Once again the New York Academy of Medicine has brought us the #ColorOurCollections! From February 6th though 10th, libraries, special collections, archives, and other cultural institutions are sharing coloring content based on collection items. You can view a list of participating institutions here, but for a taste of medical history, including anatomy, dissection, flora, and even early smelting techniques (hey, you have to make medical tools somehow), download the Dittrick Coloring Book!
Better yet, post your creations to Instagram and show off your skill! We may just feature your work on the blog!
Continuing our series on Garfield’s death – join us for the talk Thursday.
Thursday: (Harper’s Weekly)
On September 19, 1881, President Garfield died in a New Jersey seashore cottage. He only survived 79 days after the shooting, with his weight falling from 225 pounds to only 130 pounds from July to September. Over a dozen doctors had participated in Garfield’s treatment, including many distinguished surgeons like David Hayes Agnew of the University of Pennsylvania, and Frank Hamilton of Bellevue Hospital Medical College. However, Dr. Bliss would not allow any others to provide their input. His lack of understanding on the antiseptic methods resulted in poor care that would lead ultimately to Garfield’s death. The wood engraving above was published 5 days after the President’s death; a double page spread (and hand colored), it depicts Garfield lying in the state, adorned with white roses.
Continuing our series on Garfield’s death–join us for the talk Thursday, and read more at the Plain Dealer, cleveland.com!
Wednesday: (Harper’s Magazine, Volume 25, 628)
On September 17, 1881, Harper’s Weekly published these scenes with the following titles: “Removing the President from the White House” and “Removing the president from the Express Wagon to the Railway car.” He had already been bedridden some time and through the hottest months. When September arrived, the President demanded to be removed from to the seaside; Dr. Bliss tried to forbid it, but Garfield insisted that he was not asking permission. Carefully removed to a train, he was transported to the Francklyn Cottage in Elberon, New Jersey, with loyal followers throwing straw on the tracks to make the ride easier. Garfield had always found comfort and peace in seeing the ocean; however, the fresh airs and tranquility did not aid to his recovery. In the following weeks the President’s conditioned worsened.
Continuing our series from Monday–come hear more at Thursday’s EVENT!
Tuesday: (Picture source: Kouwenhoven, John Atlee. Adventures of America, 1857-1900: A Pictorial Record from Harper’s Weekly. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1938. Print.)
In this wood engraving published on August 13, 1881, President Garfield appears lying on the bed while Alexander Bell, the father of the telephone, looks for the bullet with an electronic detector. Bell’s device failed to find the bullet, but in part this was due to Dr. Bliss, who prevented Bell from being more thorough. Other industrial inventions were also applied to relieve the pain felt by Garfield. For example, the president’s room was “air-conditioned” by fans that blew air over ice. Even so, none of these industrial miracles could overcome the fatal infection brought on by doctors’ dirty, unsterilized fingers and instruments. At the end of August, President Garfield’s health had seriously declined.
Have you ever wondered? President Garfield felled–but not by a bullet!
On July 2, 1881, President James Garfield was shot by a disgruntle federal job seeker, Charles Guiteau. Although nonfatal, these two shots eventually caused President Garfield’s death, due to the lack antiseptic procedures during his treatment. President Garfield’s doctor probed the abdominal wound with his fingers and failed to locate the bullet in his body!
The tragedy of President Garfield was detailed in countless newspapers across the United States in the summer of 1881, which triggered nationwide concerns on causes of infection and protection of public health. This week, our blog will chronicle the assassination of President Garfield by featuring one newspaper illustration every day! Join us for the “live” updates–and then register for a free event!
This unfortunate story will be concluded by our panel, CONVERSATIONS: Presidents, Public Health, and Pre-antiseptic Medicine, on Thursday, September 15th in the Dittrick Museum/Allen Library Powell Reading Room. Brandy Schillace, PhD and TEDx speaker, will give the history. Eric Rivet, Western Reserve Historical Society Curator of Collections and Exhibits and Scott Frank, Director of CWRU Master of Public Health Program and Director of Shaker Heights Health Department, will join us in the discussion!
Source: Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. “The tragedy at Washington — the night-watch before the Executive Mansion.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1881 – 1881.
On the night of July 8, 1881, worried citizens congregated in front of white house, waiting for news on President Garfield’s health. At 9:30 am on that same day, the President was assassinated by Charles Guiteau at a railroad station in Washington D.C.. On his trip to his Alma Mater, Williams College, for a speech, the President received two shots upon entering the waiting room at the station. However, it was later reported that none of the bullets hit Garfield lethally. Guiteau was arrested before he could walk out of the train station and he soon surrendered to the police.
Although shocked, Garfield remained conscious after the assassination. He was transported back to the White House for medical treatment. In the following months, the regular bulletins issued by the President’s doctors kept the concerned public updated on his health condition. Stay tuned!!
It’s almost September, and the Dittrick has launched our latest series of events–with a brand new kind of get-together: Museum Mixers!
Do you love CONVERSATIONS? Those mad-cap history talks and round-tables have been a great hit (see last year’s line up and videos). Well, this year’s line up has a few themes. It’s an election year, right? First on the list is Presidents and Pr-antiseptic Medicine–learn how President Garfield’s death influenced the practice of germ theory. (Hint: the bullet didn’t kill him!) The full list of these events are listed below, four in all! See the line-up! [Register]
BUT! If you can’t get enough Dittrick (and really, who doesn’t want more pre-21st century med/sci/tech?) join us for a brand new type of event: Museum Mixers–a happy-hour-like experience for casual interactions with history… and historical figures. The first will be a joint event between Dittrick and the Botanical Garden’s Hoppy Hour. Come at 5:30 for the beer, stay till 7:00 to meet John George Spenzer, 19th century Forensic specialist as he talks about Beer, Botanicals, and Bathtub Gin! There will be four mixers over the course of our next fall and spring calendar. And best of all, museum members get into all mixers FREE! Not a member? There’s an app for that! [Register]
And of course, we present our annual lectures, too–fabulous events and brilliant speakers. Join us in November for Susan Lederer’s talk about blowing the whistle on patient experimentation: Bombshells and Bioethics: Henry K. Beecher’s Ethics and Clinical Research. Spring lectures include Jessica Hill on law and contraception, and Lisa Rosner on “gaming,” smallpox, and the hunt for traveling germs! Learn more on the Dittrick main site!
