Monday, April 11, 2011

Obscura Day at the Dittrick, 2011

Images from the dermatology clinic of William Thomas Corlett (1854-1948), Professor of Dermatology and Syphilology at Western Reserve University, presented by Dittrick's Assistant Curator, Laura Travis, in the Stecher Rare Book Room

We had great fun last Saturday hosting Obscura Day 2011. For a couple of hours we shared some seldom-seen treasures of the Dittrick, ranging from the earliest medical book with woodcut images (The Fasciculus Medicinae of Johannes de Ketham, 1495), to instruments that invoke a grimace and cringe (lithotrites, tonsillotomes, &c), to clinical photos from the 1890s depicting dread diseases like smallpox and syphilis. We're already thinking about Obscura Day 2012 -- how about a magic lantern show, including some medical slides? Sound like fun, eh? For now, here are some more pics from Obscura Day at the Dittrick. It is my understanding that there will be a Flickr page for Obscura Day.

Jim Edmonson

Photos from Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine, 1880-1930 by Warner and Edmonson.

Chief Curator Jim Edmonson presenting a sampler of gems from the rare book collection, on display in the Zverina Room, the Dittrick's seminar room and museum library of trade catalogues.

Jennifer Nieves, Dittrick archivist and museum registrar, showing Jim a selection of instruments from the Dittrick's extensive artifact collection.

Drinks among diaphragms: wine and cheese reception in the history of contraception gallery

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life (at the Wellcome Collection)

The ravages of cholera, a disease of filth,
as seen in Dirt: the filthy reality of everyday life.

The folks at the Wellcome Collection have done it again. Take a totally banal, prosaic subject -- in this case, dirt -- and re-contextualize it by means of drawings, engravings, film, and artifacts. Though all around us in varying ways, dirt is also taboo, in that talking about it and acknowledging its presence is unsettling. Better off ignoring it, according to common wisdom. But Dirt: The filthy reality of everyday life takes all this head-on. The result is an evocative cultural and social history, driven by visually arresting images. Health and medicine are of course at the heart of this story, but often in surprising and intriguing ways. Can’t wait to see it in person this summer. For the meantime, one can get a better idea of the range and character of Dirt from a great sampler of images and objects on the Wellcome Collection website.

Curatorial credit for the exhibition goes to Kate Forde, James Peto, and Lucy Shanahan.

See mention and reviews of Dirt in the Washington Times, the Guardian, and the Montreal Gazette

Jim Edmonson