More Than Medicine: Social Justice and Feminist Movements for Health

COS-Series-Twitter-R1 Event 1005Today’s guest post is written by Jennifer Nelson, Professor at University of Redlands, specializing in women’s history, the history of feminism in the United States, and medical histories associated with social justice movements. She is the author of More Than Medicine (NYUPress, 2015).

On Thursday, October 5, Nelson will give her talk, “More Than Medicine: Social Justice and Feminist Movements for Health.” To read more about this lecture and to register, go HERE.

I begin my story of social justice and feminist movements for health with the Mound Bayou demonstration clinic—located in the Mississippi Delta. The clinic was founded by medical doctors who had been part of the Medical Committee for Human Rights (MCHR). Most had come to Mississippi to volunteer during the 1964 Freedom Summer, although several others were locals active in the Delta Ministry, a Mississippi based Civil Rights organization.

Dr. H. Jack Geiger and the other founders of the Delta Health Center clinic worked with the Mound Bayou community to prioritize health needs. They quickly discovered that community members needed more than traditional medicine: they demanded food, jobs, and housing—linking these to the promotion of health. The clinic included a cooperative farm that grew vegetables for the community, since most of what was grown in the Delta was for commercial consumption. Click HERE to listen to Dr. Geiger talk about his experiences in Mississippi at the National Library of Medicine exhibit on the Delta Health Center.

Many historians of social movements have emphasized that the women’s liberation movement emerged from the Civil Rights movement. I also pay attention to this connection, but focus on the use of medicine to achieve social justice goals in both the Civil Rights and women’s liberation movements. In both of these contexts, activists expanded the meaning of medicine in the process.

In the 1980s women’s health movement feminists were also grappling with conversations about race and racism. Since the early 1970s, women of color had been demanding that feminists pay more attention to issues raised by women of color. In the 1970s much of the focus was on sterilization abuse. In the 1980s attention shifted to HIV transmission, safer sex, and AIDS. Dazon Dixon Diallo, one of the only women of color working at the Atlanta Feminist Women’s Health Center in the 1980s, focused on developing a program called the Women with AIDS Partnership Project.

Here is a clip from a talk given by Diallo about her organization SisterLove, which she formed when she left the Atlanta FWHC to more directly address HIV/AIDS:

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Dazon Dixon Diallo. (Click image to watch video).

My book also focuses on Loretta Ross, one of the most important founders of the Reproductive Justice Movement, which sought to broaden the feminist discourse around “choice” to address the systemic problems associated with poverty and discrimination that prevented many women of color from simply choosing to have or not have children. Ross’s work connects back to the Civil Rights efforts in Mound Bayou among MCHR activists and local organizers with the Delta Health Center. Ross, by forging a reproductive justice framework, maintained that health promotion for poor women could not rest on medicine alone.

More Than Medicine: Social Justice and Feminist Movements for Health is the third event in the three part event series, Who Controls Women’s Health?: A Century of Struggle. The series examines key battles over women’s ability to control their bodies, health choices, and fertility. It is developed in collaboration with the Museum of the City of New York and supported by a grant from Humanities New York.

So, You Want to Build a Digital Program? (Part 2)

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital and Audrey Sage Lorberfeld, Digital Technical Specialist

This is the second in a two-part series on the creation of the Academy Library’s Digital Collections and Exhibits website. Part 1 is here.

Sometimes opportunities arise that you just can’t pass up. In late May 2017, our Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, Anne Garner, suggested a digital exhibit of items from our collection that would showcase the history behind many of the magical elements from J.K. Rowling’s beloved Harry Potter series; and suggested its launch coincide with Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone‘s 20th anniversary on June 26. While we were a new digital team of two with new digitization equipment, we were up for the challenge. That is how we wound up creating the online exhibit, “From Basilisks to Bezoars: The Surprising History of Harry Potter’s Magical World,” in a mere 6 weeks.

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Leo from Aldus Manutius’ Astronomici veteres (1499).

Our first stop was to Garner, who, within a week and a half, handpicked two objects (including our infamous bezoar) and 34 images from over 20 different books  for us to digitize. While we were hustling to photograph these items in the lab, Garner was busy creating robust image metadata for us to ingest into Islandora. Next, we got to work churning out XML records through the use of OpenRefine and an Apple script, and then we were in the quality assurance phase. Once everything was checked, it was time to launch!

Of course, there were bumps along the road, too. At one point, we realized we had digitized the wrong phoenix! At another point, we had to go into all of our XML records and manually add in a download button. There were also some late Friday and Sunday nights spent working on our laptops to make the collection as perfect as possible. Bumps notwithstanding, we launched on-time, and the collection received a lot of great attention.[1]

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Anne Garner takes us through the images she has selected for digitization for our Harry Potter-inspired collection.

So, what did we learn from the launch of our digital program? We quickly discovered that it takes time and skill to create metadata. Both Garner and our Head of Cataloging, Rebecca Filner, expertly provided us with extremely detailed metadata for our current collections. Even in its quickest iteration, metadata-creation takes weeks![2]

We also learned that no digitized image is wasted. As we mentioned in Part 1, many of the digitized rare books with which we launched our Digital Collections were photographed for a separate project the Library had completed a few years earlier. The photographs were impeccable, so why double the work? Instead, we used what the photographer, Ardon Bar-Hama, gave us and co-opted these previously-shot images for our Digital Collection site. (Some notable examples are the Apicius and the Guy de Chauliac.)

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Our Head of Digital, Robin Naughton, trying out the new equipment.

And finally, we learned that the easiest part of the digitization process is photographing the items. As long as your equipment works, you are good to go! We received training by our expert Conservation staff in how to handle rare items, and we hit the ground running.

