Robert Latou Dickinson, by Abram Belskie, Warren Anatomical Museum in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
Warren Anatomical Museum Collections Assistant Lily Pelekoudas is a vital behind-the-scenes component of the Center for the History of Medicine staff. Lily has been cataloging a mix of new acquisitions and legacy collections for the Warren Anatomical Museum and making them accessible.
Lily started her Warren Museum tenure with the Dickinson-Belskie obstetrical model collection. The collection was built by obstetrician and gynecologist Robert Latou Dickinson and sculptor Abram Belskie to help the public and health care professionals visualize human reproductive anatomy. The 200-model collection is a mix of models made by Dickinson and Belskie and reproductions designed by the Cleveland Health Museum after it acquired the collection circa 1950. Lily researched the origins of the models, redesigned the museum’s photography workflow to better image the works, cataloged the individual details of each piece, reported on their condition, and packed the models in sound housing to provide for their preservation and make them easily accessible for future researchers. Lily’s Dickinson-Belskie work has already facilitated original academic research on the models.
In addition to the Dickinson collection, Lily has cataloged and photographed 125 unique items in the Warren Museum, making them available for the research community. In all, Lily has taken approximately 1200 photographs of Warren Museum collections. Throughout her work she’s encountered an aspirating kit with a Wyman aspirating trocar, a 100 W x 139 H cm teaching watercolor of a male with inguinal hernia, after Richard Quain’s The Anatomy of the Arteries of the Human Body, and a collection of 20th century intrauterine devices from around the world.
Moving forward, Lily will be working to export these newly cataloged artifacts into the Center for the History of Medicine’s web portal OnView, providing Warren Museum objects for the greater public.
Partial mandible of a British officer on the Guerriere lost from gunshot wound, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
The Warren Anatomical Museum is loaning two osteological preparations from its collections to the USS Constitution Museum for their approaching exhibition on the battles the famed ship fought with the British frigates Java and Guerriere during the War of 1812. The long-term exhibition will be opening on December 29, 2012 and the Warren collections will be on display for at least the following year. More about the USS Constitution Museum’s exhibits can be found here.
Both preparations were originally from the teaching collection of the Boston Society of Medical Improvement, which was transferred to the Warren Museum circa 1870. WAM 05110 [pictured here] is the mandible of a British sailor wounded in the HMS Guerriere’s engagement with the Constitution on June 18, 1812. The second loaned preparation, WAM 05212, is that of a partial femur from a sailor injured in the December 29, 1812 battle between the Constitution and the HMS Java. The sailor had his leg amputated at sea after the engagement but required a secondary surgery eight months later at the Marine Hospital at Charlestown. It was then that the exhibited fragment was removed.
The Warren Museum holds several other medical cases from the War of 1812 from the Boston Society for Medical Improvement. These were all recently re-catalogued as part of the Museum’s ongoing inventory project. In conjunction with the loan to USS Constitution Museum and to highlight the bicentennial of the beginning of the War of 1812, the Museum created an online exhibition entitled Naval Medicine and the War of 1812. This exhibit displays all of the Warren’s War of 1812 osteology collections.
The Warren Anatomical Museum has completed a significant stage in its overall collection inventory project, the cataloging of the Museum’s historical osteology collection. The majority of the Museum’s anatomical collection is human osteology from the 19th century and in the fall of 2010 the Warren and the Center for the History of Medicine designed an intensive project to describe, research, and catalog these holdings. The Museum is now in the early stages of planning to broaden the access to these collections for the benefit of future medical and historical researchers.
Some project outcomes have already appeared in the scientific literature. A recent article in PLOS ONE, “Mapping Connectivity Damage in the Case of Phineas Gage,” utilized data derived from new descriptions of Gage’s skull, specifically the uncompromised condition of his left zygomatic arch and the antemortem loss of a back left molar. Project research has also unlocked medical cases from their archival record, like case Warren Museum 03679. This section of humerus was surgically removed from an artillerist in the Civil War. The amputation proved to be an early surviving case of “phantom limb” or neuraligia, as the section was removed to treat pain felt in the hand and fingers lost in combat.
Questions regarding the project can be directed to the Warren Museum and the Center for the History of Medicine at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bladder Calculus, 1809, 04809, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
Warren Museum bladder calculus 04809 was recently featured on WBUR’s Radio Boston.
The program toured Harvard University’s new exhibition Tangible Things and interviewed the exhibit curators Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, the 300th Anniversary University Professor in Department of History and Ivan Gaskell, the Margaret S. Winthrop Curator and Senior Lecturer on History.
The large stone will be on display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History from January 24 through May 29, 2011. The stone was removed post mortem by a Salem, MA surgeon from a man’s bladder in 1809. According to a historical analysis, it is composed of ammonium urate and uric acid.
The entire Radio Boston story can be found on the WBUR website.
Seventeen artifacts and specimens from the Center for the History of Medicine are on display in Tangible Things. More information on the exhibition can be found in the Center for the History of Medicine News.
Since its transfer into the Center for the History of Medicine, the Warren Museum has been photographing its historic collection. One recent image is this beauchene or ‘exploded’ skull . The skull was prepared by and purchased from the Parisian anatomists Vasseur and Tramond in the 19th-century. “Mon Vasseur, Tramond S, A Paris 9. lup de L’ ecole de medecine” is inscribed in ink on the skull’s left parietal bone.
Harvey Cushing Small Box Respirator, 2009, 20345, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine
WAM 20345 is a small box respirator issued to Harvard neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing during his WWI service as the chief of Harvard’s medical base no. 5 in France. Cushing remained at the medical station until the end of the war in late 1918. The filter hung from Cushing’s neck in the green canvas bag. There is a card in the canvas bag where Cushing would register the hours he wore the mask while enduring cloud and shell gas exposure. Cushing entered no data onto the card, suggesting he was never exposed to a gas while using this particular mask.