Brraiins! and an impromptu meeting

21 April 2011

Day 3 PM: Cushing Center and Medical History Library

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! Read the rest of this entry »

Morning with Gertrude Stein

21 April 2011

Day 3 AM: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Spent the morning at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library on Yale University’s campus going through a a part of Gertrude Stein‘s correspondence. The building really stands out from the rest of the Yale buildings in the area from the exterior but the interior is quite interesting – walking in you face the glass-encased stacks filled with rare books.

I requested some of the folders related to Stein’s Radcliffe days: her correspondence with William James, Hugo Münsterberg, Leon Mendez Solomons and Adele Oppenheimer. It was a fun collection to look through – my favourite letter was from Münsterberg in which he described Stein as the “ideal student” and expressed what a pleasure she was to teach. I also enjoyed Solomons’ reflections on being a student in the Harvard psychology department.  

Yale’s Archives & Manuscripts

20 April 2011

Day 2: Feeling rather scholarly

Walking through the giant wooden doors of Sterling Memorial Library this morning was an awe-inspiring experience. There was just something surreal about pulling the big iron door handles and stepping under the intricately carved stone entrance-way beneath William Osler‘s words “The Library is the Heart of the University” – it’s just not experience I have on a regular basis.

I wasn’t prepared for the grandeur of the interior of Yale University‘s social science and humanities library – based on the arched ceilings, stained glass, and extraordinary Gothic details I was certain the building was a re-purposed cathedral. It turns out that it was built in 1930 on the design of James Gamble Rogers, a Yale alumni. The second largest university library in North America, it holds over 12.5 million volumes – and is home to the Manuscripts and Archives collection. Read the rest of this entry »

Quick Trip to Dix Papers

11 March 2011

Day Trip: If we ever decide to clone Dorothea Dix, I know where we can find her hair

I’m in Boston for the Eastern Psychological Association conference for the next few days so I took the opportunity to spend a few hours back at Houghton Library (pictured right) to go through parts of the Dorothea Lynde Dix papers (the last time I was here was in February of 2010 for the William James papers but that was before I began Field Notes).

Things have changed since I was last here: they’ve gone digital. I had to register online before arriving today plus get my photo taken for a fancy ID card that expires tomorrow (pictured left). I also had to request all my boxes online via their website – even when I was sitting in the reading room. It all seemed very fancy.

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Tour Recap

8 August 2010

I mapped my route (roughly) from the past month: 15 asylum museum-related stops in 4 provinces and 4 states!

A bonus stop!

15 July 2010

Stop 3: Manitoba Provincial Archives & Legislative Library

Got to spend an unplanned day in Winnipeg! We weren’t sure how long we would be in Selkirk and the date for our tour in Brandon was still up in the air a bit so I had scheduled a “safety” day that would allow us to accommodate either place regardless of how the arrangements worked out. In the end, we got to spend a day in Winnipeg.

I spent the morning at the Manitoba Provincial Archives where the staff were very helpful! I was able to go through some of their governmental finding aids to see the types of material they hold from both the Selkirk and Brandon Asylums. Their photo collection is also open-access so I was able to paw through filing cabinets of images of various places in Manitoba and found some great shots of both institutions (including some incredible photos taken during and after Brandon’s big fire in 1910!)

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Bonus post!

3 July 2010

An extra stop on my way home

Megabus made it up to me today for all the delays I’ve experienced over the past few weeks: we not only made it to NYC on schedule but also made it in time for me to catch the last tour offered at the NY Public Library!

This was my first time getting to go INSIDE the Library – it was absolutely incredible! Gorgeous architecture, incredible history, and a mandate of free and public access to everyone.

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Last day…for now!

3 July 2010

Last day: More artifacts & annual reports

It was a great Friday: spent the entire morning digging through boxes in the NY State Museum‘s storage room for artifacts from the Utica and Willard State Hospitals. Got to see some really interesting material! Among the coolest was Amariah Brigham‘s phrenological hat (for a film about how it works see this link – watch from 43 seconds in).

Finished off with the Utica annual reports in the afternoon + made it part way through the volumes of The Opal. Definitely am going to need to come back – I barely dented the materials held by both the Archives and the Museum!!

Heading back to NYC tomorrow AM and then it’s back on the overnight bus to Toronto. Next trip: Tim and I are driving across Canada to check out asylum and mental hospital museum collections! We leave next weekend.

2-for-1 Archives Special

18 June 2010

Day 4: Two is better than one!

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.

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