Category: Staff News

Partners in Health documentary Bending the Arc opens in Boston

By , October 17, 2017
From left to right: Center for the History of Medicine Reference Archivist Jessica Murphy, Dr. Paul Farmer, and Bending the Arc Arc writer Cori Shepherd Stern, at the Coolidge Corner Theater, October 11, 2017. Photograph courtesy Dan Phipps.

From left to right: Center for the History of Medicine Reference Archivist Jessica Murphy, Dr. Paul Farmer, and Bending the Arc writer and producer Cori Shepherd Stern, at the Coolidge Corner Theater, October 11, 2017. Photograph courtesy Dan Phipps.

Bending the Arc, the story of Partners in Health physicians, founders, and humanitarians Ophelia Dahl, Paul Farmer, and Jim Yong Kim, is garnering critical kudos from The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, Salon, and a host of others, not to mention being an official selection for nine major film festivals. But as any documentary filmmaker will tell you, stories of this kind don’t make it to the screen without substantial support from archivists and researchers. In Bending the Arc’s case, that support came from Center for the History of Medicine Reference Archivist Jessica Murphy, who helped the filmmakers identify records (including video) for the film from the Center’s Partners in Health organizational records, 1990-2006, and Paul Farmer papers, 1990-2009. On October 11, Bending the Arc celebrated its opening night at the Coolidge Corner Theater with a screening and a reception. During the post-screening panel, Kief Davidson (director/producer), Cori Shepherd Stern (writer/producer), and Paul Farmer personally thanked Jess, making her stand up so everyone could applaud for her. The Center congratulates Jess on the well-deserved acknowledgement! More information about the film is available here.

Center Staff Presents On EAC-CPF Project At Digital Humanities Open Office Hours

By , April 21, 2017

eac-cpftemplate2Center for the History of Medicine processing assistant, Betts Coup, recently completed a project related to the implementation of the archival standard, Encoded Archival Context – Corporate Bodies, Persons, and Families (EAD-CPF) as part of her final semester in the Simmons College School of Library and Information Science master’s program. The project centered on the creators of archival collections within the scope of a Boston School desegregation effort at Northeastern University, while Betts simultaneously led the development of an EAC-CPF template for the Center for the History of Medicine, working closely with the Center’s Collections Services Archivist, Jessica Sedgwick. The efforts to work with this standard at both institutions allowed for collaboration and critical considerations about what data elements should be included in a template for the Center’s collections.

As part of the project, Betts presented about the creation of EAC-CPF templates for both institutions at the Northeastern University Digital Humanities Working Group Open Office Hours, a regular meeting where members of the digital humanities community come together to present and discuss current trends and projects. She was joined for this presentation by Katherine Wisser, an Associate Professor at Simmons College, the advisor for the project, and also the co-chair for the Technical subcommittee for EAC-CPF. The discussion at the Open Office Hours included a description of the standard, as most members of the audience were not familiar with it, a walk-through of the ways EAC-CPF records describe entities, and a comparison of EAC-CPF to TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) Personographies.

EAC-CPF is a standard that was developed fairly recently to provide a method for describing the entities that create, or are the subject of, archival or bibliographic resources. Those entities can be individual persons, corporate bodies, or families, and each record describes one entity and its relationships to other entities and resources. In many ways, EAC-CPF looks similar to the finding aids that describe the Center’s collections, and can include portions of descriptive information borrowed directly from those finding aids, including biographical or historical notes that specifically describe the creating entity rather than the resources themselves. However, EAC-CPF records additionally include elements specific to the description of the entities, including occupations or functions terms, rather than subject terms, as well as an entire section regarding relationships.

The relations portion of the record describes the relationships between the entity and other entities, such as family members, coworkers, and institutions where a person was employed or educated, among others. There are a total of nine types of relationships that can be described, including identity, hierarchical, hierarchical-parent, hierarchical-child, temporal, temporal-earlier, temporal-later, family, and associative. Because many of the Center’s collections, and thus the creators or subjects of those collections, relate to professional careers in medicine, science, public health, dentistry, and similar topics, the vast majority of relationships found in EAC-CPF records are best described as associative. They are then defined in a descriptive note so that users may fully understand the relationship between the entities.

