Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis Opens

By Anne Garner, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts and Rebecca Jacobs, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Museum of the City of New York

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Typist wearing mask, New York City, October, 16, 1918. Courtesy of the National Archives.

On certain October mornings during 1918, masks like the one in the above photograph would have been a common sight on New York’s streets. Men and women wore them on their commutes to work, or even while doing their jobs, as office workers, postal carriers, and sanitation workers. Over 30,000 New Yorkers died during the 1918 influenza pandemic. And yet, because the city had learned from other contagious disease outbreaks and adjusted its public response and infrastructure accordingly, these numbers were comparatively low side-by-side with other American cities.

A hundred years later, Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis, opening today at the Museum of the City of New York, explores New York City’s history of battles with contagious disease. The exhibition is co-presented with The New York Academy of Medicine, in collaboration with the Wellcome Trust as part of their Contagious Cities project. Contagious Cities encourages local conversations about the global challenge of epidemic preparedness.

Germ City tells the very personal stories of New Yorkers’ experiences and their responses to the threat of contagious disease over time using historical objects, oral histories, and artwork. Artist Mariam Ghani’s film, inspired by Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor, invites audiences at the main gallery’s entrance to engage with the themes of metaphor and disease. Ghani’s work leads into the main gallery, where the stories of the some of the city’s many microbes—flu, cholera, diphtheria, the common cold, cholera, smallpox, TB, polio, HIV, and others —are explored through scientific models, historical objects, and contemporary artworks.

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Orders for hospitalization for Mary Riley, August 29–31, 1854.

During the 1854 cholera epidemic, physicians visited the homes of the sick and issued orders for hospitalization, most hastily written on scrap paper. According to these notes, this patient, Mary Riley, delayed going to the hospital and died the following day.

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Letter from Mary Putnam Jacobi to Sophie Boaz, February 27, 1884.

The impact of diphtheria, another devastating disease of the 19th and early 20th century, is crystalized in the compelling story of Ernst Jacobi, the son of Abraham Jacobi, the father of pediatrics and himself a committed diphtheria researcher. An 1884 letter in the New York Academy of Medicine’s collections, written by Abraham Jacobi’s wife, the physician and activist Mary Putnam Jacobi, documents the devastating death of Ernst from diphtheria.

While this first section of the exhibition establishes just some of the contagious diseases that have hit New York over time, the remaining four sections of the exhibition probe the responses of the government, medical professionals, and ordinary citizens to the threat of epidemics. A common first response to contagion is to contain it. Visitors learn about New York’s man-made quarantine islands, Hoffman and Swinburne, and the exile of “Typhoid Mary” to nearby North Brother Island. These islands, now covered in overgrowth and closed to the public, are still visible from Manhattan’s shores.

Jordan Eagle’s Blood Mirror, a sculpture created with the blood of gay, bisexual, and transgender men to protest the U.S. government’s ban on their donating blood, provokes viewers to consider the potential consequences of linking particular identities with disease and thus isolating populations.

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Jordan Eagles, Blood Mirror, 2015–present Artwork on gallery floor. On loan from the artist.

The exhibition also explores the ways researchers, public officials, and ordinary New Yorkers have attempted to gather information in an effort to fight contagion. The Citizens’ Association of New York’s map of lower Manhattan illustrates the 1864 survey of New York households, conducted by physicians going door-to-door recording instances of typhoid, cholera, and other deadly diseases.

A copy of one survey, conducted by Dr. William Hunter, records the living conditions of a family of three recent Irish immigrants living on West 14th Street—all with typhoid fever. Science journalist Sonia Shah’s “Mapping Cholera” project illuminates the similarities between nineteenth-century New York’s vulnerability to cholera and more recent outbreaks in Haiti.

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Sonia Shah, Excerpt from Mapping Cholera: A Tale of Two Cities, 2015. Designed and built by Dan McCarey. Courtesy of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

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Postcard, Harlem Hospital. From the collection of Dr. Robert Matz.

Over time, New Yorkers have been reliant on medical research, medicine, and family and professional caregivers to provide respite from disease. A collection of postcards from the Academy Library donated by retired physician Dr. Robert Matz depict key institutions where epidemiological research, treatment, and care were given in an effort to save the lives of the city’s sickest. Many of these facilities—hospitals, sanitaria, and health resorts—have been torn down or transformed over time, becoming another invisible layer in the city’s architectural history.