For those wishing to start a digital lab in your library, we have some hard-earned advice, all of which focuses on communication and outreach (the tech is the easy part!):

First, reach out to local colleagues who have been doing this longer than you. We visited many digital labs before our launch, including the beautiful labs at Columbia University, The Frick Art Reference Library, and the Museum of the City of New York. Each lab had a different setup, different workflows, and different amounts of staff with unique backgrounds. Without this exploratory research, we have no doubts our lab would not have done as well as it has.

Second, join listservs. Without the listservs to which we subscribe, we would not have gained nearly as much knowledge as we did before launch. Two great listservs to join are ALA’s digipres listserv and the ImageMuse Yahoo group’s listserv. We even reached out to a wonderful colleague from Coastal Carolina University because we admired how he used OpenRefine and the command line to batch-create and –export XML metadata records. He shared his script with us, and the rest is history. We now use his workflow in our lab for nearly every project.

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Now we are even sharing our knowledge with others!

Third: join or create a digitization-related community in your area. By way of using the free, open-source Islandora platform for our digital collections, we became part of a very active and supportive network of Islandora admins, managers, developers, and vendors around the world. While that is incredible, it is also nice to have a support system in your own backyard. So, we co-founded the New York City Islandora Working Group with some colleagues from other institutions. Our group is open to anyone, regardless of whether they currently use Islandora. We meet once per month and share skills, ask each other questions, and, of course, eat pizza and sip wine together. It’s one of the most worthwhile professional endeavors we have been a part of, and our members have been instrumental in getting our lab up and running.

The secret to success really is communication. Talk to people, and you will learn so much!

Footnotes:

[1] “Study for your O.W.L.s with Library’s Harry Potter-Themed Online Collection” (DNAInfo); “There’s a New Digital Harry Potter Book Collection from NYC’s New York Academy of Medicine Library” (untapped cities); “Celebrating 20 Years of the Philosopher’s Stone Inside the Mini-Hogwarts in New York City” (The Verge); “Attention Harry Potter Fans: There’s A Mini-Hogwarts In East Harlem” (Gothamist)
[2] For those library-science fans among you, why didn’t we just pull the metadata from our online catalog? We did! But we encountered a lot of library-speak that we did away with for our Digital Collections audience and wanted to add some new metadata.

So, You Want to Build a Digital Program? (Part 1)

By Robin Naughton, Head of Digital and Audrey Sage Lorberfeld, Digital Technical Specialist

There is a moment before a system is officially live when all the pieces align to create perfection. That moment arrived for us on June 5, 2017, when we launched our Digital Collections and Exhibits website. The launch represented the culmination of 18 months’ work towards implementing a new digital software system (Islandora), migrating content, digitizing new material, and building an internal digital lab.

We took a structural approach to this undertaking. The first structure we wanted to tackle was our software. We selected Islandora, an open-source software framework, which offered an active community and support for small institutions. The community was a major driver in our decision. We wanted support from a diverse group of people who included librarians, software developers, and administrators.

To get our Islandora instance set up, we opted for a vendor-hosted solution. Since we were new to the system, and had a small team with no developers, this was the best move for our institution. Out of a few different vendors, we selected DiscoveryGarden. They were instrumental in getting our system up and running (including customizing our theme to align with the Academy’s branding). We ended up with an amazing homepage that shows users all the resources the Library has to offer.

Wireframe for new theme development (Left). Design mock-up for theme (Right).

Next, we shifted our focus to the content: what would fill the pages of our Islandora repository? A few years prior, courtesy of George Blumenthal, photographer Ardon Bar-Hama took photographs of some of the Library’s rarest books. We determined that co-opting already-digitized content would be the perfect first project for our new system.  Better still, Anne Garner, the Library’s Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts, had already written descriptions for these images. With the help of digital assistants, volunteers, and interns, the images were cropped, separated, and augmented with robust metadata. This project alone gave us 13 rare books to showcase in our repository without requiring any new digitization.

For our next project, we explored migrating an older digital collection from our legacy system, ContentDM, to our new Islandora system. We chose the William H. Helfand Collection of Pharmaceutical Trade Cards because the digitization that took place almost a decade prior had not captured the entire run of the collection. So, not only could we migrate the old content from ContentDM, we could also add new content.[1]

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The previously-digitized cards from the William H. Helfand Pharmaceutical Trade Cards collection on ContentDM.

Armed with lots of digital images at this point, we began the long-awaited test and launch phases of this process. Such questions as will the system render correctly? Will it handle the large number of users? What are the load times? went through our heads frequently. There were many hours spent performing quality assurance on everything, but that is necessary. Do it right once, and you will be set for the future.

At the same time as all of this pre-launch processes were taking place, we were also building our physical digital lab. We purchased a refurbished digital, medium-format camera, strobe lights and Capture One software for cultural heritage institutions, dusted off an old copy-stand we found hiding out in the Library, and outfitted it on top of a workbench to serve as our digitization environment.

Building a digital program takes time and resources. We are fortunate to have a supportive institution and to be part of a very active community that has done, is doing, and planning to do the same or similar digitization projects. On the morning of June 5, 2017, everything worked. The launch was a success, and the feedback we received was stellar.

Coming up in part 2, we will take you through the creation process behind our Harry Potter-inspired digital collection; go over general lessons we learned over the past 2 years; and share some recommendations for those of you thinking of starting a digital lab of your own.

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Our digital lab setup. We’re ready to digitize everything!

Footnote:
[1] For those of you who like to get into the nitty gritty of digital asset management, in order to migrate these legacy Helfand scans from ContentDM to Islandora, we exported the ContentDM metadata into Excel spreadsheets, conducted an inventory of these original images, added to the inventory data related to the new items we were putting into the collection, and voilá!

The Language of Textiles and Medicine

Today’s guest post is written by Kriota Willberg, New York Academy of Medicine’s Artist-in-Residence researching the history of sutures and ligatures.  Through graphic narratives, teaching, and needlework, Kriota explores the intersection between body sciences and creative practice. Starting this week, Kriota will be teaching a four-week workshop entitled “Embroidering Medicine,” which explores relationships between medicine, needlework, and gender. There is still time to register for this workshop, which begins September 14.

