Archival Frustration: How could there be no mention? (and who is Eleanor I. Keller?)

Day 4: at the Rockefeller Center Archives

I should have known that yesterday‘s excitement was too good to be true. Today I felt like all I did was face one question after another. The New York Psychopathic Laboratory was only open from 1916-1917 (with a trial run in 1915 and a “revival” of sorts in 1926-1927) so, in theory, it should be easy to locate within the Minutes and financial records of the Bureau of Social Hygiene. Right? Wrong. I flipped through page after page, folder after folder, madly clicking away with my camera in the hopes that maybe I was just missing something that should be staring me in the face. There was nothing (except a bunch of information about a project I’d like to pursue in the future about the Bedford Reformatory). I’m in a state of disbelief.

The work has also raised some other interesting questions such as: who is Eleanor I. Keller? She’s listed as the psychologist who worked at the Laboratory, but she exists as nothing more than a cursory mention on the staff list in the archival record. Given that the purpose of the Laboratory was to perform both psychiatric and psychological testing on those arrested at New York’s Police Headquarters, I would say she must have played a fairly critical role. And yet my cursory searches for her have yet to provide much detail. One of the issues is that when you Google “Eleanor I. Keller” you get a lot of hits about the meetings/correspondence between Eleanor Roosevelt and Helen Keller. And after a day of archiving, my energy levels permit little more than a quick Google search. I know she wrote about her work at the Laboratory – and I know her start and end dates for this work. But I don’t know much else yet – where did she get her PhD? Who did she work with? Typically I would approach the challenge as an exciting bit of detective work but after today’s frustrations in the archival records I’m feeling somewhat more negative about the venture.

 

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2 Responses to Archival Frustration: How could there be no mention? (and who is Eleanor I. Keller?)

  1. Jacy – I think the tinyurl above is only to Google? But with the WorldCat entry you emailed me for her dissertation (thank you!!), I was able to find a copy on Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/maximsastestsofv00kellrich)! She thanks Thorndike and Watson in her acknowledgements (Thorndike was also, coincidentally, on the Advisory Board of the Lab). A thesis on testing makes complete sense for a “first job” at the Psychopathic Laboratory 🙂

    Before giving up last night I also found two folders of correspondence between her and Adolf Meyer (1913-1919) and emailed the archivist (http://www.medicalarchives.jhmi.edu/sgml/amg-d.htm). Meyer was asked about the Lab on a few occasions in the BSH collection so I’m hoping their correspondence might be connected.

    So the trail hasn’t gone completely cold! Yay!

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