All posts by Amy McDonald

Have You Driven a Ford Advertisement Lately?

One of the heaviest circulating collections in the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History is the Domestic Advertisements collection in the J. Walter Thompson Co. (JWT) advertising agency archives.  The collection documents the print advertisements designed for magazines and newspapers for the agency’s clients in the United States.  One of the most popular clients represented in the collection is the Ford Motor Company.

"There's a Ford in Your Future" ad
https://repository.duke.edu/dc/jwtfordmotorads/jwtad010020030

JWT and the Ford Motor Company have a long standing agency/client relationship, one still active today.  The agency officially added Ford to its roster of clients in 1943 and launched the now iconic “There’s a Ford in Your Future,” campaign the following year.  In the ensuing decades, JWT helped Ford launch many new automobile models including the Thunderbird, Mustang, Pinto, Taurus, Explorer, Ranger, and Escort.  The agency crafted several well-known Ford campaigns including the first advertising “roadblock” announcing the launch of the Mustang in 1964; “Have You Driven a Ford Lately?”; the Falcon campaign incorporating Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters; and “No Boundaries.”

Ford Falcon '62 ad with Peanuts Characters, 1962
https://repository.duke.edu/dc/jwtfordmotorads/jwtad250050020

Thanks to the work of the Duke University Libraries’ Technical Services, Conservation Department, Digital Production Center, and Enterprise Services, nearly 12,000 Ford Motor Co. advertisements documenting JWT’s seven decades of creative work for Ford Motor Company are now available to students, scholars, and gearheads in our new digital collection.

Ford Mustang ad, 1964
https://repository.duke.edu/dc/jwtfordmotorads/jwtad300030050

In addition to advertisements for cars, trucks, vans and SUVs, the collection also includes ads for the company’s farm implement division, Ford Farm, Ford Motorsports, taxi cabs, school buses, and police vehicles.  Advertisements for the Ford line of genuine replacement parts, Motorcraft, Ford automotive services, promotional literature, outdoor advertising, and insertion schedules are also among the materials represented in the collection.  All ads are keyword searchable and browsable by model, vehicle category, and multiple subjects and ad formats.

Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising & Marketing History.

The Apothecary Ledger of Hugh Mercer

Apothecary Shop: Engraving by Clemens Kohl featuring the interior of an apothecary shop. History of Medicine Picture File, History of Medicine Collections.
Engraving by Clemens Kohl featuring the interior of an apothecary shop. History of Medicine Picture File, 1523-2002, History of Medicine Collections.

Among the 20,000 books and 4,000 manuscripts that together comprise the History of Medicine Collections at Duke’s David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library—not to mention the collection’s hundreds of medical instruments and artifacts—is a large, leather-bound account ledger in folio kept by Hugh Mercer, an apothecary in Fredericksburg, Virginia, from 1771 to 1775.

Born in Aberdeen, Scotland, in 1725, Mercer went on to study medicine at Marischal College, graduating in 1744 before taking up a post as an assistant surgeon in the army of Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie.

With the Scots’ defeat at Culloden in 1746, Mercer fled to America, arriving in Philadelphia in 1747. Mercer settled in what is now Mercersburg, Pennsylvania, where he practiced medicine for eight years. During the Seven Years’ War, Mercer served in the British army, where he met and befriended Colonel George Washington. Following his service, Mercer resettled in Fredericksburg, Virginia, a decision no doubt influenced by Washington.

It was in Fredericksburg that Mercer, along with his business partner and fellow physician Ewen Clements, opened his apothecary shop. On May 28, 1771, in the Virginia Gazette, Mercer and Clements, “partners in the practice of physic and surgery,” announced that they had “opened a shop on the main street, opposite to Mr. Henry Mitchell’s store, furnished with a large assortment of drugs and medicines of the best quality, just imported from London; where Gentlemen of the profession and others may be supplied at easy rates, for ready money.” Together, Mercer and Clements compounded and dispensed medicines, diagnosed patients’ disorders, and prescribed and administered treatments.