As an artist working with textiles and comics (two media often considered domestic or for children), I am interested in the interplay of culturally common materials, tools, and language with those of professional specialty. From the research I have done on the history of sutures and ligature, it appears that the staples of domestic needlework: thread/sinew, cloth/hide, scissors, pins, and needles have been appropriated from domestic use since the time of their invention, to assist in the repair of the body. Similarly, the language of domestic and professional needlework has been re-purposed to describe closing wounds.

Many of the texts I am reading describe the characteristics and purposes of various surgical needles, the type of textiles used for bandaging (linen, wool, cotton), and the type of thread used for various types of sutures (linen, silk, cotton, catgut). I have also found descriptions of wool and flax production by Pliny the Elder in the first century AD, an account of French silk production in 1766 from John Locke, and a couple 20th-century books detailing the history of catgut.

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Ligatures and Sutures by Bauer and Black (c1924) chapter on “Preparation of Bauer & Black Catgut.”

Although I don’t know when a physician’s sewing kit diverged from those of a seamstress or leather worker’s sewing kit, John Stewart Milne writes in his book Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times:

“Three-cornered surgical needles were in use from very early times. They are fully described in the Vedas of the Hindoos… A few three-cornered needles of Roman origin have been found, although they are rare.”[1]

In addition to describing the specific uses of surgical needles, Milne also discusses the uses of domestic needles in stitching bandages by Roman physicians.[2]

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A collection of needles and probes. Source: Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times (1907) by John Stewart Milne.

Galen reinforces this play between textiles, medicine, and the body by describing damage to the body through the metaphor of fabric:

“It is not the job of one art to replace one thread that has come loose, and of another to replace three or four, or for that matter five hundred… In quite general terms, the manner by which each existent object came about in the first place is also the manner in which it is to be restored when damaged.

The woof is woven into the warp to make a shirt. Now, is it possible for that shirt to sustain damage, or for that damage to be repaired, in some way which does not involve those two elements? If there is damage of any kind at all, it cannot but be damage to the warp, or to the woof, or to both together; and, similarly, there is only one method of repair, an inter-weaving of woof and warp which mimics the original process of creation.”[3]

The tandem development of textile production and medicine becomes part of the domestic-to-medical interface of textiles and their tools manifested through the language used to describe materials, tools, and stitches.

In his Major Surgery (1363), in a chapter about “sewing” wounds, Guy de Chauliac describes wrapping thread around a needle in the same method that women use to keep threaded needles on their sleeves. He also describes using hooks to bind wounds. This closure technique is attributed to wool cutters or (wool) walkers.[4] Later Ambrose Paré, paraphrasing Guy’s description of another type of suture says, “The second Suture is made just after the same manner as the Skinners sow their…furs.”[5] Paré also uses the keeping a needle on one’s sleeve description when describing surgical repair of harelip (known today as cleft lip).

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Bottom illustration showing an example of thread winding described by Paré and Guy de Chauliac. Source: The Workes of that famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey (1634).

The language of needlework and textiles is used to educate and inform the student surgeon about the body, health, and suturing techniques.  Woof and warp, wrapping needles, closing a wound as a wool walker would fasten wool, and suturing the body with the same stitch used by a Skinner, seem to be descriptions one is expected to understand and mimic. What is a wool walker? Thanks to Wikipedia I can tell you that “walking” is a step in cloth making, also called fulling, in which one pounds woolen cloth with one’s feet to thicken and clean it.[6] I still haven’t figured out how they fasten the wool with hooks.

References:
[1] Milne, John Stewart. Surgical Instruments in Greek and Roman Times. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1907, p.75.
[2] Milne. p.75-76.
[3] Galen. Galen : selected works ; translated with an introduction and notes by P.N. Singer. Trans. Peter N. Singer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
[4] Guy, de Chauliac. The cyrurgie of Guy de Chauliac. Ed. Margaret S. Ogden. London, New York: Early English Text Society by the Oxford Univ. Press, 1971, p.192.
[5] Paré, Ambrose. The Workes of that famous Chirurgion Ambrose Parey Translated out of Latine and compared with the French. Trans. Th: Johnson. London: Th:Cotes and R. Young, 1634, p.327.
[7] Wikipedia. Fulling. 10 July 2017.

How to Become a Doctor (in 1949)

By Allison Piazza, Reference Services and Outreach Librarian

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How to Become a Doctor (1949) by George R. Moon.

While shelving books, I had the great pleasure of discovering a small book entitled How to Become a Doctor. Published in 1949, How to Become a Doctor is, at just 131 pages, “a complete guide to the study of medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary medicine, occupational therapy, chiropody and foot surgery, optometry, hospital administration, medical illustration, and the sciences.”

The author of the book, George R. Moon, was the Examiner and Recorder at University of Illinois Colleges of Medicine, Dentistry and Pharmacy.  As for Mr. Moon’s qualifications, the writer of the forward states: “it is probable that no one person in the world has met more students seeking advice regarding entrance to schools of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy.”

As intended, I learned quite a bit about the medical school admissions process while reading this guide. I was surprised to learn that, in 1949, not many medical schools required a bachelor’s degree for admission, with only 4 schools requiring the degree, 58 asking for three college years, and 7 indicating they would consider 2 years of college work.  This is basically unheard of today in the U.S.

Medical School by the numbers: 1948-1949 and 2016-2017

1948-1949 2016-2017
Approved U.S. 4-year medical schools 71 147
Applicants At least 20,000 53,042 [1]
Application fee $5-$10 per school $160 first school; $38 per additional school [2]
Enrollment 6,559 21,0301 [1]
Tuition at Harvard Medical School $830* $58,050 [3]
Female matriculates 11% (1947) 49.8% [1]
Medical school graduates 5,543 18,938 [4]

*The highest annual fee at any medical school in 1948-1949.

