Thursday, June 20, 2013

Dittrick Museum Blog's New Home

Important News!

The Dittrick Museum Blog is changing its address! First, let us thank you for joining us here over the past few years--this present web log will remain active as the archive of fascinating posts from inception to January 2013. Second, we invite you to join us at our new home:

The new site includes all the posts from 2013, plus links to the archives and new pages where we include information about the museum (and later, events). The searchable categories make finding new features easy. Come have a stroll around the new domain--and don't forget to follow us on twitter @DittrickMuseum!


Your friends at the Dittrick Museum of Medical History

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hot off the presses! : Medical Museums: Past, Present, Future

Just yesterday we received copies of Medical Museums: Past, Present, Future, published by the Royal College of Surgeons of England to mark the 200th anniversary of their museum opening.  The origin of the RCSE museum may be traced to the acquisition of John Hunter’s anatomy and pathology collections in 1799.  The College had just purchased property on Lincoln’s Inn Fields and would soon build its new home there, incorporating gallery space for Hunter’s collections.  The doors opened in May 1813 and the Hunterian remains a distinguished medical museum today, having most recently (2005) been re-opened in a beautifully renovated setting at the College. 

All this and the fascinating stories behind fifteen leading museums, authored by associated curators, directors, and historians, have been capably edited by Sam Alberti and Elizabeth Hallam, and lavishly presented in a handsome volume. The Dittrick was included along with three other American medical museums, and eleven from across the UK and Europe.  Our contribution benefitted from the wonderful photography of Dittrick assistant curator Laura Travis.

We’ll be offering this book as a bonus to new and renewed membership in the Friends of the Dittrick Museum.  Details to follow.  In the meantime, here's a selection of Laura Travis's photography for the book: 

Drawing by H. F. Aitken

Selection of mid 19th century contraceptives
and associated advice literature
from the Percy Skuy Collection
Midwifery manikin, c.1780
Modified Laennec stethoscope, c.1834 and
first image of the stethoscope in use,
from Dictionnaire des sciences medicales, 1819
Rogers sphygmomanometer, c.1920
from the M. Donald Blaufox collection
Percussion and reflex hammers.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Dittrick at Pecha Kucha Cleveland 2013

On last Friday night, I presented the Percy Skuy contraceptive collection at Pecha Kucha Cleveland, an event for architects, designers, artists, artisans, and many other creative folk, attended by 300+ at the House of Blues.  The invitation came from Aseem Garg, CWRU grad student interning with my daughter Patty at the Cleveland Museum of Art – he was sold after seeing my video from the Trojan Co., which aired in February.  We (12 presenters) each shared 20 slides, limited to just 20 seconds of commentary. If and when the Pecha Kucha video is available, I'll share. Best thing about the evening was sharing it with Patty and Ted, and then having several appreciative 20-somethings say "Man, you really nailed it!" -- and, I got to go first, so I could enjoy the rest of the evening's events. What a great load of super creative Clevelanders! Gives one ample hope for the city’s future.  And connecting the Dittrick to a younger audience is priceless.

Me at center, with Patty and Ted on my left

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Medical Paris, 1852

I’ve enjoyed reading David McCullough’s The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris (2011), somewhat to my own surprise.  Not that he’s a bad author in any way, but I have sometimes been disappointed by the “history-lite” tone of some of his writing (1776 is the most flagrant example that comes to mind). 

But The Greater Journey does not disappoint in this manner.  It delves into the experience of Americans drawn to Paris in the 19th century, including a legion of American medical students and doctors flocking to Paris between 1815 and 1860.  Having read John Harley Warner’s masterful Against the Spirit of System: The French Impulse in Nineteenth-Century American Medicine (2003), I fully expected McCullough to have simply creamed off the best of John’s work.  Somehow it didn’t read that way and I can heartily recommend The Greater Journey.  I was actually sorry to finish the book! Perhaps I’m a softy, however.  I spent a seminal year in Paris, researching my dissertation on a Fulbright, and I cherish very fond memories of that time. So McCullough’s book really resonates.

Additionally, it led me to uncover some marvelous views of medical Paris in the 1850s, as found in Tableau de Paris by Edmond Texier.  The first volume of Tableau appeared in 1852 and featured not only images of the school, but a glimpse of the lives of medical students, which I found utterly charming.  This remarkable work, issued in two volumes (1852-1853) by Paulin and Le Chevalier, featured 1500 plates engraved from drawings by  Blanchard, Cham, Champin, Forest, Français, Gavarni, Gérard-Séguin, J.J. Grandville, Lami, Pauquet, Renard, Roussel, Valentin, Vernet, and others.  Edward Valentin and Edouard Renard executed most of the medical school drawings.

Vue extérieure de l'École de médecine de Paris.

Le grand amphithéâtre.

Un examen dans la salle des instruments.

Intérieur du cabinet d'anatomie comparée.

La galerie d'anatomie comparée.

Student life

From the text, describing life outside the classroom, lecture hall, or dissection room:

Ordinarily the room of a medical student is found perched on a landing reached by a dark, winding staircase, which begins at the bottom of a narrow and obscure passage. It is furnished in patriarchal simplicity: bed, table, chairs, and also a wardrobe and a secretary usually covered with human bones. This is the look of the room of the young student: a full complement of mortuary ornamentation that serves as the teaching material for his profession. A skull serves as tobacco pot, another as a candlestick; bones pleasingly arranged as a cross or saltire.  The richest student possesses a child’s skeleton mounted by his own hand. But be not afraid. Laughter, joy, juvenile exuberance prevail in the middle of this funerary equipment. Sometimes you’ll see a woman’s hat sitting between a denuded tibia and the debris of a spinal column, or a shawl thrown carelessly on the table covered with bones, paper, and extinguished tobacco pipesBut his usual occupations are so repulsive to the fair sex, that he must muster all his cleverness and mastery of amorous endeavor, if he hopes to overcome the disgust that always accompanies his medical matter.

Chambre garnie.

Un oncle mort très-jeune.

Traitement des vapeurs.

Anatomie comparée.

The hospital scene is also captured, notably the now long-gone Hotel Dieu that occupied the   Île de la cité, in front of Notre Dame, along the banks of the Seine.  

Hotel Dieu
demolition for bridge construction

completed bridge, 1860


Check out the great panoramas of the Grand boulevards of Paris, from the Bastille to the Madeleine, from Tableau de Paris, as seen in the blog by the rare book dealer Julien Mannoanni.  

And there's always the street quack, seen here dispensing electrotherapy treatments.

Plus ça change...