As soon as I knew we were headed towards Yale, I made a request to tour the Cushing Center. I knew about Harvey Cushing and his brain collection but after watching a YouTube video about the new Center, I really wanted to visit.
It was well worth the trip – our tour guide was Yale’s photographer, Terry Dagradi, who has taken some incredible shots of the various elements of the collection. With 400 brains in their original jars with Cushing’s labels, the collection is just plain fascinating. The space was also interesting in terms of its set-up and interactive aspects – under each case were drawers full of materials from the collection that you could pull out to explore. There was also a photo of Cushing with Ivan Pavlov beside the famous piece of steak that Pavlov “signed” with an electrosurgical knife in 1929!
But there was still a cherry to put on the top of this ice cream sundae of an afternoon – a completely impromptu meeting at the Medical History Library (home to one of the most incredible history of medicine collections in the world). I didn’t even need to leave the building, both the Cushing Center and the Medical History Library are located in the Harvey Cushing/John Hay Whitney Medical Library building.
Based entirely on good timing I got to meet some of the staff members of the Medical History Library who, after hearing about my research interests, arranged for me to view three photograph albums they’ve acquired which feature daily-life in asylums in the Netherlands, France, and Argentina! They were absolutely incredible to see and shared a lot of characteristics with the photographs I’ve been seeing from North American institutions of the same time period. It also sounds like the Library has quite a bit of additional material I would be interested in which means: return trip in the future!