New Yorkers sought care from old family recipes, as with Selma Yagoda’s recipe for chicken soup, and from patent medicines, cheap formulas widely available over the counter, which claimed to cure many ailments, including malaria and the Spanish flu.

 

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Diphtheria pamphlets

Germ City also engages with the ways cities create infrastructure and policies that support health. Public officials sometimes used creative delivery methods to communicate health information to wider audiences. In 1929, The Diphtheria Prevention Commission inundated the city’s subways and streets with placards and brochures in Spanish, Polish, Yiddish, and Greek, directing New Yorkers to get immunized for diphtheria.  David Lynch’s 1991 “Clean Up” video offers a dark and at times surreal look at the city’s rat problem, illustrating the importance of public hygiene. A number of private and public organizations mobilized to minimize disease outbreaks through outreach and education.

Following the main gallery, visitors are invited to engage hands-on with copies of collections materials in the “Reading Room,” in a range of formats (visual, audio, video). People can share their own family stories of disease through our public collecting initiative.

Germ City will be on view until April 28th, 2019. In coordination with the exhibition, the Academy is offering a slate of programming in partnership with the Museum of the City of New York. The first of these, “The World’s Deadliest Pandemic: A Century Later,” will take place at the Museum on September 27th. We hope to see you there (register here.)

Summer Reading Suggestions – Part II

By Emily Miranker, Events & Projects Manager

Our last post suggested foundation and fictional summer reading along the theme of contagion, especially the infectious influenza epidemic of 1918, to whet your appetite for our forthcoming exhibition Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis (opening September 14, 2018). Read on for more not-your-usual summer reading ideas.

Cities are concentrated hubs of peoples’ movements and interactions; for better or worse, the perfect location for populations and infections to collide. And, perhaps more than any other modern metropolis, the fabric of New York City has been shaped by responses to epidemic disease.

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Cities and Sickness

  • Hives of Sickness: Public Health and Epidemics in New York City, edited by David Rosner
  • Epidemic City: The Politics of Public Health in New York, James Colgrove
  • Smell Detectives: An Olfactory History of Nineteenth-Century Urban America, Melanie A. Kiechle
  • The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, Steven Johnson

Rosner’s Hives of Sickness is a great work to start with for looking at disease through the lens of urbanism; it’s a collection of nine essay the reader can dip and in out of. It’s fascinating to see how many of NYC’s public health initiatives were assigned to government agencies besides or along with the Dept. of Health, demonstrating how creating a health city is not an issue to be siloed. Follow that theme of health’s importance across civic agencies to James Colgrove’s Epidemic City, an analysis of the perspectives and initiatives of the people responsible for the city’s health since the 1960s.

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Another thing that cities mean is lots of people crowded together; which can smell bad. Bad smells and foul air (malaria, anyone?) were believed to be a cause of disease in the 19th century. Smell Detectives shows how hard it proved to find the sources of those dangerous odors and explores the larger tension between evolving scientific knowledge and people’s common, olfactory senses.

 

From across the pond in London is the story of the 1854 cholera epidemic; Dr. John Snow and Rev. Henry Whitehead’s use of interviews and mapping to identify the source as a contaminated water pump—not foul air—and with this the birth of the field of epidemiology and the power of visualizing data. The Ghost Map is a riveting, multidisciplinary tale.

 

Don’t be so Literal:

  • Illness as Metaphor and AIDS and Its Metaphors, Susan Sontag
  • In Sickness and in Health: Disease as Metaphor in Art and Popular Wisdom, by Laurinda S. Dixon
  • Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, Priscilla Wald
  • Punishing Disease: HIV and the Criminalization of Sickness, Trevor Hoppe

Disease is more than a clinical fact. It’s a concept. Trends go viral. Something cool is sick. There are cancers in the body politic. A cancer survivor herself, author Susan Sontag challenges victim-blaming in her seminal and intense work Illness as Metaphor and its follow-up AIDS and its Metaphors. In Sickness and in Health is a good counterpart, its concentration being on figurative illness through the visual arts and imagery. Many people with AIDs belonged to stigmatized minorities which led to society to link sickness to ‘badness,’ and the criminalizing of illness is not specific to AIDS alone as Trevor Hoppe’s Punishing Disease reveals. In Contagious, Priscilla Wald uses history, journalism, literary and cinematic depictions of disease to describe the “outbreak narrative,” and how getting stuck in this particular storyline and mode of thinking might limit our approach to the next big pandemic.

