,
Head of Rare Books & Early Manuscripts
History of Medicine Division
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD  20894


We've found maps, or portions thereof, on the backs of some of Frank Mack's "Skeeter" malaria cartoons I've been scanning. Cool stuff.

Yester-Day in the Life of an Archivist

Yesterday due to heavy rains, we had some minor flooding in the Museum. The Archives is in the "new" (1971) wing, which attaches to the old (1955) building, and water can get between the walls so we had some bubbling up through about 5 square feet of rug. Other areas in the Museum saw some slight leaks too. Let's hope the rain lightens up for the rest of the week.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

AFIP's Armed Forces Medical Examiner featured in NY Times

Here's a really good article about some of our colleagues (at least for 2 more years until BRAC goes through) - "Autopsies of War Dead Reveal Ways to Save Others," By DENISE GRADY, New York Times May 26, 2009. I hadn't heard about the collapsed lung problem and solution, but isn't that great how Dr. Harcke spotted that?

And this bit is lovely - "“He was one of the most compassionate people throughout this whole process that I dealt with from the Department of Defense,” Mrs. Sweet said of Captain Mallak." I don't really know Craig Mallak all that well as OAFME's off in Rockville, MD but it's nice to read something that positive about someone.

Malaria Moe

Warren Bernard gave us a nice donation last week of some WW2 malaria education cartoons done by Frank Mack, and a further "donation" of more of the same that we can scan for our collection. We had some of the "Malaria Moe" cartoons and some of these calendar pages, but ours were from microfilm and are black and white. Warren gave us the color versions and even 65 years on, they're fabulous.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hospitals using Web2.0 to advertise

Today's NY Times has a fascinating article on this -

Webcast Your Brain Surgery? Hospitals See Marketing Tool
Published: May 25, 2009
Hospitals are using Twitter from operating rooms, showing surgery on YouTube and having patients blog about their procedures, but ethics and privacy questions linger.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Yesterday was the Museum's 147th birthday

The Army Medical Museum was founded, on paper at least on May 21, 1862.

Yeah, we didn't notice either.

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts

Today was a positively gorgeous day in these parts, which called for a little road trip to Richmond. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is closing next month for a year for a massive remodel and expansion (sigh with envy) and they have just about four galleries open.

Here's what I found in one of them:

Scene from the Epidemic of Yellow Fever in Cadiz,
Théodore Géricault,
ca. 1819

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Avian autopsy, or, a Ready-Made Meal

I found this tasty thing on the NLM website. The caption says something along the line of "Do you want to have dinner with us, Mother Piton?"

Sunday, May 17, 2009

More on the Red Cross and Mutilés

I came across a reference that's hosted on the WWW Virtual Library website. (Now there's a website that will cost you hours. What a great reference tool.) It's called A Statement of Finances and Accomplishments for the period July 1, 1917 to February 28, 1919, by the American Red Cross, Washington, DC, October 1919. It contains this paragraph:

The relief of French mutilés included the operation of a school farm, the manufacture of portrait masks and artificial limbs, the operation of an educational and publicity service, and assistance to French institutions offering commercial and industrial courses to mutilés. It is estimated that 6s,000 [?] of the 600,000 crippled French soldiers were reached by the Red Cross.

It has a table that shows what kind of services were provided:

I'm surprised that only 94 men received "portrait masks." I would have expected a higher number.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Red Cross Work on Mutilés

Yesterday I gave a short presentation to an Elderhostel group visiting the museum (and let me just interject here how refreshing it was to speak to my peers, age-wise, as opposed to all the kids on staff) and as part of the presentation showed a 4-minute film called Red Cross Work on Mutilés, Paris, 1918. We recently had it transferred from Beta to a DVD and, although I've watched it over and over, I'm still mesmerized by it.

Today I was trolling the internet for more information on the Red Cross and mutilés (maimed) and found a title on Google books, American Red Cross Work among the French People, by Fisher Ames (1921) that had a photograph in it just like the background in the film.

And which is very similar to an exhibit we have:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

New Deal Art Registry

The Jack McMillen painting I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, which showed psychiatric patients at Forest Glen, Maryland, has been added to the New Deal Art Registry.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Forensics articles in today's NY Times' Science section

There's five or six articles in the Science section for May 12th.

Vorwald Collection

I've been working on updating the Vorwald Collection, a 250+ box set of documents, studies, and patient files related to asbestosis and silicosis. Arthur Vorwald was a doctor who devoted his career, first at the Saranac Laboratories in New York, and then at Wayne State University (my alma mater, but a little before my time) in Detroit, to showing the cause of these diseases. I recently came across a couple dozen photographs that show working conditions in quarries and factories, both with and without dust control mechanisms in place. They will eventually go up on Flickr, but here's one in advance. Is it any wonder these guys were dying?

Leyner Bar Operator Working Without Dust Control

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Exhibit Development FlyThru David Macaulay Exhibit

Exhibit Development flythru of the Macaulay Show
by Navjeet Singh Chhina
photoshop/cinema 4-d /vectorworks
Exhibit is "David Macaulay presents; The way we work" and 
exhibits 55 of his drawings. At the museum until Sept 09.

Fun Films

Found a neat film in the Developmental Anatomy Center.  It is supposed to be one of the first films showing cleavage occuring in a rabbit egg.  Very cool.  Going to scan it into digital format and hopefully post it.