The ledger kept by Mercer, which documents the history of his practice from 1771 to 1775, is a microcosm of the social and intellectual worlds of eighteenth-century Virginia. It contains entries for more than three hundred different accounts. Below each entry, Mercer meticulously documented his visits with patients, the medicines he dispensed, the treatments he prescribed, as well as the fees he charged.

An entry in Mercer’s ledger for the account of Colonel Fielding Lewis, a Fredericksburg merchant and George Washington’s brother-in-law.
An entry in Mercer’s ledger for the account of Colonel Fielding Lewis, a Fredericksburg merchant and George Washington’s brother-in-law. Click image to enlarge.

Among Mercer’s many patients were Mary Ball Washington, George Washington’s mother; Betty Washington Lewis, George Washington’s sister, and her husband Colonel Fielding Lewis; Thomas Ludwell Lee; John, Henry, and William Fitzhugh; and Mann Page. Mercer often noted the occupations of his patients, who ranged from merchants, planters, and gentlemen to tradesmen, schoolmasters, undertakers, and stage players. A number of women, many of them widows, kept their own accounts with Mercer. Also among Mercer’s patients were the enslaved men, women, and children whose visits were charged to their masters’ accounts.

Mercer kept a running index in the back of the ledger for each of his accounts.
Mercer kept a running index in the back of the ledger for each of his accounts. Click image to enlarge.

Mercer offered a range of treatments and services to his patients, from bleeding, purging, and pulling teeth to blistering, vomiting, and setting broken bones. He likewise dispensed a variety of compounds and medicines. These included saline mixtures, purging pills, febrifuge drops, liquid laudanum, balsam honey, magnesia, glauber salts, and stomach elixirs. In keeping with the medical science of his day, Mercer’s treatments were aimed at restoring the delicate balance of his patients’ four humors—black bile, yellow bile, phlegm, and blood—and ensuring equilibrium among the body’s solids and fluids.

In all, Hugh Mercer’s ledger offers a unique window into the prevailing medical beliefs and practices of eighteenth-century Virginia society and represents only a sample of the Rubenstein Library’s rich collection in the history of medicine.

Post contributed by Thomas Gillan, Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern

The 1954 Firing of Max Wicker

Max Wicker
Max Wicker

The Duke University Archives recently received the Joseph Mitchell Papers on Max Wicker, a collection of letters, news clippings, and other documents that culminate in a 2006 paper, The 1954 Firing of Max Wicker and Two Other North Carolina Student Directors, Jimmy Ray and J.C. Herrin, by Duke alumnus Joseph Mitchell.

Max Wicker, a 1952 Duke Divinity School graduate, was president of Duke’s Baptist Student Union (BSU) in 1953. After graduation, he was hired to work at Duke by Jimmy Ray, secretary of the statewide BSU.

Later that year, Baptist student leaders began planning their annual BSU conference, to be held in November 1953. Ray invited Christian theologian Dr. Nels Ferré, a Congregationalist who taught at Vanderbilt University, to be the conference’s main speaker. But some on the N.C. Baptists’ general board had heard that one of Ferré’s books cast doubt on the doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Ferré’s speech was canceled.

Cover of 1953 NC Baptist Student Union Convention program.
Cover of 1953 NC Baptist Student Union Convention program.

The general board then began an investigation of the programs and leadership in the Baptist Student Union throughout the state—as TIME magazine’s April 12, 1954 issue put it, “digging into charges that the Baptist student pastors have been guiding their young congregations independent of regular church supervision.” By 1954, the board had scheduled a hearing for three student leaders—Ray, 39; Wicker, 29; and J. C. Herrin, 39, the secretary of the UNC-Chapel Hill BSU chapter.