EAC-CPF records additionally describe the relationships between entities and resources. These relationships are defined by three attributes: subject of, creator of, or other, for non-specific relationships. For the Center, many of the resource relations described include the entity’s relationship specifically to archival resources in the collection, either as creator or subject. The relations portion of an EAC-CPF record allows connections to be made between the people or organizations which are responsible for or are the subjects of archival resources, and in turn will enable users to make new connections.

Betts’ presentation at Northeastern University’s Digital Humanities Open Office Hours gave attendees the chance to learn about EAC-CPF and how it is being applied both at the Center for the History of Medicine and the Northeastern University Archives & Special Collections. The discussion also related to TEI Personographies, which is a standard that organizes biographical information about writers, authors, and subjects into encoded texts. TEI personographies are being implemented at Northeastern as part of the Women Writers’ Project, and have some similarities to EAC-CPF in terms of content, but are less structured and defined. The conversation demonstrated the challenges of finding ways to encode and share information that might improve access to resources, and the ways both these standards provide connections and additional information that may improve paths to accessing materials.

Currently, working with the processing staff at the Center, Betts Coup and Jessica Sedgwick are in the final stages of implementing the EAC-CPF template developed over the fall of 2016. In time, these records will be made available to the public with the goal of enabling users to discover new connections between entities and archival resources.

Center Archivist to attend Archives Leadership Institute

By , February 16, 2017

img_20170215_084242The Center for the History of Medicine is thrilled to announce that Jessica Sedgwick, the Center’s Collections Services Archivist, has been accepted into the 2017 cohort of the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI). ALI, which is funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), is a dynamic program that provides advanced leadership training and mentorship for 25 innovative archival leaders annually, equipping them with the knowledge and tools to transform the profession in practice, theory, and attitude.  Applicants to this competitive program are chosen for their exceptional leadership skills and potential, ability to influence change within the archival field, strong commitment to the archival profession, demonstrated professional organizational involvement and service, collaborative and innovative spirit, and representation and/or support of diversity within the profession. As part of the program, participants design a practicum to be implemented at their home institution. ALI will be held at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, June 25 – July 1, 2017.

As Collections Services Archivist, Jessica leads an innovative program for establishing physical and intellectual control over the Center’s internationally renowned holdings, from accession through final processing and description.  Jessica has a broad range of experience in the archival field, having worked previously in reference and instruction, outreach, digitization and metadata, born-digital collections management, acquisitions and collection development, and fundraising and grant planning. Prior positions include Metadata Project Manager for the Boston Library Consortium, Associate Archivist for Reference and Digital Collections at the Moakley Archive and Institute, Archivist for Women in Medicine at the Center for the History of Medicine, and Manuscripts Processor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Southern Historical Collection. Jessica earned her MLS at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008 and is an active member of New England Archivists, most recently serving on the executive board and volunteering with the Mentoring Program. Jessica has taught as an adjunct faculty member at the Simmons College School of Library of Information and Library Science since 2011.

We know Jessica is looking forward to developing new skills, knowledge, and connections that will enable her to further advance the Center’s mission; we wish her the best of luck in Berea!

Center archivist inspires “featured scientist” in STEM publication for children

By , November 15, 2016

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Archivist (and Library Scientist) Heather Mumford

The Center for the History of Medicine is delighted to announce that its Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health Archivist, Heather Mumford, is one of the 26 inspiring women in STEM occupations who participated in the creation of Jean Fan’s most recent CuSTEMized’s book, My Scientific Name. CuSTEMized is a not-for-profit initiative that provides personalized STEM-related motivational storybooks, posters, and other media products to encourage kids, in particular girls, in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). For “My Scientific Name,” Jean identified a STEM career for every letter in the alphabet, hence “L is for Library Scientist”!

Jean and Heather spent time discussing what a “library scientist” does, and came up with a second-grader-approved poem that succinctly sums up that work. To read the poem, visit Mumford’s featured page on the website:

You can try out (and then download) a personalized book for free. Enjoy!