Bonus book

The Plague, Albert Camus

It’s on every other high school required reading list for a reason; Camus’ masterfully written tale of the town of Oran beset by plague is about death by disease but it’s also a powerful allegory about how we choose to live.

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Summer Reading Suggestions – Part I

“There is a narrative power to epidemics … these events typically unfold dramatically and contain elements of discovery, reaction, suspense, conflict, illness, perhaps death, and one hopes, resolution.” -Howard Markel, When Germs Travel

 

This September we open an exhibition with our partners (and next door neighbor) The Museum of the City of New York; Germ City: Microbes and the Metropolis. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the influenza pandemic of 1918 which infected an estimated quarter of the world’s population and caused the death of more people than the First World War.

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Prompted by this centenary, the exhibition and its related programs are the New York City site of the exploration of germs living in people the way people live in cities, along with sister sites in Hong Kong and Geneva. This international collaboration, Contagious Cities, was developed by the Wellcome Trust. Inspired by the Reading Room at the Wellcome Trust’s home in London, our exhibition will include a reading room of books and articles visitors can read.

If you just can’t wait till September to dig deeper into tales of cities’ roles in causing and controlling disease or the stories of human ingenuity, fear, and compassion in the face of sickness; pick among these titles for not-your-usual summer reading. Please bear in mind titles suggested below may not be in the exhibition’s reading room, but that’s where your local library steps in: find yours here.

Hear them Here: Authors Speaking at our Programs

  • The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, John M. Barry
  • Silent Travelers: Germs, Genes, and the Immigrant Menace, Alan M. Kraut
  • Infectious Fear: Politics, Disease, and the Health Effects of Segregation, Samuel Kelton Roberts
  • After Silence: A History of AIDS Through its Images, Avram Finkelstein
  • Pandemic: Tracking Contagions, from Cholera to Ebola and Beyond, Sonia Shah

Many people aren’t aware of the 1918 influenza pandemic or how widespread and deadly it was in New York, the United States, and globally; so John Barry’s account of the pandemic’s history in The Great Influenza and connecting it to current day challenges like avian flu is a good foundation read. Readers can attend on Sept. 27th [coming soon to our events page] to hear Barry in panel discussion on the legacy of the 1918 flu and how surviving future pandemics may be as much a political issue as a medical one. Moderating that conversation will be Alan Kraut, author of Silent Travelers, a look at the medicalized prejudice that so often targets immigrants.

Infectious Fear Cover_RobertsGerms themselves may be blind when it comes to who infect; but outbreaks don’t strike populations with equity. We tackle the fraught intersection of disease and disparity in a discussion on Nov. 28th  [coming soon to our events page] and give the thumbs-up to our moderator Professor Samuel Roberts’ thought-provoking book Infectious Fear. For a closer look at the lived experiences of disease and how those infected are remembered or all too often forgotten join us in February 2019  [coming soon to our events page] for Remembering the Dead; you’ll have plenty of time to check out panelist Avram Finkelstein’s unflinching look at the AIDS crisis and the responses of artist-activists; After Silence. We face our future with infectious diseases in a discussion in April 2019 lead by journalist Sonia Shah. She weaves an amazing story with history, reportage and personal narrative in Pandemic: Tracking Contagions about how we are making predictions about the next major pandemic.

If you’d like a nonfiction read for a younger audience pick up Jim Murphy’s An American Plague. This is a dramatic retelling of the yellow fever epidemic in 1793 Philadelphia, a survival challenge to the city’s inhabitants as well as the young nation itself with a good spotlight on the incredible role of the Free African Society in caring for the sick. An American Plague pairs nicely with Laurie Halse Anderson’s fictional Fever 1793, also intended for the middle-school reader but from the point of view of its 15-year old heroine Mattie.