It’s #FutureMW for Museum Week! Where do we hope to go in the future? The Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, in collaboration with design partners and funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, presents: How Medicine Became Modern, an innovative new way to explore the artifacts, people, and stories behind the great innovations of our age!
What was it like to be sick 50 years ago? 150 years ago?
What medical innovations most changed American lives?
How did Cleveland rise to importance as a medical city? In other words: How did we get here?
Museums nationally and internationally are reaching new audiences—while retaining and engaging present ones—through the medium of digital technology. The Philadelphia Museum of Art presented inter-actives for Treasures of Korea; the Field Museum of Chicago showcased a 3D exhibit about Tyrannosaurus bones; the British Museum of London installed 3D touch-activated Explorer Tables allowing virtual autopsy of a mummy. More locally, the Cleveland Museum of Art opened the award-winning Gallery One.
Now, the Dittrick Museum embarks on a project to make history come to life through a 10ft by 4ft interactive digital wall–a place where visitors can “handle” artifacts (rotating and zooming), and more importantly, a place to engage with the human stories behind them. Partnering with Zenith Systems and Bluecadet, and supported by NEH’s Museums Libraries & Cultural Organizations grant, How Medicine Became Modern will go live in 2017!
Free-standing 10ftx4ft wall in the main gallery
Ability to zoom, rotate, interact with artifacts
Links to the stories behind artifacts/Access to interactive game-play
Four lenses into medical history:
Want to hear more?
How would something like this work? Why would a museum want to take part in digital mediums? The 225th anniversary of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia Historical Medical Library (also the parent body of the Mütter Museum) asked these very questions in 2013. The answer? Museums and libraries must see new ways of engaging the public–and of building community. As I say in an essay for H-Sci-Med-Tech, History—far from being lost in the past—is by these means coming out to meet new friends. The story of medicine’s past offers something valuable to medicine’s future, a new way of interfacing between worlds that is both physical and digital, then and now. We enter the story through these public spaces, and through digital mediums, medical collections around the world are beginning to reach beyond them as well. What we see is a convergence of exhibit, interaction, and digital outreach.
A Practical Example from the Project:
The history of medicine offers much more than static displays or old tech. Each object, from a cast of Joseph Lister’s hand to a full-scale working x-ray machine, tells a tale of personal tragedy and triumph, of success and failure, of hopes and dreams.
Take, for instance, the phrenology bust. Sleek, smooth–replicas are attractive enough to show up on end-tables and mantle pieces. But what’s the story? It’s about Diagnosing by the Bump!
Franz-Joseph Gall (1758-1828), proposed that different functions, such as memory, language, emotion, and ability, were situated in specific “organs” of the brain. These portions of the brain would grow or shrink with use, and the changes would appear as bumps or depressions on the skull. Called Phrenology, the practice of “reading” the bumps supposedly allowed a practitioner to assess different abilities and personality traits. Does that make sense? What might our own phrenological assessment look like? The digital display allows the viewer to see a chart with interactive sections of the brain. Why not do your own “reading”?
But that’s not the only story. Phrenology resonated with the American Dream. Johann Kaspar Spurzheim (1776-1832) arrived to begin a speaking tour, and found a very willing audience. Why? It fit the “American Dream” idea of rising from nothing, emphasizing the ability to train the mind and attain social mobility. In other words, despite the bumps you were born with, we could all get better, a kind of rags-to-riches idea very popular even today. One of Cleveland’s own doctors had his “head examined”—Jared Potter Kirtland. On the other hand, phrenology and it’s sister pseudoscience physiognomy had a dark side; they privileged one race, one class, and one sex. Not exactly a “dream” of equality. (And for the record, Kirtland did not apparently agree with the reading; the booklet has his marginal notes!) The digital display offers the visitor a window in time; they can see the images and texts (and hand written notes!) while learning about larger ethical dilemmas.
Phrenology was later abandoned and its practitioners were attacked as charlatans and fakes. Even so, phrenology helped to move psychological understanding forward in two important ways: 1. it suggested that different parts of the brain did different things and 2. It demonstrated that individual effort could be just as, if not more, important than biological inheritance. The take-away? Through digital means, the visitor doesn’t just see the bust in a cabinet. Instead, he or she can look at it closely, from all angles, and then walk through time.
Better yet, the visitor can walk through the body—through anatomies and flip books of fugitive sheets (where each layer reveals more of the anatomy underneath). So much of our fragile history remains out of reach for visitors–but digital humanities/history projects can do much more than show the item itself. It can open up that artifact as a window into another time, another place.
We look forward with great anticipation to bringing this digital history/digital humanities project to life–the human story behind medical history: “How Medicine Became Modern.”
ABOUT THE BLOGGER Brandy Schillace, PhD, works as Research Associate and Public Engagement Fellow for Dittrick Museum. She is also a freelance fiction and non-fiction writer, lecturer, blogger, and the managing editor of a medical anthropology journal, Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. View her recent TEDx talk on the history of medicine and “steampunk,” featuring artifacts from the museum!