Deputy Director Awarded Joseph B. Martin Dean’s Leadership Award for the Advancement of Women Staff

By , June 27, 2016

On June 2, 2016, the Center’s Deputy Director, Emily R. Novak Gustainis, was awarded the Joseph B. Martin Dean’s Leadership Award for the Advancement of Women Staff. The Dean’s award, initiated by and named for former HMS Dean Joseph B. Martin, recognizes Harvard faculty and staff members committed to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of women at Harvard Medical School and Harvard School of Dental Medicine. It is co-sponsored by the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and the Joint Committee on the Status of Women and is awarded annually.

Emily Novak Gustainis

Novak Gustainis

Emily, who joined the Center for the History of Medicine in 2009, was recently named Deputy Director of the Center. She serves in a senior management role and is responsible for the care and curation of the Center’s collections of rare books, manuscripts, archives, the Warren Anatomical Museum, and special collections. Emily was nominated for the Dean’s award by several of her colleagues, who recognized her for her leadership, mentorship, and for fostering an environment that recruits, retains, develops, supports, and advances women staff.

At the award ceremony, Dean Jeffrey S. Flier introduced and read excerpts from nomination letters for the award:

“As a mentor, supervisor, and colleague, Emily provides encouragement and inspiration directly through her attitudes and actions.”

“As a manager, she ensures that staff members are given ample opportunities to develop as professionals and fulfill career and educational goals. She inspires confidence and independence in her employees and encourages us to seek out opportunities for growth. Within her department, Ms. Novak Gustainis fosters a community of support, creativity, and openness for her female employees, and works to ensure that her staff members are able to enjoy a high quality of both professional and personal life.”

“Ms. Novak Gustainis has consistently been involved with the recruitment, retention, and promotion of high quality women staff members.  She actively seeks out opportunities and funding to retain women staff members, either in their current positions or through promotion to more advanced roles. … Moreover, she has overseen the promotion of multiple women staff members from part-time to full-time or temporary to permanent roles.”

Emily graciously accepted the award, and in her acceptance speech, expounded upon the merits of having a mentor like Kathryn Hammond Baker who supported her throughout her career.

“Kathryn was the kind of person who believed that anything was possible, and her belief in me transformed my perspective on my career as an archivist. When I became a parent, she offered me the flexibility one could only hope for as a working mother. And as a friend, she embodied strength and hope in the face of the inevitable.   If I can somehow pass at least some of this on, to make how we work better, I will consider myself a success.”

We hope you join all of us at the Center in congratulating Emily!

In Memory of Kathryn Hammond Baker

By , December 3, 2015

Kathryn and LivIt is with great sorrow that I report that Kathryn Hammond Baker passed away November 17, after a prolonged illness. As so many of you know, Kathryn was remarkable, deeply invested in the Countway and its audiences as a whole, as well as with the role of libraries and archives more broadly. She had been a beloved teacher at Simmons College, and a Past President of New England Archivists.

At the Countway, she had been responsible for developing the HMS records management program, and for catalyzing the development of the Archives for Women in Medicine, well before I arrived at the Center for the History of Medicine (CHOM) in 2006. Upon becoming deputy director of CHOM, Kathryn — with her remarkable energy and intelligence — transformed our center, whether in advancing our acquisitions, cataloging, and educational programs, or in developing such collaborations as the online Medical Heritage Library (whose governance committee she chaired), through which millions of users worldwide have accessed the Center’s collections. She was largely responsible for our receiving multiple grants – from the Sloan Foundation, the Council on Library and Information Resources, and the National Endowment for the Humanities – that enabled us to extend the reach of our program and to enable the history of medicine to inform contemporary medicine and society. Perhaps most importantly, she developed a remarkable team at CHOM, whose ongoing important work is a tribute to her sincere investment in their education and efforts.

Not only was Kathryn smart, strategic, and funny, but she was the most stoic person I’ve ever met. She was private about her illness, but that paralleled her long refusal to allow it to interfere with her work. She was truly inspirational, and will be deeply, deeply missed. Our hearts go out to her family, and we will keep you posted as we plan to honor her memory here at the library.