Which brings us to works of fiction more generally …

Fiction: Disease as a way to Explore the Body and Self; the Individual and Society

  • Fever: A Novel, Mary Beth Keane
  • The Last Man, Mary Shelley
  • Blue Pills a Postive Love Story, Frederik Peeters
  • The Andromeda Strain, Michael Crichton

For a change of pace from incisive facts and socio-scientific trends, delve into the highly personal story of Mary Mallon, an Irish immigrant to the United States better known as ‘Typhoid Mary,’ in Mary Beth Keane’s Fever. From Mary Shelley of Frankenstein fame, there’s an apocalyptic story of humankind brought face to face with its own destruction due to plague in The Last Man complete with thinly veiled versions of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and herself. Most of the English Romantics were deceased by the time Shelley wrote this, so an undercurrent of eulogizing comes through in her tone as she explores the failure of imagination to save society.

Translated from the French by Anjali Singh is Frederik Peeters’ graphic novel, Blue Pills – A Positive Love Story, the story of a man’s relationship with his girlfriend and her son who are both HIV+. The black and white artwork allows for an arresting depiction of what is literally happening to the protagonist and simultaneously what he is perceiving and coping with in the moment.

You didn’t think there wouldn’t be a Michael Crichton, did you? The Andromeda Strain is the kick-off novel of bio-tech thrillers with its deadly microbe brought back from space on a military satellite.

Bonus book:

Eleven Blue Men and Other Narratives of Medical Detection, Berton Roueché

One of the best writers from The New Yorker, Roueché’s short stories are superbly written vignettes of medical mystery solving.

Met by Accident: A Beaten Book

Today’s guest post is written by Julia Miller, a book conservator who studies, writes, lectures, and instructs about historical binding structures. In collaboration with the Guild of Bookworkers New York Chapter, Ms. Miller will speak at The New York Academy of Medicine on June 27th at 6pm, “Meeting by Accident,” about types of bookbinding and delve into the what, why, and how questions concerning historical bindings. 

When I wrote my second book Meeting by Accident: Selected Historical Bindings, I drew on interesting bookbindings encountered in recent years. I wish my book had been published a bit later than it was, just so I could include the book I describe to you here.

Fig. 1

Spine, upper cover, and lower text edge of the Guthrie book. All photographs courtesy of Randel Stegmeyer.

Not long after Meeting by Accident was published, I found a book that immediately intrigued me because it carried an interesting, and to me, unusual direction to the binder: “The Binder is desired to beat the Book before he places the Maps.” It appears on page 10 following the Preface in William Guthrie’s A New Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar; and Present State of the Several Kingdoms of the World. (The Thirteenth Edition, Corrected. London, Printed for Charles Dilly, in the Poultry; and G.G.J. and J. Robinson, in Pater-noster Row. 1792.)[1]. Beating book sections to flatten them prior to sewing was a common binding practice at one time but fell out of use and out of our collective memory; the mention of this old practice in the binders’ direction reminds us. The flatness of the text leaves (and the near-absence of “bite” to the printed text) indicates the binder of this volume followed the direction to beat the book.

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Detail director to binder in William Guthrie’s A New Geographical, Historical, and Commercial Grammar; and Present State of the Several Kingdoms of the World.

 

The book measures 22 H x 13.8 W x 8 T in centimeters. It is worn, with losses to the brown sheepskin cover, and much repaired. The detached boards were oversewn to reattach them to the text block, and the spine rebacked with a strip of tawed skin. There is evidence of sewing in two- or three-on style [for a primer on three-on sewing click here] and later oversewing to secure loosened sections. The text block shows heavy use and damage: finger dirt, stains, and damaged edges.

Why is this book of reference interesting to the history of hand bookbinding? In 2013, conservator and bookbinder Jeffrey S. Peachey published his ground-breaking examination of beating books, “Beating, Rolling, and Pressing: The Compression of Signatures in Bookbinding Prior to Sewing” in Volume I of Suave Mechanicals – Essays on the History of Bookbinding.[2] His essay is an exercise in detection and is fascinating to read. Jeff discusses the history, tools, and methods of flattening book leaves, noting that it is sometimes impossible to tell if sections of a given book were beaten in the traditional way, or if sections were rolled or pressed instead. Guthrie’s book, at least the thirteenth edition, carries the type of evidence we need, in the wording of the direction to the binder, to establish that this is probably a beaten book. Peachey mentioned in a recent email that he has seen similar directions in other 17th and 18th century books.

