A couple of days ago the Head Archivist at the Weill Cornell Medical Center Archives asked me if I had checked out the archives on the 12th floor. More archives? In the same building? I was intrigued. Turns out he was referring to the Oskar Diethelm Library, a library of 25,000 volumes (and those are just what’s catalogued) on topics related to the history of psychiatry and its predecessors.
The Librarian, Diane Richardson, replied to my email within a day. Went last night to meet her and knew as soon as I walked in that it was a great place: phrenology bust on the shelf, lines of of asylum books, a wall of mesmerism posters, a giant wall-sized photo of Freud’s study, several prints of asylum buildings and advertisements – and a framed letter from Ms. Dorothea Dix (I’ve only seen photocopies up to this point!). I got a quick tour of the back room and a run-down of the highlights of the collection – and then set up a last-minute visit for today.
So today was extra archively wonderful: 6:40am-3:30pm digging through Bloomingdale patient files and casebooks and then 3:30pm-6pm reading annual reports from the Friends’ Asylum (the collection dates back to 1818!) plus a great collection of books that the Librarian pulled out to show me (awesome!)
Only one day of archiving to go and then it’s back on that overnight Megabus trip to Toronto *sigh*
[Unrelated but may be of interest, the library has an online exhibit on the history of hydroptherapy that has some great images!]