Scott Podolsky, Director, Center for the History of Medicine


Kathryn was a friend, colleague, and mentor. Even when she was clearly very ill, her dedication and focus inspired the rest of us. This dedication didn’t preclude lighter moments, however; she always had time to talk, laugh, and sympathize with others who were facing illnesses or problems much less serious than hers. Her bravery, stoicism, and sense of humor were remarkable.

Joan Thomas, Rare Book Cataloger


Kathryn was my teacher, then my boss, my mentor, and a friend. She was the smartest person I knew and I depended on her for the right answer to any question. I will miss her unfailing kindness and her enthusiastic encouragement which has meant so very much to me as I grew in this profession.

Catherine Pate, Brigham and Women’s Hospital Archivist


Kathryn provided invaluable insight, vision, and mentorship to me through my work as an oral historian and as Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine. She consistently provided the most insightful constructive criticism and comments I’ve ever received from a mentor. The Archives for Women in Medicine program serves as a legacy to her advocacy and passion.

Joan Ilacqua, Project Archivist, Archives for Women in Medicine


I worked with Kathryn for 8 years at the Center for the History of Medicine. She hired me to take on a complex position and continually challenged me to perform that job to the best of my ability. Kathryn was an incredible professional. I know I see her in my work each day and constantly miss her leadership and perspective. I’m honored to be able to call her my colleague and friend.

Dominic Hall, Curator, Warren Anatomical Museum


I only had the pleasure of working closely with Kathryn for a few years; I wish it had been much longer. Collaborating with her on the Medical Heritage Library was a continual learning experience lightened with a shared enjoyment of Flann O’Brien jokes. I will miss her.

Hanna Clutterbuck, Processing Assistant, Center for the History of Medicine


Kathryn was an innovator and never afraid to try new things. She instilled that spirit in her staff, encouraging us to work collaboratively and with creativity. Her love for the profession, and in particular, the Center, was evident in all that she did. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from her leadership, am grateful for her constant and consistent support, and to have enjoyed her friendship. She was remarkable, and the strongest person I’ve ever known.

Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services


WAM Curator Presents at University of Texas Medical Branch

By , October 9, 2015
Ashbel Smith Building ("Old Red"), University of Texas Medical Branch, October 5, 2015

Ashbel Smith Building (“Old Red”), University of Texas Medical Branch, October 5, 2015

Dominic Hall, the Curator of the Warren Anatomical Museum, spoke in the historical lecture hall of the Ashbel Smith Building, affectionately known as “Old Red,” at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) on October 5, 2015. Hall was invited by Paula Summerly, Research Project Manager for the John P. McGovern Academy of Oslerian Medicine, and the members of the “Old Red” Medical Museum Task Force and Heritage Committee to discuss the history of the Warren Anatomical Museum and the Museum’s evolution over its approximately 160-year history.

University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB), like Harvard Medical School, has a surviving historical anatomical and pathological collection. In his 1910 Medical Education in the United States and Canada: A Report to the Carnegie Institution for the Advancement of Teaching, Abraham Flexner said of the UTMB collections, “There is a large pathological museum, beautifully kept, every specimen classified, labeled, each indexed; and a notable anatomical museum in which special preparations are most advantageously arranged for teaching use.” Of the approximate 45 museums or specimen collections mentioned by Flexner, he was conservative in such praise. In addition to the UTMB medical museums, Flexner thought very favorably of the collections at McGill, the Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital, the University of Toronto, the Army Medical School, the Iowa Medical College, and the University of Pennsylvania.

UTMB’s “Old Red” Medical Museum Task Force and Heritage Committee has been working since 2009 to revitalize the UTMB pathological and anatomical museums. The Warren Anatomical Museum underwent a similar transformation in 1999 when it was transferred into the Center for the History of Medicine in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine. At the time of Hall’s visit, UTMB was launching its 125th anniversary celebration. The school is the oldest medical college in Texas.


Project Archivist Presents at New England Regional Meeting of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance

By , October 8, 2015
3rd Annual New England Regional Meeting of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance, held at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, 25 September 2015.

3rd Annual New England Regional Meeting of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance.

On Friday, September 25, Project Archivist Amber LaFountain attended the 3rd Annual New England Regional Meeting of the National Digital Stewardship Alliance, held at the Dartmouth campus of the University of Massachusetts.  The meeting allowed attendees to highlight their institutions’ current digital stewardship work, and provided opportunities for collaborative learning and brainstorming.