Fig. 5

Fore edge of Guthrie book.

A comparison study of other copies from this thirteenth edition of Guthrie, and earlier/later editions, looking for the same binders’ direction and evidence of beating, plus searching out other imprints carrying similar directions to the binder, would be a valuable and interesting research project; and I hope one of you reading this post will undertake it!

References
[1] The Academy Library has the 1794 edition.
[2] Ed. Julia Miller. 317-382. Ann Arbor, MI: The Legacy Press, 2013.

 

Intern in our Digital Lab this Summer

The New York Academy of Medicine’s Library is looking for a digital intern to work in the Library’s digital program.  The internship will provide hands-on experience with creating and building digital collections, editing metadata for digitization projects, and conducting quality control of scanned images. The Intern will have an opportunity to learn about the digitization process and how to build digital collections.

We are looking for an intern who is imaginative and interested in learning more about developing digital collections and how metadata is used to enhance collections.

The internship is paid or may be taken for course credit.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Create digital collections on Islandora website
  • Collect, edit, create and organize metadata according to standards
  • Conduct quality control on scanned images and digital collections

Qualifications and Experience

  • Familiarity with technology, digital collections, and/or digital humanities projects
  • Experience with metadata schemas (e.g. MODS, Dublin Core, MARC, IPTC etc.)
  • Knowledge of XML, XSLT, and OCLC
  • Coursework in Library and Information Science

Start Date: June 2018.

Hours: Approximately 10 hours a week for 12 weeks.  Intern must be available 2 days per week between the hours of 10:00am-5:00pm, Monday through Thursday.

To Apply

Please forward cover letter and resume with “Digital Intern” in the subject line to library@nyam.org.  Please also outline your academic needs for obtaining course credit, if applicable.  Deadline: May 18, 2018.

Looking back on 2017

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s customary to look back at the year that was. For us at the Academy Library, that means reflecting on our many exciting events and achievements. As you enjoy this look back at the past year through the eyes of our staff, please consider supporting the Academy Library. 

Your generous donation will help ensure the ongoing vitality of the Library and its collections. Donations help underwrite the Library’s public programs and outreach activities; the acquisition, conservation, and cataloging of remarkable historical materials; and digitization of our key Library treasures.

 

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DrMiller_watermark_TwitterI will always be awed by the items that are discovered in our vast collections; it is almost as if they are waiting for the right opportunity to reveal themselves. My favorite example of this was when our volunteer, Dr. Sanford Miller, came across what he thinks is a picture of himself on the cover of The Story of Anesthesia by the American Society of Anesthesiologists. Dr. Miller, an Anesthesiologist, has been volunteering for the Academy Library for two and a half years and has helped in the processing of thousands of pamphlets. Allison Piazza, Reference Services and Outreach Librarian

ketham_fasciculomedicina_4_1495_watermarkFor me, one of the highlights this year was my participation in the “Making the book” project (supported by the Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation). My job was to review catalog records for all Johannes de Ketham editions of Fasciculus medicine (an influential medical text) and make necessary changes for increased findability. The most interesting part of this process was a detailed examination of text and plates for each of our five editions and making copy-specific notes. As a result of this work, six original records were created: five for the Ketham’s (1495, 1500, 1509, 1513 and 1522) editions and one for Savonarola’s Practica medicinae (1497), which is bound with Fasciculus medicine, 1500. Tatyana Pakhladzhyan, Rare Book Cataloger

 

ponds_bitters_watermark My favorite project this year was working with the library’s collections of 19th- and early 20th-century medical trade cards to select cards for a Valentine’s Day blog post. Our William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards is available via our new Library Digital Collections and Exhibits website, and we are working on describing and organizing the Bingham Patent Medicine Collection, a recent bequest of approximately 4,900 trade cards from the estate of Walker Bingham. The images in these cards are delightful, even if the medicines they advertise are of dubious efficacy. Becky Filner, Head of Cataloging