Letter from James T. Cleland to Max Wicker, April 14, 1954
Letter from James T. Cleland, then Professor of Preaching at the Divinity School, to Max Wicker, April 14, 1954

The hearing lasted six hours, ending just after midnight on March 31, 1954. Wicker delivered a three-page statement to the board explaining his faith. (TIME magazine quoted him as saying to the board, “I do not deny the virgin birth, and I do not affirm it. My mind is still open.”) In the end, the board dismissed the three leaders from their jobs with the BSU. According to TIME, students at the meeting dissented, but “most of the 500 Southern Baptists present thought that the board was right, and that the young ministers were too ‘interdenominational’ for comfort.” The results of the hearing appeared in front-page stories in newspapers around the state.

Letter from John A. Ellis to Max Wicker, March 31, 1954
Letter from John A. Ellis to Max Wicker, March 31, 1954

After the BSU dismissed him, Wicker continued at Duke—where he remained employed—for a few months as a chaplain, then resigned and became a Methodist minister.

Joseph Mitchell had met Wicker while they were both at Duke Divinity School. (Mitchell graduated in 1953, and later returned to Duke for his doctorate in religion in the 1960s.) Mitchell was also a Methodist minister. After he and his wife Norma retired, they moved to Durham in 2001. There, they lived near Wicker and his wife Ann, and Mitchell began researching the nearly 50-year-old case of his friend’s dismissal to tell his story.

The Joseph Mitchell Papers on Max Wicker are open for research.

See: “Baptist Dismissals,” in TIME magazine’s “Religion” section, April 12, 1954. 

Contributed by Erin Ryan, Drill Intern for the Duke University Archives.

 

Uncovering Women’s History at Duke: A Scholars’ Brownbag with Hayley Farless and Elizabeth George

Date: Thursday, October 27, 2016
Time: 12:00-1:30 PM
Location: Rubenstein 249 (Carpenter Conference Room)
RSVP via Facebook (optional)

Five Women at Duke University, 1976. From the University Archives Photograph Collection.
Five Women at Duke University, 1976. From the University Archives Photograph Collection. (View on Flickr.)

Join two Duke undergraduate researchers from the Duke History Revisited program as they share their discoveries about women’s past experiences at Duke University.

Hayley Farless, ’17, will share highlights from her project “Right to Access: A History of the Duke University Abortion Loan Fund.” Elizabeth George, ’17 (and Rubenstein Library student worker), will share highlights from her project “Success of the Second Sex: Duke University’s Demonstrated Efforts to Empower Women.”

Please bring your own lunch; drinks and cookies will be provided.

This talk is sponsored by Duke University Archives and the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture.

Duke History Revisited was sponsored by a grant from Humanities Writ Large, with additional funding from the Dean of the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.

Duke History Revisited Round-Up: Sept. 19th

Date: Monday, September 19, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library Room 153
Contact: Valerie Gillispie, valerie.gillispie@duke.edu

This summer, the University Archives offered a new program for undergraduate students called Duke History Revisited. The idea was to give students a chance to dig into the University’s history and tell the stories of people and events that were not widely known.

On September 19th, the program’s eight students will come together to recap their research projects. During this event, each student will briefly introduce his or her topic, highlight their research discoveries, and offer their own insight into Duke’s history. The presentations will be followed by refreshments and an opportunity to talk with the students in more detail.

The DHR students spent 6 weeks working with faculty members Jolie Olcott and Joshua Sosin; graduate student Will Goldsmith; and archivists Amy McDonald and Valerie Gillispie. The group met twice a week to discuss progress and share research. This special program was made possible by a grant from Humanities Writ Large and the Office of the Dean of Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.

Students and faculty discuss research strategies during a Duke History Revisited meeting.
Students and faculty discuss research strategies during a Duke History Revisited meeting.