The first half of the program was dedicated to short presentations, during which archivists, librarians, and information professionals representing a number of New England institutions shared their current digital initiatives.  Amber presented to the group on the Center’s Bridging the Research Data Divide project, a CLIR-funded collaboration with the University of Alberta Libraries that began in June 2015.  She discussed the CLIR partners’ plans for exposing descriptive metadata about the project’s research data collections through the Dataverse, and for developing best practices for describing research data collections to enable long-term access, use, and repurposing of the data.

Later in the program, attendees broke into informal unconference groups to discuss various digital stewardship topics and concerns.  Amber was able to collaborate with other local archivists and librarians to brainstorm ideas for data wrangling (preparing digital assets for long-term preservation and use) and for creating preservation metadata for digital collections.  Other unconference topics included: issues with saving digital assets in proprietary software and databases; implementing practical preservation practices; file integrity verification; and repositories for access versus preservation.

The meeting was a fantastic learning opportunity, and we’re excited to follow the progress of our local colleagues’ projects over the coming year.

The Bridging the Research Data Divide project is funded by a Hidden Collections Grant administered by the Council on Library Resources (CLIR). For more information on the project, please contact the project’s principal investigator, Emily R. Novak Gustainis, Head, Collections Services.

Archivists attend launch of “Women and Health: the key to sustainable development”

By , June 23, 2015

Heather Mumford, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Archivist, and Joan Ilacqua, Project Archivist for the Archives for Women in Medicine, recently attended the launch of The Lancet’s report “Women and Health: the key for sustainable development,” at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The report was created by the 15-member Commission on Women and Health, a partnership between The Lancet, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Women and Health Initiative, and the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing.

Archivists Joan Ilacqua and Heather Mumford with a copy of The Lancet's report "Women and Health: the key for sustainable development.”

Archivists Joan Ilacqua and Heather Mumford with a copy of The Lancet’s report “Women and Health: the key for sustainable development.”

The launch featured comments by several Harvard experts including: Julio Frenk, Dean of the School of Public Health, Ana Langer, Professor of Public Health and Coordinator of the Dean’s Special Initiative on Women and Health, Paula A. Johnson, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Center for Women’s Health and Gender at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Felicia Knaul, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and director of the Harvard Global Equity Initiative, and Jeni Klugman, lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. Other speakers included Afaf Meleis of the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Ruth Bonita of the University of Auckland, Justine Davies of The Lancet, and Mariam Claeson of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Speakers emphasized that gender inequality continues to be a global problem; this inequality inhibits progress and potential for a variety of stakeholders on a global scale. Health inequities manifest in many ways. For example, addressing women’s health has historically been reduced to reproductive health, while poverty, urbanization, non-communicable diseases and chronic disease disproportionately affect women. Furthermore, women are not solely consumers of health, but are also health providers, often with little to no training, compensation, or recognition. Although women are represented in the workforce, medical professions, and academia, the demand for women to provide domestic work and care outside of their employment to family members has not changed and effectively convolutes a work-life balance.

Gender inequality disenfranchises women, even in wealthy countries. Marginalization and inequity is present in politics, higher education, and other fields. The report concludes that all sustainability goals should be gender-specific and measurable, and that gender equity committees (such as Harvard Medical School’s own Joint Committee on the Status of Women) continue to be necessary to prevent and combat marginalization. Addressing women and health, acknowledging and compensating women as consumers and deliverers of healthcare, and investing in all stages of women’s health throughout life will benefit global economies at large.

The conclusions of the report were underscored by the speakers’ dedication to interdisciplinary work to solve medical, scientific, public health, and economic problems, a mission integral to the Center’s own acquisitions guidelines. We are committed to acquiring, preserving, and making available historic materials to provide context and perspective to the history of medicine, including documenting the developments, experiences, and contributions of public health pioneers and women leaders in medicine. As archivists, we aspire to be responsible and informed stewards of our historic collections, so attending events like this launch are necessary to understanding the contemporary contexts of our collections.

Women and Health: the key for sustainable development” is available to read online at The Lancet’s website.

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