Posts tagged: Richard Pearson Strong

Preserving Our Collections: the Richard P. Strong Papers

By , August 20, 2014

Richard P. Strong with a microscope on the Amazon River, ca. 1924. Image courtesy of the Center for the History of Medicine, Countway Library.

Occasionally, the Center for the History of Medicine at Countway Library has an opportunity to address the preservation needs of older collections being stored in problematic housing. In the case of the Richard Pearson Strong Papers, 1911-2004 (inclusive), 1911-1945 (bulk), archivists recently took the opportunity to transfer 69 ft. of records from older, overstuffed, acidic manuscript boxes into spacious,  acid-free, archival quality records center cartons. These important preservation steps ensure continued access to the collection over time, and also gave archivists a unique opportunity to provide additional context within folder labels to benefit future researchers.

Richard Strong (1872-1948)  became the first professor of tropical medicine at Harvard in 1913, and between 1913 and 1934 made several expeditions to  South and Central America and Africa to investigate diseases and obtain material for his laboratory and teaching work. After retiring from Harvard in 1938, he volunteered to teach in the Army Medical School during the Second World War. During this period Strong was the foremost authority in the U.S. in the field of tropical medicine. Throughout his career he participated in many international commissions investigating disease control.

The Richard Pearson Strong Papers are a popular research tool at the Center, with material ranging from Harvard teaching and departmental records, to expedition records such as diaries, notes, supply and equipment lists, and manuscripts of lectures and reports. His correspondence includes exchanges with Harvard associates, scientists, U.S. and foreign public officials, former President Coolidge, missionaries, and organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation. Strong’s expeditions included visits to Peru (1913 and 1937), Brazil (1924), Liberia and the Belgian Congo (1926-1927 and 1934), Guatemala (1931-1932), and the Yucatan (1931). A 1934 film of the Harvard African Expedition, in which Strong investigates diseases and obtains material for his laboratory and teaching work, has been digitized and made available online through OnView here.

Until recently, Strong’s collection was being stored in older, overstuffed, acidic boxes, which over time leads to deterioration and discoloration. Folder tabs with crucial contextual information had lost their adhesive and were falling off of their respective folders. Unnecessary metal accoutrements, such as paper clips and staples, contributed additional damage to fragile records. Reference staff also noted that the contents within each box had, over time, fallen out of their original order — likely due to the fact that the older manuscript boxes were too small to accommodate them.

As part of crucial preservation efforts, Center staff took careful measures to rehouse materials, remove unnecessary paper clips and staples, and restore the original order of each box. Delicate fabrics, such as academic garments and banners, were folded with non-buffered tissue and rehoused in customized acid-free boxes. Staff also took the opportunity to add additional context (such as date ranges) to new folder labels, which will in turn provide better context to future researchers.

Such important preservation steps ensure both the protection of the Richard P. Strong Papers and the availability and utility of these records to Center researchers for years to come.

Center Displays at the Labrary

By , November 30, 2012

Richard Pearson Strong (center) and colleagues on The Harvard African Expedition of 1934. From the Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

The Center for the History of Medicine was invited to exhibit selections from its holdings at the Labrary, an innovation space at 92 Mt. Auburn Street, Cambridge, hosted by the Library Test Kitchen, a Harvard Design School graduate course. The purpose of the Labrary display is to spark new thinking about the holdings and role of libraries.

The Center’s selections include a collection of 19th century calculi, early to mid-20th century games with medical themes, 19th century medical and dental instruments, and stereopticon cards from the Carnegie egg series to which HMS faculty members John Rock and Arthur Hertig contributed (ca. 1955). The Center also shared audio files from the Gamble-Cabot Cardiac Diagnoses Records (1916-1944), created to teach medical students how to interpret heart sounds, and three video files:

David Rutstein
lecturing on “Overweight” health issues on WGBH’s “The Facts of Medicine,” the nation’s first public health educational television show (1956);

Scans of the “Lowell hip,” the focus of a malpractice lawsuit in 1821 (2012); and

Tropical medicine pioneer Richard Pearson Strong traveling in Africa (1934).

Displays can be viewed from the street; the Labrary is also open 11-7 , Monday through Saturday. Center materials will be on view from December 1 – 20, 2012.

More information about this project will be added here as it becomes available.

February 7: Public Health Exhibit and Event

By , November 29, 2010


(L to R) Drs. Quentin Gaiman, Donald Augustine, and Thomas Weller of the HSPH Department of Tropical Public Health.

Please join us on February 7, 2011 from 4:00-6:00 PM at the Countway Library for a panel discussion with three distinguished leaders in global health and medicine.

Dissolving Boundaries: Extending the Reach of Medicine and Public Health.

The fields of medicine and public health continue to change, confronting issues of ever-greater magnitude, and framed by debates concerning the boundary between organized medicine and public health, national versus global health concerns, and personal versus societal responsibility. Successful efforts to engage such issues are critically dependent upon a historical understanding of their evolution.The event will feature lecture and discussion from

  • Allan Brandt, Ph.D., Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences; Professor of the History of Science; Amalie Moses Kass Professor of the History of Medicine.
  • Julio Frenk, M.D., Ph.D., Dean of the Faculty, Harvard School of Public Health; T & G Angelopoulos Professor of Public Health and International Development, Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Kennedy School
  • Jeffrey S. Flier, M.D., Dean of the Faculty, Harvard Medical School; Caroline Shields Walker Professor of Medicine

An accompanying exhibit, curated by Center staff, will draw from the archival collections of key leaders in American public health from the twentieth century, including Leona Baumgartner, Allan Macy Butler, Philip Drinker, Alice Hamilton, Howard Hiatt, Alexander Langmuir, David Rutstein, Richard Pearson Strong, and James Whittenberger.



‘Contagion’ Reviewed

By , September 30, 2010

From the Papers of Richard Pearson Strong, 1911–2004, 1911–1945 (bulk). Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard University, Boston, Mass.

“The concept of contagion is entangled with so many themes in the history of medicine that any on-line collection on the subject can hardly fail to generate interest among the scholarly community,” writes reviewer Mark Harrison, University of Oxford, for the online Reviews in History. “Harvard University’s Contagion: Historical Views of Disease and Epidemics does not disappoint.”

The Countway Library’s Center for the History of Medicne contributed books, images, and manuscripts to the Contagion project.

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