Further into the guide, Mr. Moon discusses the application process, offering a sample application from the University of Illinois.  One question from this four page application is: How and where do you spend your summer vacations?

After the application comes the interview.  Mr. Moon’s primary advice is on appearance, stating that “this is one place where the typical ‘Joe College’ attitude should be forgotten.” He goes on to say that the student should act natural and answer questions directly and fully but “avoid anything fancy.”

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Chapter images from How to Become a Doctor.

To conclude, just who was the ideal medical school applicant in 1949? Mr. Moon offers the following description:

“The ideal will, of course, have superior college grades, a broad, balanced liberal arts program, be not over 22 years of age, have high moral standards and professional ideals, be reasonably attractive personally, be poised and at ease in his interviews, speak clearly and correctly, be clean and fastidious as to dress and appearance, and have enough financial backing so that he will not be forced to work or be worried by money matters, and last but not least, be physically strong and healthy.”

References:
[1] “U.S. Medical School Applications and Matriculates by School, State of Legal Residence, and Sex, 2016-2017.” Association of American Medical Colleges, December 6, 2016.
[2] “Applying to Medical School.” Association of American Medical Colleges, n.d.
[3] “Tuition and Fees.” Harvard Medical School, November 29, 2016.
[4] “Total Graduates by U.S. Medical School and Sex, 2011-2012 through 2015-2016.” Association of American Medical Colleges, December 19, 2016.

Sample Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) questions from How to Become a Doctor:

Vocabulary:

1. AUDACIOUS: (A) splendid (B) loquacious (C) cautious (D) auspicious (E) presumptuous

Quantitative Ability:

2. It is known that every circle has an equation of the form Ax2 + Ay2 + Bx + Cy + D = 0. Which of the following is the equation of a circle?
A) 2x – 3y = 6
B) x2 – y2 + 4x – 2y + 3 = 0
C) 3x2 + 3y2 – 2x + 6y +1 = 0
D) 2x2 + 3y2 + 6x + 4y +1 = 0
E) None of the above

Understanding of Modern Society:

3. Japan today presents no immediate threat to peace in the Far East principally because:
(A) so much of the country has been devastated
(B) she has been stripped of her colonies and conquests
(C) the present Japanese constitution outlaws war
(D) the new Japanese government is much opposed to the military party
(E)there is now unity of purpose among the various interest in the Far East

Premedical Sciences:

4. Which one of the following is 75 percent carbon, by weight, and 25 percent hydrogen, by weight?
(A) 
C3H
(B) 
CH
(C) 
CH3
(D) C2H3
(E) CH4

Answers: 1. (E), 2. (C), 3. (B), 4. (E)

Artist Inspiration: Plant Cure (Part 3)

Plant Cure evite test11+SarahThe New York Academy of Medicine Library and CENTRAL BOOKING collaborated on the exhibition Plant Cure.  For this exhibition, five artists were selected to do research at the Academy Library over six months to produce work with their own unique take on medicinal plants. The project will culminate with an exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower East Side from September 6-October 29, 2017. Part 1 and 2 can be read here and here.

Maddy Rosenberg

Plant Cure, the collaborative project between CENTRAL BOOKING and The New York Academy of Medicine Library, percolating for over a year, is about to open to the public on September 6. The project includes a two month-long exhibition featuring the work of 19 international artists, vitrines documenting the inspiration and process of the five Artists in Residence, a catalog, and a program of events at both venues.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to assemble the work of these artists who bring their own unique interpretations of plants and their medicinal qualities. From meticulously rendered drawings and water colors to an installation of sculptural free-standing collage works that seem to multiply from pedestal to pedestal, to a medicine cabinet that is beyond the expected, these works offer the viewer science from an artistic slant. In addition, interspersed within the CENTRAL BOOKING exhibition is a video-projected panorama of the Drs. Barry and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room and a floor to ceiling cabinet of curiosities.

But Plant Cure was more than a curatorial project for me. I enjoyed being the “honorary” sixth artist in the Academy Library. It was an opportunity for me to go beyond researching ideas for shaping the exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING, mindful, as well, of pursuing material for my own studio work. The personal one-on-one access to exquisitely designed and illustrated books dating back hundreds of years was like hitting the mother lode for me, with the aid of the fountain of information and helpful direction of Arlene Shaner steering every visit through the vast possibilities.

My aim was to take my interest in medical museums and historic medical texts that are chock full of hand drawn images, add the science of the medicinal usefulness of plants combined with their aesthetic qualities, and make art out of it. The artists’ orientation at the library got the thought processes churning when I saw the collection of Burdock Blood Bitters advertising cards as a way of linking the plants with the cure. Always one to add an element to the flat page, whether it be built in pop-ups or interactive movable components, I requested in my next visit to see several of the anatomical flapbooks, and drew considerably from ones such as The BodyScope (1948) by Ralph H. Segal and Anatomicum Vivum (1720) by Christoph von Hellwig. The plant references I used came heavily from The Herball; or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597) by John Gerarde and published in London in 1597.

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Inspiration: The Herball; or Generall Historie of Plantes (1597) by John Gerarde.

From there emerged an artist’s book of my own medicinal cards with composite images on one side and texts of the cures on the reverse, tucked into pockets of an accordion book to hold them, framed by the drawings of the plants themselves, much like a traditional book of hours. A second artist’s book that is even more a two-dimensional object that becomes a three-dimensional structure through pop-ups and its own flaps, is in process. I am certain with all the material I was able to accumulate and am still digesting, pieces of the Academy Library collection will wind up in many more of my works to come.

Medicinal cards. Maddy Rosenberg (2017).

I am happy to introduce Mary Ting, the last of our five official CENTRAL BOOKING artists at the New York Academy of Medicine Library, who comes with a long interest in medicinal plants through family heritage and her own love of gardening.