We also welcomed a number of special guests to the program to talk about the act of doing research or reflecting on the past. Our guests included William Turner (T ’71, M.Div ’74, PhD ’84), Charles Becton (Law ‘69), Brenda Becton (WC ‘70, Law ‘74), Bob Ashley (T ’70), Steve Schewel (T ’73, PhD ’82), and Robert Korstad (Duke faculty). We were also joined by experts from the library, including Tracy Jackson and Matthew Farrell (University Archives), John Gartrell (John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History), Laura Micham and Kelly Wooten (Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture), Hannah Rozear (Librarian for Instruction), and Michael Daul (Digital Collections).

The students pursued a wide range of topics, using archival materials from the University Archives, materials from other repositories, oral histories and interviews, and other sources. Each created a final project that they felt best expressed the content. The titles and links to the projects are below:

Sini (Nina) Chen Finding a Home for Tricky Dicky: The Nixon-Duke Presidential Library Controversy” (online exhibit)
Hayley Farless Right to Access: A History of the Duke University Abortion Loan Fund” (presentation; link to PDF)
Elizabeth George Success of the Second Sex: Duke University’s Demonstrated Efforts to Empower Women” (research paper; link to PDF)
Lara Haft (we know) (we’ve been here): uncovering a legacy of student & employee solidarity” (online exhibit)
Alan Ko ‘Cherry Blossoms Among Magnolias?’: A History of the Asian Experience at Duke” (online exhibit)
Paul Popa A Leap of Faith: Documenting the First-Generation Undergraduate Experience” (online exhibit)
Victoria Prince “Town and Gown Relations vs. Power Struggles: An Overview of How the Durham Freeway Controversy Affected Relations Between Durham, NC and Duke University”
Jesse Remedios The Politics of Identity” (podcast)

Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, Duke University Archivist.

Measuring the Children of the Corn

“The babies are entered like any other exhibit at an agricultural fair. . . . They are examined by judges, just as live stock [sic], grain or apples are examined. . . . The result is bound to be – not prettier babies, – but better babies at each year’s fair, – a stronger, healthier race of people on the farms, in small towns and in the state.”

This excerpt from a Better Babies Bureau circular, from the papers of Victor Bassett, contains several templates for Better Baby Contest advertisements. Popular at local fairs in the early 20th century, Better Baby Contests presented a lighthearted way to challenge infant mortality and promote fitter populations. However, they also reveal governmental eugenic efforts to objectively quantify and thus improve American health.

Announcement for Better Babies Contest.
Announcement for Better Babies Contest.

Examiners judged children under five years old on their measurements and proportions, mental and developmental states, vision and hearing, and physical development. These tests set government-determined averages as the standard by encouraging families to “produce” children who met or exceeded these ideals. Additionally, they served to cement the public health as existing in the realm of scientific medicine and the government, rather than in the home. These kinds of contests illustrate the complex relationship between eugenics, popular movements, and public health.

Thanks to a generous History of Medicine travel grant, my visit to the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library allowed me to conduct research to support my dissertation, “Measuring Health: The United States Sanitary Commission, Statistics, and American Public Health in the Nineteenth Century.” I examine the statistical work of the United States Sanitary Commission (USSC).

During the American Civil War, the USSC attempted to improve the health of the Union Army. The leaders of this organization understood their work as forwarding ideas about preventative medicine and improving sanitation. Yet with the entirety of the Union army at their disposal, the USSC also inspected and measured over one million soldiers and sailors. These records include tabulations not simply of height and weight, but also the distance between a man’s eyes, the size of his head, and angles of his face. The statisticians presented their findings in groups divided by race and education level, and, while they provided limited interpretation of these numbers, they were made available to the broader scientific and anthropologic communities. It was in their hands that these numbers defined medical standards for Americans and shaped the nature of American public health.

My project explores why these statistics were collected and how they were used, and, more broadly, the Commission’s public health legacy. By using these statistics as a starting point, I explore the ties between the USSC and changes in public health, and how research from a 19th century organization continues to impact later public health issues. These Better Baby Contests represent the Commission’s legacy of measuring the quality and usefulness of a human being and of using governmental authority to establish scientific authority.

Post contributed by Sara Kern, a Ph.D. candidate in History & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University.