NYAM_44_previewMy favorite event this year was Acquisitions Night on September 26. It was great on a number of levels: seeing the wonderful books that we had acquired in the course of the year, watching as Anne Garner (Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts) and Arlene Shaner (Historical Collections Librarian) explained the finer points of the items, seeing the wonderful reaction that it evoked in our guests, and listening to Scott Devine (Head of Preservation) present on a book he had conserved, bringing out the physical aspect of the book that we often don’t pay enough attention. Paul Theerman, Associate Director

I look forward every year to the evening class we host in the Rare Book Room for “The Pulse of Art,” a class on the intersection between art and medicine.  This class, co-taught by the dynamic duo of the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller (MD and PhD in Art History, respectively), meets one evening in the late Fall to talk visual representations of anatomy.  For an hour and a half, we pour over illustrations by the likes of Durer, Vesalius, Gautier d’Agoty and Bernard Albinus.  Arlene and I do this together, and inevitably we learn new things about our own collections from the Collers, whose deep knowledge of the history of medicine, illustration processes and art history always make it an unforgettable evening.  The energy in the room is electric!  Anne Garner, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts

AABAfter nearly two years of hard work, we launched the Adopt-A-Book program this October. Preparing the adoption of our rare books, secondary sources, and the iconic card catalog gave me all kinds of insights into our collections. I am both thankful and ecstatic that we’ve already had some adoptions. These precious books have become so special to me; it’s great to know other people out there feel the same way. Emily Miranker, Events and Projects Manager

 

Among many enclosures I have made so far this year, the boxes for our collection of 17th-century anatomical manikins are the most memorable. I cut and built up Ethafoams and Volara foams so that the trays of manikins would fit perfectly in the boxes. It was challenging, but there was a lot of learning and discussion with other conservation and library staff in the process. Check out our blog post about the manikins and the rehousing! –Yungjin Shin, Collections Care Assistant

 

indianmedicinalp00krti_0380_watermarkThis year I am excited about exploring the three- volume set of Indian Medicinal Plants by Kānhobā Raṇachoḍadāsa Kīrtikara (1849-1917). The plates caught my attention, propelling my desire to digitize it.  As part of our collaboration with the Biodiversity Heritage Library, we digitized all three volumes and made them available to the public. Digitization can take time, but taking an object off the shelf, digitizing it and making it available to the public is always amazing! –Robin Naughton, Head of Digitial

 

 

 

From all of us at the Academy Library, Happy New Year!


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Winter/Spring 2018 Upcoming Events

As 2017 winds down, we turn our attention to 2018 and the rich programming we have in store this winter and spring. As always, we look forward to seeing you at many of our events as we explore the cultural, historical, and political context of health and medicine.

chin-jou-2017.jpgWe kick off our winter/spring programming on January 24 with “The Obesity Epidemic and Fast Food Marketing to African Americans” with speaker, Chin Jou. This sure-to-be-fascinating talk will look at how fast food companies have aggressively marketed to African Americans since the early 1970s.

Mike Kelly

How can a book-historical approach to the history of race in America help us to navigate the fraught landscape of race in the early 21st century? Join us on January 27 for “The Moon, Indian Medicine, and Scientific Racism” with speaker Michael Kelly, as he examines how nineteenth-century publications can help us explore the bibliography of race in America.

james-delbourgo-headshot.jpgLondon’s British Museum was the first free national public museum in the world. How did it come into being? Find out on January 31 when our speaker, James Delbourgo, discusses “The Origins of Public Museums: Hans Sloane’s Collections and the Creation of the British Museum.” The little-known life of the British Museum founder, Sir Hans Sloane, provides a new story about the beginnings of public museums through their origins in imperialism and slavery.

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February 5-9 is Color Our Collections Week! Begun by the Academy Library in 2016, Color Our Collections Week brings you free coloring sheets based on materials in our Library as well as other cultural institutions from around the world. Users are invited to download and print the coloring sheets via the website www.colorourcollections.org and share their filled-in images with hashtag #ColorOurCollections.

Nina Berman headshotJoin author and documentary photographer, Nina Berman, on February 21 for Navigating Care for the Most Vulnerable. Berman will take us through the healthcare system’s cracks through the photographic story of one woman’s travails with drug abuse, homelessness, and mental illness for thirty years, revealing an intimate encounter with health care in the U.K. and the U.S.

paul-braff-e1512763884522.jpgDuring the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many white people believed that African Americans were inherently ill. To challenge this, Booker T. Washington launched a public health campaign in 1915: National Negro Health Week. On March 6, speaker Paul Braff will give the Iago Galdston Lecture on “Who Needs a Doctor?: The Challenge of National Negro Health Week to the Medical Establishment,” which will examine the changes in, and challenges to, medical authority and public health in African American communities the Week caused.