Mary Ting

Secluded away in the library of the New York Academy of Medicine, surrounded by bookcases of historical medical texts, I have been intoxicated by the books containing magical illustrations of astonishing beauty and text that entice unanswerable questions. I have been looking and re-looking at the Hortus Sanitatus, various medical botany books, and anatomical flap books. Of particular interest for me are common medicinal plants, (such as ginseng, valerian, mandrake, snakeweed, dandelion, foxglove) ones that have figured in my garden, family life, and are also of cultural interest.

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Academy Library references: Pages from Hortus Sanitatis (1517); The Practical Home Physician (1887); and Medical Botany (1834).

Having grown up weeding beside my mother in her ornamental garden and in a house with one hundred orchids and dried specimens tucked away in drawers, plants and fungi have always held an important place in my life. These were not just specimens but also markers of our family migrations. Of particular reverence is the dried lingzi mushroom that my mother plucked from her college campus (Ginling Women’s College, Nanjing, 1943). This pondering of history, family, nature and grief is central to my work; it is also why this exhibition, Plant Cure, and the research at the Academy Library is an incredible opportunity and a never-ending bounty to feed from.

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Pan and Ting family collection of ginseng and mushroom.

One work to come out of this residency is Holding On, which deals with the interwoven relationship of botany and medicine. I have incorporated empty Ginseng Royal jelly glass bottles as “fruit” on the vine, the red and blue wires refer to the arteries and the plastic tubing to intravenous drip tubing. The title refers to the notion that Ginseng root could be gnawed on in one’s last hours while waiting for the arrival of your children for the final goodbye.

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Mary Ting, Holding On (detail), 2017, vine, wire, plastic tubing, glass, 80 x 24 x 10 inches.

The library research also inspired The Gardener’s Medical Manual, a new rendition of an earlier series, The Other Garden.  Among outsized botanical specimens with eyes, one can find a woodblock image from the ancient Chinese classic, Mountains and Seas, 山海经, an early geography text that was meant to be neither factual nor allegorical. Centipedes also loom large, as my grandmother’s life was saved by the medical application of a poisonous centipede.

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Mary Ting, The Gardeners Medicinal Manual (detail), 2017, cut tyvek, silkscreen, rubberstamps, ink, 20 x 30 inches.

I am continually struck by how so much has changed outwardly, given technological developments, but our medieval notions of man’s dominion over nature and its ravaging remains unchanged. The lure of wild ginseng continues with its illegal harvesting and unsustainable consumption. Though I suspect that it functions primarily as a status gift and that many, like my family members, never utilize the roots and the children arrive too late for the final goodbye.

Artist Inspiration: Plant Cure (Part 2)

Todays’ guest post is introduced by Maddy Rosenberg, curator and founder of CENTRAL BOOKING. The New York Academy of Medicine Library and CENTRAL BOOKING collaborated on the exhibition Plant Cure.  For this exhibition, five artists were selected to do research at the Academy Library over six months to produce work with their own unique take on medicinal plants. The project will culminate with an exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower East Side from September 6-October 29, 2017. Part 1 can be read here.

The next two artists featured in the Plant Cure collaboration between CENTRAL BOOKING and the New York Academy of Medicine Library are Susan Rostow and C Bangs. Susan’s sculptural work is extremely textural and beckons to be touched, while with C it’s our eye that takes the journey over the surfaces. Both artists’ works engage us and demand closer scrutiny.

Susan Rostow

I spent many wonderful hours of my childhood reading the encyclopedia. A set of books from A to Z neatly organized on a shelf with the entire world’s information gave me great joy. I may be a romantic, waxing poetic and nostalgic about the past, but that has not stopped me from enjoying the present times of clicking and swiping through Google images and other websites. My ongoing fascination with information, books and images continued to grow through decades and is presently expressed in my sculptural books.

The first time I entered the New York Academy of Medicine Library and was surrounded by rare books dating from the 15th through the 18th centuries, I felt as though I traveled back in time and entered the Middle Ages. I was taken with the smell of the leather covers, amazed by the weight and size of some of the books, marveled at the odd titles on the bindings, and was captured by highly detailed and precise illustrations. Prodigiorum Ostentorum Chronicon (1557) by Konrad Lykosthenes and Osteographia, or, The Anatomy of the Bones (1733) by William Cheselden are a couple of my favorites.

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Susan Rostow working in studio.

Feeling incredibly inspired, I took my excitement to the studio along with photos of the pictures from the various books I had observed. Armed with a plethora of images and plenty of ideas, I began to work on my vision. Images of medicinal mushrooms and text pertaining to plant cures were put to use by first making carborundum printmaking plates. This is a low tech method used for making plates by hand. This simple, but elegant technique allowed me to connect with some of the similar hand techniques used by the original artists. I printed them with an etching press, a simple press whose basic principle has not changed for centuries. Choosing to use this technique with an old style press made me feel connected to some of the reproductions from the New York Academy of Medicine Library’s rare book collection.

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Susan Rostow, Bone Fungus. 2017, mixed media sculptural book with carborundum prints on paper, dried mushroom, wood, parabolic mirrors, real and plastic bones, sand, glass beads and pigments, 25 x 26 x 26 inches.

After printing hundreds of images of mushrooms and text on paper, the prints were bound together with dried mushrooms, mud, natural glues, and pigments. Paper, tree fungus, roots, soil, and casts from bones merged together creating sculptural books that look, smell and feel like unearthed relics secreted beneath the earth. Hopefully this synthesis captured some of the magic that I felt when I first viewed these incredibly illustrated books.

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Susan Rostow’s sculptural book Bone Fungus (left and center), and detail of Cheselden’s anatomical illustration (1733) (right).

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Prodigioky Ostentory Chronicon (left) William Cheselden’s anatomical illustration (1733) (center), and detail from Susan Rostow’s sculptural book Bone Fungus (right).