Documenting the Duke/Durham LGBTQI Community with Oral Histories

Oral histories are often fantastic, and fascinating, resources: first-hand accounts of lives and events, communities and histories, told with immediacy and giving a direct connection to the narrator, and thus to the story. They are rich and compelling, and are powerful tools in documenting those who are under-represented by the types of documentation traditionally found in archives. For these reasons, we were very excited to work on two recent oral history collections related to the local LGBTQI community: the Duke Alumni LGBTQ Oral Histories and the Rainbow Triangle Oral History Collection (RTOHC).

Materials from the Rainbow Triangle Oral Histories Collection.
Materials from the Rainbow Triangle Oral Histories Collection.

Both collections offer first-hand accounts of the LGBTQI experience at Duke and in the Triangle area. The Duke Alumni oral histories include individual Duke community members relating experiences from the 1970s through early 2000s, while the RTOHC materials come from individuals throughout the Triangle region and relate stories from the 1960s to the 2000s. As one can imagine, the stories in both document a large variety of experiences. Since some oral history subjects overlap in terms of years and environs covered, it is possible to compare multiple accounts of isolated, annual events like Blue Jeans Day; national crises like the AIDS epidemic; and ongoing struggles such as anti-LGBTQI persecution and community-building.

Similar to archival collections made up of paper and photographic-based materials, oral history collections pose significant challenges stemming from volume and format, as well as rights and content sensitivities. Close to 80 interviews are represented across these two collections. Interviews in the Alumni LGBTQ collections were conducted in 2015 and 2016 straight to digital recorders in formats supported by modern computing environments. Interviews conducted by the Rainbow Triangle Oral History project were conducted over a span of years in the 1990s and early 2000s on a variety of physical media and will require digital reformatting for use and preservation. Additionally, oral histories may have been recorded without the narrators giving explicit permission as to who can access the recordings, or under what circumstances, or what researchers can do with the information in the recording. Many projects and interviewers prepare forms for just this purpose, but not every form makes it into the archive with the recording. Finally, describing the contents, and the narrators, in ways that are sensitive to the narrator’s wishes, and concisely but accurately convey the topics covered in the recordings, can be complicated. Oral histories are often intensely personal and revelatory, and a wide range of subjects, persons, places, and events can be covered in a short period of time. We were lucky in that the alumni included either transcripts or interview summaries to aid in their description, and many of the RTOHC interviews included transcripts and/or biographical information.

Although these collections presented some complexities during processing, we were proud to work on preserving and providing access to these materials. Both collections are now available for use in the reading room.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist, and Tracy Jackson, Technical Services Archivist for the Duke University Archives.

Scholars’ Tea with the Sallie Bingham Center, June 29th

Date: Wednesday, June 29, 2016
Time: 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Location: Rubenstein Library, Room 249 (Carpenter Conference Room)
Contact: cwhc@duke.edu

The Managing Editors of RFD at Short Mountain Sanctuary. From the James T. Sears Papers.
The Managing Editors of RFD at Short Mountain Sanctuary. From the James T. Sears Papers.

Please join the staff of the Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture for a Scholars’ Tea. Three recipients of Mary Lily Research Grants will present brief remarks about their research projects and allow time for conversation with library staff and other attendees.  Light refreshments will be served.

Presenters:

  • Jason Ezell, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies, University of Maryland, “Queer Shoulders: The Poetics of Radical Faerie Cultural Formation in Appalachia”
  • Margaret Galvan, Ph.D. candidate, English, The Graduate Center, CUNY, “In Visible Archives of the 1980s: Feminist Politics & Queer Platforms”
  • Yung-Hsing Wu, associate professor, English, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, “Closely, Consciously Reading Feminism”

Mary Lily Research Grants support researchers in their use of women’s and LGBTQ history collections at the Bingham Center.

Post contributed by Jennifer Scott, Bingham Center Public Services Intern.

