Salpetriere Hospital Records Opened to Research

By , April 2, 2011

Jean Martin Charcot

After nearly three years of collaborative efforts, the Center’s collection of Salpêtrière Hospital (Paris, France) records is open and available for research. We anticipate high research interest in this important new resource; within weeks of its opening, the collection was the subject of two fellowship proposals.

The collection includes .5 cubic feet of notes, lectures, case histories, and pen drawings created by neurologist and psychologist J. M. (Jean Martin) Charcot and Salpêtrière Hospital staff between 1859 and 1893. The bulk of the collection consists of 16,800 glass plate negatives, original negative enclosures, photographic indices, and a small number of prints produced by the Photographic Service of the Salpêtrière Hospital  between 1880 and 1942, the bulk of which date between 1900 and 1919. Charcot established the Photographic Service in 1878 for the purpose of patient care, the study of disease, and medical instruction. Images depict whole body images of patients and heath care workers, partial body images illustrating specific medical conditions and tissue and lesions discovered during autopsy, and wards and hospital buildings.

A finding aid provides item level description, often including diagnosis and treating physician. Images created prior to 1900 are openly available; contact the Center for information regarding access to restricted images.

Records were given to the Countway Library in 1972 when the Salpêtrière Hospital building housing Charcot’s former laboratory was demolished. The collection remained closed to research due to preservation concerns until the Weissman Preservation Center, as a part of its Mellon-funded project to improve the condition of Harvard’s photographic collections, provided the expertise and technical staff needed to assess and rehouse the glass plate negatives. Recognizing the research value of the collection, the Boston Medical Library contributed funding for re-housing supplies. Transcription of the collections’ indices was supported by generous donors to the Center’s Discovery Fund.

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