C Bangs

My art investigates frontier science combined with symbolist figuration from an ecological feminist point of view. A decade long collaboration with quantum consciousness physicist Dr. Evan Harris Walker has lead me to incorporate his equations in my paintings in a manner mutually agreed upon, designed to posit questions related to his theories. Functioning as design elements that often speak to the interconnectivity of everything in the cosmos, the equations parallel the sacred writings found in illuminated manuscripts. In recent collaboration with my partner, Dr. Greg Matloff, we investigate consciousness from the point of view of panpsychism philosophically, historically and scientifically.

The books I researched at the New York Academy of Medicine Library included Robert Fludd and Konrad Lykosthenes. What does humankind preserve and what do we eliminate? Fludd had a theory of cosmic harmony and Kepler correctly accused Fludd of being a theosophist. Additionally Fludd is remembered as an astrologer, mathematician, cosmologist, Quabalist and Rosicrucian. His writing centered around sympathies found in nature between man, the earth and the divine.

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Flowering Pavonis seeds used as an abortifacient with fetus studies. C Bangs (2017).

Maria Sibylla Merian’s Metamorphosis insectorum Surinamensium (1705) at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden ultimately lead me to contact the New York Botanical Garden. Merian wrote that slave women’s use of the peacock flower was deeply political, using it to abort pregnancies forced upon them by their slave owners. The history of abortifacients is nearly as old as the written word and the determination of pregnancy was left to the woman, who was not considered pregnant until she declared herself to be so. When the Catholic Church realized that they could not regulate abortifacients or convict the women who used them, they began persecuting midwives, declaring them witches.[1] The enforcement of religious law and witch burning was an effective tool for breaking a chain of knowledge about abortifacients that had been in circulation for over a thousand years. Despite Merian’s revelation about the peacock flower in her book, widely used by botanists and men of medicine, this knowledge was ignored. Merchants valued the plant’s looks and shipped large amounts of its seeds to their home countries, where the flower decorated many royal gardens.

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Flowering Pavonis and diagrams from Robert Fludd’s Utriusque cosmi majoris scilicet et minoris metaphysica (1617-1621). C Bangs (2017).

Ironically, when I wished to photograph the peacock flower at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden or the New York Botanical Garden, I found that it had been deaccessioned by Brooklyn and is kept in a section not available to the public at the New York Botanical Garden.

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Flowering Pavonis and images from Konrad Lykosthenes’ Prodigiorum ac ostentorum chronicon (1557). C Bangs (2017).

Reference:
[1] Edwards, Stassa. The History of Abortifacients. Jezebel: 2014, November 18.

Artist Inspiration: Plant Cure (Part 1)

Todays’ guest post is introduced by Maddy Rosenberg, curator and founder of CENTRAL BOOKING. The New York Academy of Medicine Library and CENTRAL BOOKING collaborated on the exhibition Plant Cure.  For this exhibition, five artists were selected to do research at the Academy Library over six months to produce work with their own unique take on medicinal plants. The project will culminate with an exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower East Side from September 6-October 29, 2017.

I approached Lisa O’Sullivan, the Director of the New York Academy of Medicine Library, who I had first met when she participated in one of our panels at the gallery, with an idea for a collaborative project. An important component of CENTRAL BOOKING’s programming has always revolved around art and science as well as artist’s books, therefore a collaboration with the New York Academy of Medicine seemed only natural.

For the project, ultimately named Plant Cure, five artists were selected to do research at the Academy Library over six months to produce work with their own unique take on medicinal plants. The project will culminate with an exhibition at CENTRAL BOOKING on the Lower East Side from September 6-October 29, 2017, featuring the work of the artists in dialog with other artists who have also been intrigued by the theme in their own work. At the Academy, display cases document the research, source material, and working methods employed by each of the five artists in the process of creating their work for Plant Cure.

Over the next few weeks, I am pleased to be able to present here those five artists as they discuss their work and time at the Academy Library. This week we begin with James Martin and Nancy Campbell, both whose final project work is in printmaking, but through very different approaches and results.

James Martin

My questions: how have artists and anatomists from the past chosen to depict what lies beneath the surface of the body? How have botanists and artists portrayed the plants thought to have curative properties? What are the common design elements of these life forms? Have the different printing processes changed the nature of this visual information? And my creative query—how can I re-purpose these incredible pictures from the Academy Library and create something completely new?

I narrowed my focus to anatomical texts that explored arterial and venous networks, attracted to the obvious analogies to plant forms. Historical Collections Librarian Arlene Shaner was able to suggest many fascinating volumes, such as:

The crisp and stylized engravings of John Lizars (1825) use red and blue colors to graphically present the networks of veins and arteries. Antonio Scarpa’s large engravings on the subject of aneurysms are arranged with clarity and artfulness. Closeups of these lethal defects are beautifully abstract. Lithographs of arteries by Richard Quain and Joseph Maclise (1844) have a more poignant quality. The cadavers are not generic bodies, but individuals, often young. Instruments of dissection are part of the still life. Another completely different, but fascinating approach, is Wilhelm Braune’s Topographical Atlas (1888). The color lithographs are accurate renderings from frozen slices of cadavers. Our modern MRI imaging is the closest analogy. Some of these butcher shop portions produce a shiver of revulsion. But, the images are flat and the resulting shapes allow for alternate design opportunities.

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Torso from Frederich Tiedemann’s Explicationes tabularum arteriarum corporis humani (1822).

For my exploration of medical botanicals, I began with the line woodcuts of Fuchs (1542). It could be used as a field guide today such is the clarity and accuracy of its observations. The engravings in William Woodville’s Medical Botany (1793) are even more detailed and nuanced. Structures are clear and complete from root to flower. The addition of color in the Henry Trimen and Robert Bentley’s Medicinal Plants (1880) imparts an even more lifelike quality to the illustrations.

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Hellebore from William Woodville’s Medical Botany (1793).

