Category Archives: historical

New source of medical images

The Wellcome Trust has made their collection of medical images available for use under a Creative Commons license. The Wellcome-images collection is huge. I’ve been poking around on their site and having a good old time.

I rather like this one. It is, however, unclear to me how syphilis and the lithograph relate. The image would seem to indicate that you can contract syphilis from a swimming pool (last time I checked, that’s not the case). More likely is the far more subtle implication of being cautious of picking up strange people in social settings for some sort of illicit affair.

In any case, I think this is a great lithograph.

Bringing history to life

We have a really talented library school student doing a practicum in our History of Medicine collection. Her name is Tyler Love and she’s been photographing some of the medical instruments and ephemera. All of which, by the way, have fascinated me for a number of years now. Every time I’m down there I see something I never noticed before.

Her photographs themselves are really good, but what I particularly love is the sense of discovery she conveys and how she’s sharing that sense with us.

Picture above is hers and used with permission.


One of my colleagues sent this link to me. It’s the haunting and fascinating Willard Suitcase Exhibit Online. Willard was a state psych hospital and after its closing, workers found a bunch of suitcases and trunks in the building’s attics. Apparently these were the belongings of the patients that they brought with them when they were admitted. Many of these patients never left the facility.

The history of the treatment of the mentally ill always gets to me. A number of these patients were admitted when they really didn’t suffer from mental illness. There’s one account of a man who was a Japanese sailor on leave who got lost in New York. He didn’t speak English and people thought he was behaving oddly. He was sent to Bellevue and then moved to Willard. He stayed there for over 30 years.


In the category of cool if disturbing

One of the grad students shared this odd find with me. The Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death is a book of photographs about the work of one Frances Glessner Lee, an early expert in forensic science. Lee created elaborate miniature dioramas of crime scenes that could then be used for police training purposes. The level of detail is incredible, but the images are disquieting–perhaps because we (or I do anyhow) tend to associate miniatures and dollhouses with children and innocence.