Light 'em up

I was checking on some information in the Maxillofacial Surgery volume of The Medical Department of the US Army in the World War today (does that make me sound smart!?) and came across this passage on patients who had splints in their mouths for various fractures:

"Many of the soldiers with their mouths splinted were unable to smoke. This was overcome by placing a glass of water or cup of coffee or chocolate where they could reach it, when, after wetting their lips with their fingers which had been immersed in the liquid, they were able to smoke as long as the moisture remained. This gave them a great deal of comfort. It was possible, also, in cases in which the lower jaw was fixed or missing, for the patient to hold one nostril closed and then, by moistening the other nostril and putting a cigarette in it, to inhale through it, thus smoking quite readily."

I wish I had a picture of that.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

May 6: A Conversation on Nursing at Walter Reed

A Conversation on Nursing at Walter Reed

Second in NMHM’s Walter Reed Centennial Year Lecture Series

When: Wednesday, May 6, 2009, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

Where: Russell Auditorium, National Museum of Health and Medicine

What: Kick off National Nurses Week with "A Conversation on Nursing at Walter Reed." An informal discussion, featuring the history of nursing at Walter Reed, perspectives on current practices, and thoughts on the future of the Army Nurse Corps, will commemorate 100 years of nursing at Walter Reed.

Presenters: Debbie Cox, former Army Nurse Corps Historian; CPT Jennifer Easley, Medical/Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, WRAMC; LTC Patrick Ahearne, Staff Officer, Office of the Army Nurse Corps, Office of the Army Surgeon General

Cost: Free

Info: (202)782-2200 or

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An amazing story

Just saw this on my homepage. The woman who was the first US face transplant patient had a news conference. Brave, brave woman.

Jack McMillen painting

This 1944 painting by Jack McMillen was commissioned by the U.S. government for Walter Reed Army Medical Center as part of the Works Projects Administration (WPA) artists' program of World War II. It illustrates the historical function of the Forest Glen annex of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center as a holding and rehabilitation unit for medical patients, including psychiatric patients, during World War II.

This is a role the Forest Glen annex also played in subsequent wars. Psychiatric patients were identified, and to an extent stigmatized, by wearing maroon hospital clothing. For many years this painting was on display at the Forest Glen annex in Silver Spring, Maryland.
(from a publication by the Borden Institute)

The painting is egg tempera on canvas and measures 7 by 10.5 feet. It now is on display at the museum.

I also found a website while searching for whatever I could find on the artist. It's the New Deal Art Registry, a fun site to browse.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Avoid the swine flu

Thanks to Mike Lemish for the tip.

Don't do this.

May 6: A Conversation on Nursing at Walter Reed

A Conversation on Nursing at Walter Reed

Second in NMHM’s Walter Reed Centennial Year Lecture Series

When: Wednesday, May 6, 2009, 12:00 to 1:00 p.m.

Where: Russell Auditorium, National Museum of Health and Medicine

What: Kick off National Nurses Week with "A Conversation on Nursing at Walter Reed." An informal discussion, featuring the history of nursing at Walter Reed, perspectives on current practices, and thoughts on the future of the Army Nurse Corps, will commemorate 100 years of nursing at Walter Reed.

Presenters: Debbie Cox, former Army Nurse Corps Historian; CPT Jennifer Easley, Medical/Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, WRAMC; LTC Patrick Ahearne, Staff Officer, Office of the Army Nurse Corps, Office of the Army Surgeon General

Cost: Free

Info: (202)782-2200 or

American College of Surgery Archives website

Susan Rishworth is the archivist of the American College of Surgery Archives, and when I saw her at AAHM, she noted that they're starting to digitize some of of their collections. Check out their website.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Delousing WW1 photos and Flickr stats

Reeve 14292

Sterilizer. 01/21/1919. LeManns [Le Mans?], Sarthe, France. View of sterilizer. Interior. At salvage branch, American Embarkation Center. Delouser.

Our Flickr stats are at 1,307 items / 793,036 views this evening, slowly closing in on 800K, in spite of a series of WW1 delousing photographs that Kathleen put up recently.

Reeve 11739

German delousing and bathing plant. Interior view. Steam delouser compartments. Andenaide?, Belgium. 11/14/1918.

National Gallery trip today

In the pouring rain. With streets blocked off by DC police - on a Sunday morning no less. But I found this little gem that I hadn't seen before. (And really, it's not out of focus; I wonder if the artist didn't paint it soft like this because of the subject. Just a thought.)

Autopsy at the Hôtel-Dieu by Henri Gervex, 1876.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Guide to Collections is now online

It was a long, hard haul, but the 2009 edition of the Guide to the Collections at the National Museum of Health and Medicine (the first update in 10 years) is now online at the Internet Archive. You can download the PDF here.

Applause, please.

Medical Design Excellence

Thirty-two winners in the 2009 Medical Design Excellence competition have been named.

My two faves are
1. The Medigenic infection control keyboard, manufactured and submitted by Esterline Advanced Input Systems (Coeur d’Alene, ID). The Medigenic infection control keyboard addresses studies showing hospital keyboards to be a source of bacterial cross-contamination. The keyboard helps monitor its own cleaning status. I remember swabbing keyboards with alcohol when I worked in in a medical library and it always kind of makes my skin crawl at the public library when I need to log on. Next thing Medigenic needs to work on is antibacterial mice. They have a high yuck factor too.

2. The Whiz Freedom hygienic urine director, manufactured and submitted by Jbol Ltd. (Oxford, United Kingdom). (Do ya love the name?) The Freedom hygienic urine director is a hydrophobic, antibacterial, and eco-friendly device that enables women to urinate standing or sitting, indoors or outdoors, without undressing. It is suitable for use by incontinent or mobility-impaired users. Ladies, wouldn't you find this eminently useful at least once in your life? Just put it in the trunk with the Send Help banner and the road flares.