As part of my creative process, I took digital photographs of plates contained in the above described books. Back in my studio, I work with these photos with editing software. Beginning with anatomical images, I establish the “bones” of the composition.  These are layered with my photographs of tree bark to provide textures, shapes, and a non-specific context, with the relevant botanicals added to the mix. The finished piece was then printed via an inkjet printer on printmaking paper. I added another element with the application of monotype inks printed from mylar over the digital prints for a slight softening of the sharpness and more richness to the color.

Tree bark photograph used in Torso with Hellebore (Left). Monotype plate for Torso with Hellebore (Right).

My creative mash-ups of these historic images have been inspiring and fun. Thanks to all at the Academy for hosting this project and to Maddy Rosenberg of CENTRAL BOOKING for organizing this residency and the upcoming exhibition Plant Cure.

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Torso with Hellebore by James Martin archival digital print with monotype.

Nancy Campbell

I absolutely adored my time spent in the Drs. Barri and Bobbi Coller Rare Book Reading Room at the New York Academy of Medicine. Handling objects so old, delicate, and precious was a rare treat, indeed.

While I enjoyed studying an array of different volumes in the Academy Library, Okamoto Ippo’s Jūshi kei ryaki wago (1693; 3 vol. book of Moxa-cautery) was a perfect match for me. Medieval Japanese picture scrolls have been a long fascination, and I have studied them in museum exhibitions in Japan and the USA. Of course, I have never held an actual medieval scroll and experienced the sequential unfolding of its story (scrolls being so incredibly fragile). Therefore, handling a 17th century Japanese book during my residence, with its ultra-thin, semi-transparent printed paper, was an amazing first-time experience for me and one that will surely affect my work for years to come.

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Artemisia by Nancy Campbell.

In my artwork I strive to evoke an Eastern sense of balance between fragility and strength while using a system of highly structured, intricate abstraction. My methods are slow and measured, but I work for a spontaneous result that inhabits an ambiguous realm between the visible and invisible, the logical and the intuitive, the representational and the abstract. Echoed in all of my work is a continuous play of opposites – often found at the heart of Japanese aesthetics.

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Meridian by Nancy Campbell.

My work for the Plant Cure exhibition references text and diagrams that appear to be layered on top of one another. Each page in the Japanese books I viewed has hints of the previous page showing through the thin Japanese paper. I printed and painted on both sides of Japanese papers and used the method of collage (with Japanese glue) to layer multiple sheets together. A large screenprint based on a collage is still in process.

Eyes Turned Skywards

By Anne Garner, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts

Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone….as the song goes, or, on a day like today, when the moon encroaches on the sun. With all eyes turned skywards, we’re taking the long view on star-gazing, looking back to many of our great sixteenth-century astronomy books for inspiration.  Last week, in honor of today’s solar eclipse, we hosted Atlas Obscura in our rare book room for a ticketed event highlighting some of our favorite images of the stars, planets and astronomers– those inquisitive heavenly creatures who made great strides in changing what we know about the physical universe.

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A pocket-sized French book, Les fleurs et secrets de medicine, published around the turn of the 16th-century, offers this partially covered sun, in the image on the left.  On the right, from the same book, our hero, the astronomer.

After Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the most popular poem produced by the ancient Greeks was Aratus’ Phaenomena.  Aratus, born in Soli in Cilicia, lived in the late fourth and early third centuries B.C.E.  As a young man, he studied Stoic philosophy in Athens at the school founded by Zeno. Building on a tradition of didactic poetry exemplified by the epic poet Hesiod, the Phaenomena, Aratus’ only complete extant work, explained the constellations and the effects of the planets and stars on human event in verse. A Latin translation of the poem appears in our 1499 Astronomicae Veteres, a compilation of early astronomy texts printed by Aldus Manutius in Venice.  Many of the woodcut images of constellations accompanying the poem date to an earlier Venetian publication of Hyginus’ star atlas, printed by Erhard Ratholdt.

The image of the Pleiades in the illustrated Aratus can likely be attributed to the artist of the famous Hypnerotomachia Poliphili also published by Aldus Manutius in the same year.

The Academy Library has five copies of the Fasciculus Medicinae –a compilation of medical treatises, many from the medieval period first published in 1491 (our earliest edition dates to 1495).  This compiler was probably an Austrian physician named Kircheim, which the Italian publishers corrupted to Ketham.  Kircheim, born in Germany, was professor of medicine in Vienna in about 1460.

The Fasciculus Medicinae contains the earliest realistic anatomical images in print.  The book’s astonishing woodcut illustrations include skilled renderings of medieval prototypes including this one of Zodiac Man, below.  The woodcut offers a visual demonstration of the belief that the planets and stars governed the openings of the body.  The accompanying text advised when bloodletting could be safely done to treat different parts of the body, depending on the dominant sign. A variation of Zodiac Man continues to feature in astrological publications through the early twentieth-century, as a staple feature of the English and American almanac.

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Ketham’s Zodiac Man (1522).

The sixteenth-century Spanish physician and surgeon Andrés de León includes this excellent Zodiac Man (below) in his 1590 De Annatomia.

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de Leon’s Zodiac Man (1590).

The German monk Gregor Reisch is responsible for the astonishing Margarita Philosophica (Philosophical Pearl), first published in 1503. This early general encyclopedia purported to gather together all of the general knowledge considered mandatory for any real Renaissance man. The Margarita was used as a general textbook both for private study and in universities throughout Western Europe.  Our 1517 copy, published in Basil, includes arresting woodcut images, including a scene of Astronomia aiding Ptolemy in his sky-watching ventures, a Ptolemaic armillary sphere, and an image of celestial phenomena.

Images from the Margarita (1517): Astronomia aiding Ptolemy (left), Geocentric World (center), Meteora (right).

It also includes this timely woodcut (below), illustrating the various positions of the Earth, the Sun and the Moon when eclipses occur.

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From Reisch’s Margarita (1517): Eclipse, 1517.

The Dalmatian author Federico Grisogono’s Pronostica offers readers a working volvelle (below) which could be used to predict the critical days of solar and lunar fevers. Attentive and star-savvy caregivers might be able to determine optimal treatment for their patients using Grisogono’s movable diagnostic tool (but don’t ask us to forecast the day your fever will lift, it’s complicated!).