Daniel Margocsy headshotIn the past five hundred years, copies of Andreas Vesalius’ Fabrica travelled across the globe, and readers studied, annotated and critiqued its contents in different ways from its publication in 1543 to 2017. On April 24, Daniel Margócsy will give the Annual Friends of the Rare Book Room Lecture, “Reading Vesalius Across the Ages,” which will discuss the book’s complex reception history, show how physicians, artists, theologians and collectors filled its pages with copious annotations, and offer an interpretation of how this atlas of anatomy became one of the most coveted rare books for 21st-century collectors.     

Randi Esptein headshotFinally, on June 28, Academy Fellow and author Randi Hutter Epstein will give the talk AROUSED: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About EverythingHormones have a fascinating history replete with medical sleuths, desperate patients, and swindlers. Dr. Epstein will separate the hype from the hope in hormonal discoveries and mishaps, past and present.

Check back here for special guest posts by some of our speakers in the coming months!

10 Gifts for the [Anyone] in Your Life

By Emily Miranker, Project Manager

How do you choose the perfect gift to symbolize the relationship you have with another person? Daunting task; no wonder the holidays get stressful!

Never fear, the images from our library’s collections offers up scores of ways to express any sentiment. Find some new products and old favorites below. As our gift to you, use code ZTHANKS15OFF for 15% off at check out.

Shop Entire Store

  1. We’re a Library, so we have to encourage getting wrapped up in a good book. In this case, a cozy blanket showing a beautiful illuminated manuscript from the sixteenth-century.

Book Blanket

  1. Warm people from the inside too with coffee or tea in this china mug with a caduceus. In the late 19th century the caduceus began to be widely accepted as a symbol of medicine. Perfect for the surgeons, nurses, doctors, and all the healers in your life.

Caduceus mug

  1. A thing of beauty, a tool of healing, a feat of design: the stethoscope –stocking stuffer sized!

Stethoscope bookmark

    1. Brilliant thoughts deserve an extraordinary notebook. The thinking skeleton on this journal has been brainstorming since he was first printed by woodcut in the 16th century.

Thinking skeleton notebook

  1. Our botanical images adorn items from stationery to home goods. These engravings, illuminations, and woodcuts from our herbals, encyclopedias and recipe books reveal the age-old human fascination and affection for plants as things of beauty, medicine and meaning.

Clove pillow

  1. Librarians never judge a book by their cover; but we definitely judge a present by its packaging.

Amarylis gift tag

  1. Send warm wishes to loved ones on chilly winter days. This stunning card of plants from 17th-century botanist, astrologer and physician Nicholas Culpeper is just one of hundreds of cards and stamps in our stationery collection.

Culpeper card

  1. Only prize winning cats are fit to tote your belongings around! These feline beauties come from a pet project of British Naval doctor, W. Gordon Stables, a guide to keeping cats.

Longhaired black cat tote

  1. Our sunflower earrings from the longest running botanical magazine – Curtis’ Botanical Magazine, in publication since 1787- brighten the dreariest day.

sunflower earrings

  1. The iconic Brooklyn Bridge is always a stylish choice.

Brooklyn bridge pencil case

Grand finale: for that impossible-to-shop-for-person adopt a book from our collections in their honor. With your donation, you or an honoree of your choice become a permanent part of a book’s story through a beautiful bookplate inserted into the book. Alternately, adopt a card catalog drawer, that iconic symbol of libraries, learning and love of reading.

Bookplate -YourName

All adoptions are fully tax deductible and all Library Shop sale proceeds support the growth and care of the collection; for which we are very grateful to you and all our supporters.

Happy Holidays!

Open Access to Your State Medical Society Journals

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital

In 2015, The New York Academy of Medicine Library embarked on a mass digitization project with the Medical Heritage Library (MHL), a digital curation consortium.  Over the course of two years, the Academy Library along with MHL collaborators digitized state society medical journals from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  The Academy Library contributed state medical journals from 37 states, which accounted for 716 volumes of the digitized content now available.   Today, you can find, 97 titles, 3,816 volumes and almost 3 million pages of digitized journals on the Internet Archive.