 

Archiving Social Media about Duke Activism

At the University Archives, we work hard to dispel the stereotype that we are merely reactive documenters of Duke’s history, that we wait to receive evidence of activity reflected in the records of the offices, organizations, and bodies that donate or transfer materials to us. We pursue student organizations‘ materials and meet regularly with representatives from both transitory and permanent bodies active in the Duke community. Since 2010, we have selectively crawled websites related to Duke.

The recent activism on campus has given us the opportunity to try new methods of documentation. Students and protesters disseminated much of the information related to the Allen Building Sit-In staged by Duke Students & Workers in Solidarity (DSWS) and ongoing tenting on the Abele Quad on Twitter, Instagram, and other web platforms. The Chronicle published a lot of coverage in print issues of the paper, but created multimedia presentations online and on Twitter. What follows are some of the methods we used to approach capturing online materials related to student activism, brief summaries of how well we did, and some early thoughts on what our responsibilities are with respect to access and re-use of this material.

We used three tools to primarily collect web materials, each with its own strengths. The Rubenstein Library subscribes to the Internet Archive’s Archive-It web crawler, which allows us to execute captures of web pages. I wrote about our broader efforts around Archive-It and Duke History last year on this blog. Archive-It is best suited for more static websites, and is less effective at capturing dynamic conversations. For the recent student activism, Archive-It came in handy when capturing the website of the DSWS, as well as the ongoing, related criticism of campus culture at Duke by the #DukeEnrage collaborative.

Archive-It has some capability for capturing Twitter, but it’s Twitter as viewed on Twitter.com: it’s a flat presentation of a Twitter feed or search. Here is a comparison of a tweet presented by Twitter, and what it looks like in its raw form.

01_tweet_frontend

02_tweet_backend

This lack of flexibility influenced our decision to look elsewhere for capturing Twitter. We settled on two applications: Social Feed Manager and Twitter Archive Google Spreadsheet (TAGS). Both tools, once configured, query the Twitter API, retrieve tweets in their native form, and do some level of processing on them. Social Feed Manager stores tweets and allows the user to export them as a CSV or Excel file for offline storage. TAGS parses tweets into a Google Sheet, which can be downloaded for offline storage. For logistical reasons, we chose to use Social Feed Manager in the rare occasion of attempting to capture the tweets of an entire account—in this case, the @dsws2016 account.

@dsws2016, viewed in the Social Feed Manager web application.
@dsws2016, viewed in the Social Feed Manager web application

 

An Excel export from Social Feed Manager of @dsws2016 tweets.
An Excel export from Social Feed Manager of @dsws2016 tweets

We used TAGS to crawl hashtags. Since November, we had been capturing tweets related to #DukeEnrage, #DUBetter, and #DukeYouAreGuilty. Once the Allen Building Sit-in began, we added #DismantleDukePlantation and #DukeOccupation2016. Most of these were relatively low-use hashtags, with one exception: use appears to have coalesced around #DismantleDukePlantation, resulting in around 7000 unique tweets from the week of the sit-in, and another 2000 from the time since.

TAGS summary dashboard
TAGS summary dashboard

 

#DismantleDukePlantation tweets captured by TAGS
#DismantleDukePlantation tweets captured by TAGS

This work is still ongoing. So far, I think of our efforts as a modest success. The web, and especially social media, is ephemeral (although, oddly and wonderfully, aspects of the web we thought would disappear have persisted). That said, these efforts represent only one or two angles into the online conversation. Newer platforms like Yik Yak and Snapchat are either location based or expose content only temporarily. The tools available to capture Instagram are not as developed as those for Twitter. We cannot, nor do we want to, capture everything.

There are also questions of ethics and access. We received (enthusiastic, as it happens) permission from students associated with DSWS to capture their Twitter feed*. It would be impossible to seek permission from each individual Twitter user who tweeted using #DismantleDukePlantation. Although everything we targeted is still currently available through Twitter, the users who created it likely did not expect it to be re-contextualized—even if they fully understood the terms of service they clicked through when they signed up for the service. Twitter would frown upon us releasing material we captured through the API on the open web. For the time being, we tentatively plan on making the Twitter content available in our reading room, though we would need to consider anonymizing the data first.