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Grisogono’s volvelle (1528).

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include the astronomy publication that causes the big(gest) bang of the century. In 1543, Mikolaj Kopernik (better known to us by his Latin name Nicholas Copernicus) published his watershed De revolutionibus orbium coelestium libri sex, or six books on the revolution of the heavenly spheres, shortly before his death. The book recorded Copernicus’ assertion that the planets revolve around the Sun, and not the Earth.  Copernicus’ ideas are taken by two later Renaissance astronomers who solidify his work. Tycho Brahe uses his heliocentric assertion to collect observations of the sun. Johannes Kepler does the heavy-lifting in terms of calculations, applying Tycho Brahe’s data to Copernicus’ heliocentric assertions and working them out mathematically.

Copernicus’ work created aftershocks for scientific observers attempting to map the physical universe, similar to those produced by Andreas Vesalius when he published his landmark De fabrica humani corporis (thus altering the anatomical map of the body) that same year.  Our edition of De revolutionibus is the second, from 1566.

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Image of concentric circles. Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus (1566).

Incidentally, you can consult another famous astronomer’s work, Cardano’s Libelli quinque, to see this nativity, or astrological chart for Andreas Vesalius’ life (as well as charts for other Renaissance celebrities like Albrecht Durer, Martin Luther, and a Medici or two).

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Cardano’s Vesalian chart (1547).

You’ll find the two remaining ticketed Atlas Obscura events for 2017 listed here and here.

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Thanks to attendee Jasmine for this great pic!

Just my Optotype

By Emily Miranker, Events & Projects Manager

You’ve probably seen the star of today’s post. Or, rather, peered at it trying to see it clearly (like yours truly). That pyramid of big letters with subsequent lines of more letters getting smaller and smaller: the eye chart.

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The relationship of the distance at which the test is done and the distance as which the smallest figure is (correctly) identifiable defines the patient’s visual acuity. Source: John Weiss & Son (1898).

The German physician Heinrich Kuchler created the first eye chart in 1836 with cuttings from books, papers, and almanacs that he glued to a sheet in ever decreasing size.

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Kuchler eye chart. Source: SchoolHealth.com

While Kuchler’s example above is not as cleanly designed as this post’s first image, it was a definite improvement over times past. People basically had to self-diagnose themselves or read a piece of text with a doctor and pick the (hopefully) correct lenses. By the nineteenth century, the need for individualized lenses was clear. In 1862 Dr. Franciscus Donders asked his colleague (and eventual successor to the directorship of the Netherlands Hospital for Eye Patients), ophthalmologist Herman Snellen to design a chart.[1] Now called the Snellen chart, it has become one of the most common.

According to Smith-Ketterwell Eye Research Institute scientist and an eye chart design expert, Dr. August Colenbrander, Snellen experimented with dingbats, shapes and even lines of text for the eye chart.[2] But patients could assume the ending of phrases based on context, and symbols were hard to describe. So Snellen stuck to letter forms –but do they look a little odd to you?

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To the right of the above Snellen Chart is an E Chart, sometimes called a Tumbling E Chart, which works along the same principles but is used for those who cannot read, like children, or patients unfamiliar with the Latin alphabet. Source: Reynders, John, & Co. (1889)

If your answer is yes, you’re picking up on the fact that Snellen developed a specific kind of letterform called an optotype. Once he concluded that letters were better for vision, he speculated that subjects would identify equally weighted letters of consistent size more easily. So he created a complete typeface in a grid system.

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Optotype on 5×5 grid. Source: http://abcdefridays.blogspot.com

Typical typefaces have different line thicknesses and ornamental touches (like the dot on lowercase i’s, the cross-stroke of T’s).  Letter proportionality is usually determined by family groupings (like h, m, n, r, and u). Snellen developed a 5 x 5 grid for his optotypes so the width and height of an optotype is five times the thickness of the line weight.[3] Snellen based his grid on a medical measurement, the arcminute, or one sixtieth of a degree.[4] In optotypes, the weight of a line is equal to the negative space between lines. Typically, C and D would appear wider than Z. The opposite is true of optotypes.

Snellen isn’t the only game in eye chart town. Others include the Jaeger chart, Landolt C, LEA test, LogMAR charts and the Golovin-Sivtsev table. Retired eye surgeon and antique eye glasses expert David Fleishman attributes the Snellen’s widespread popularity even after the advent of other vision assessments to it’s being a “low-tech solution to a complex problem because it was cheap and easy to use.”[5] The 21st century is making its own easy to use -if high-tech solutions– such as the newly released Warby Parker Prescription Check app which utilizes a user’s laptop and iphone to check their vision. The app allows an eye doctor to assess your prescription; though the app stresses it does not replace a comprehensive eye exam.

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Warby Parker website.

Whatever computer screens hold for the future of vision checks, the Snellen remains one of the top selling posters in the United States.[6]

Special thanks to Avery Trufelman and the 99 Percent Invisible podcast team for inspiration from Episode 242: Mini-Stories: Volume 2.

References:
[1] Kennedy, Pagan. “Who Made that Eye Chart?” The New York Times. New York: May 14, 2013.
[2] Frear, Lori. “What are Optotypes? Eye Charts in Focus,” I Love Typography: July 12, 2015. Accessed 8/1/17.
[3] Frear, Lori. “Examining the Fascinating Typographic History of Eye Charts.” Gizmodo: September 24, 2015. Accessed 8/2/17.
[4] Kalatschinow, Alex. “Optotype: Typography of the Eye Chart,” ABCDEFridays: A Typographic Inspiration Blog: Tyler School of Art of Temple University. Accessed 8/2/17.
[5] Kennedy.
[6] Bordsen, John. “Eye Chart Still the Standard for Vision.” Seattle Times. Seattle: August 9, 1995.
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