Digitizing the medical journals of state societies has been an amazing experience for the Library and it is a significant contribution to preserving our cultural heritage and making it accessible to anyone with an internet connection.  Researchers and the general public now have access to a major resource on medical history that includes journals from the 19th and the 20th centuries that would not otherwise be available to the public.  “One of the great values of having the state medical journals online is the willingness to provide full-text digital content for materials that would normally be available only with limited content because they are still in copyright,” says Arlene Shaner, Historical Collections Librarian.

Dr. Daniel Goldberg, Associate Professor at University of Colorado, Denver and 2016 Academy Library Helfand Fellow, agrees:

“As an intellectual historian, medical journals in general are really important for my work because they can reveal much about significant ideas and concepts circulating in medical discourse.  I am working on several projects where the specific local and state histories are crucial to the story I am trying to tell, so having full access to digitized state medical journals will be enormously helpful.  I continue to be so grateful for the important work of the MHL and its partners!”

A quick exploration of the journals can be the catalyst for a deeper research project across many disciplines.  For example, what style and design trends can be identified from the covers of the Illinois Medical Journal?

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Illinois Medical Journal through the years.

We invite you to explore the journals, use them, and share with us how they’ve impacted your work: https://archive.org/details/nyamlibrary

Summer & Fall 2017 Catalog of Events

By Emily Miranker, Events and Projects Manager

Welcome to The New York Academy of Medicine Library’s Summer & Fall 2017 cultural programming.

For the third year running, we are partnering with our neighbor The Museum of the City of New York for a three-part series: “Who Controls Women’s Health?: A Century of Struggle.” Marking the centennial of New York State suffrage law, Century of Struggle is a free, three-part talk series that examines key battles over women’s ability to control their bodies, health choices, and fertility. The series reflects the Academy’s long history of involvement with improving maternal and infant mortality, and complements the forthcoming exhibition at MCNY Beyond Suffrage: 100 Years of Women and Politics in New York.

“Who Controls Women’s Health?: A Century of Struggle” speakers Randi Epstein, Faye Wattleton, and Jennifer Nelson.

Next in our special series, “Legacies of War: Medical Innovations and Impacts”—how the experience of war prompts medical innovation—we welcome Professor Beth Linker on September 28 to speak on World War One and veteran care, and Professor John Kinder on October 17 to explore the history of American war through the bodies of five veterans.

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Cover of Pictorial Review (Feb 1919).

Starting in mid-September, Kriota Willberg will lead an Embroidering Medicine Workshop. This workshop is the culmination of a six-month artist residency –the first ever such at the Academy Library- dedicated to the intersections between body sciences and artistic practices. The workshop explores the relationship between medicine, needlework and gender. Willberg focuses on the areas of the collection invoking the ideals of femininity and domesticity, as well as needlework (in the form of ligatures, sutures, and stitching of the body.)

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John Bell, The Principles of Surgery (1801).

Our collaboration with Atlas Obscura continues this year with topics like Anatomical Illustrations, Astronomy and Astrology, Cookery, and Women’s Medicine. The intimate sessions in our beautiful Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Room offer a chance to be enlightened by early alchemists, philosophers, scientists, mathematicians, physicians, and midwives. You’ll leave with the wisdom that they penned, including the ancient secrets of how to turn metal into gold, what fruit to eat to delay labor, and how the Zodiac Man guided medical practices.

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Joannes de Ketham, Fasciculo de Medicina (1522).

Later in the fall, socio-medical scientist Ijeoma Kola of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health presents “Unable to Breathe” on November 14. As asthma hospitalization rates skyrocketed, researchers shifted their focus from psychosomatic explanations to the toxicity of black urban locales. This talk explores how emerging asthma research in the 1950s and 1960s bolstered broader African American struggles for equity.

Download the Summer/Fall Catalog for more details. To register, click the names of events in the catalog, or visit www.NYAM.org/events. You can keep up to date on our events and activities by following us on social media, @nyamhistory.

We look forward to seeing you throughout the second half of this year.

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