This is by far not the only arm of our effort in documenting recent and ongoing student activism on campus. We fully expect for administrative records from relevant University offices to be transferred to the University Archives. We have been in touch with classes interested in further documenting the student voices involved. Selectively capturing Twitter and crawling static web pages allows us to capture student activists and their activities in the moment

*[edit] A former University Archives student worker, responsible for outreach in DSWS, granted UA explicit permission to capture the group’s Twitter and Facebook content.

Post contributed by Matthew Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.

Photographic Research on Obstetric and Gynecological Instruments

Auvard Weighted Speculum from the L. M. Draper Collection..
Auvard Weighted Speculum from the L. M. Draper Collection.

With generous assistance from the History of Medicine travel grant, I traveled to Duke University to view and photograph historical obstetric and gynecological tools housed in Duke’s History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.  There I viewed various artifact collections donated by practicing regional doctors, including the L. M. Draper Collection, the George D. & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection, and several anonymous collections.  I also viewed anatomical lift-the-flap guide books, lift-the-flap anatomical fugitive sheets and the Trent Collection of Ivory Anatomical Manikins, all of which were used to teach medical procedures, including delivery.

Having access to Duke’s collection was an incredible experience.  I treated it like a short artist residency.  I set up my lights, a pop-up tent, my camera and a tripod in a study room within the library.  Every morning, a cart was wheeled in with OB/GYN tools, anatomy text books and glass slides.  It was exciting (and a little nerve-wracking), opening up boxes and not knowing their contents.  For some items, I felt I was discovering the files for the first time.  In a way I was: besides the archivists who received and catalogued them, some of the items had never been requested.  I often felt as though I were in the medical field—donning nitrile gloves, carefully removing the items from their boxes, gently lying them down on the fabric of my pop-up lighting tent, careful not to harm them in any way.  I found myself photographing them as abstractions or as jewelry, a style of cataloguing unlike other projects I have photographed.

Smellie-Style Obstetrical Forceps from the George & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection.
Smellie-Style Obstetrical Forceps from the George & Evelyn Wilbanks Collection.

My work focuses on historical and contemporary women’s lives and I am particularly interested in the past’s technology and how it relates to today.  I have previously done photographic projects on antique vibrators, social media and the practice of keeping a commonplace book and with this project, the history of labor and delivery technology.  While the process of getting pregnant has changed with IVF and the location of delivery may have changed, the actual process of delivery has not changed.  Although American society emphasizes new products & experiences, and the medical world uses recent technology & procedures, women continue to deliver only one of two ways—vaginally or via Cesarean section.  Prior to my arrival at Duke, I assumed the tools used in labor and delivery were harmful to the infants and delivering women.  I also wondered how deadly labor actually was—in fictionalized accounts in both books and screen, no female who delivered a newborn ever lived, and seldom the child.  I expected antique tools to be brutal and different in appearance than today.  It surprised me that many of the tools I photographed resembled contemporary tools, only with time’s effect through rust or evident aging.

My research at Duke is the beginning of both my project and into further research on the history of the OB/GYN tools and their uses.  Although in its early stages, I plan to study these tools’ history, as well as their use & influence today.  The final images may be printed as slides, emulating turn of the twentieth century magic-lantern plates or late-twentieth century educational slide shows.  Whatever form these images take, I was particularly inspired by the anatomical lift-the flap books & broad sides and will create an artist book influenced by these interactive educational guides.  I look forward to sharing future developments of this project. Thank you to everyone at Duke University’s Rubenstein Library for their assistance during my stay.

Post contributed by History of Medicine Travel Grant recipient Lindsey Beal. Beal is a photo-based artist and professor in Providence, Rhode Island.  Her work and further information can be found at lindseybeal.com.