By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist
One of UCSF Archives & Special Collections’ most famous and beloved collections is the Japanese Woodblock Print collection – a collection of over 400 colorful and informative woodblock prints on health-related themes, such as women’s health and contagious diseases like cholera, measles, and smallpox. According to the Library website dedicated to the prints, they “offer a visual account of Japanese medical knowledge in the late Edo and Meiji periods. The majority of the prints date to the mid-late nineteenth century, when Japan was opening to the West after almost two hundred and fifty years of self-imposed isolation.” The collection has been used, most recently, in a documentary about woodblock prints to be aired on NHK, Japan’s public broadcasting network, and has been a subject of enduring interest to researchers. I’ve heard colleagues wonder aloud about how UCSF came to own this unique collection, so I did some research. Naturally, an enterprising curator and librarian – Atsumi Minami, MLS – is to thank for the collection’s arrival at UCSF.
While I was not able to find the exact dates of her employment at UCSF Library, I do know that Minami began working at UCSF Library in 1959, and soon took charge of a small collection of 70 titles of materials related to East Asian medicine started in 1963 by John B. de C.M. Saunders (a shortening of his full name, John Bertrand de Cusance Morant Saunders), then Provost and University Librarian. Minami could read Japanese script, so she became responsible for the collection and was soon given free rein to begin collecting additional materials. In order to do this, Minami “traveled to Japan and China and purchased items from various smaller, private collections, acquiring the woodblock prints as well as hundreds of rare Chinese and Japanese medical texts, manuscripts, and painted scrolls.” Her collecting efforts spanned over 30 years, and produced a collection with over 10,000 titles. It would appear that Minami was still working at UCSF when this informative article was written for a 1986 issue of UCSF Magazine. At the time that article was published, the East Asian medicine collection was also the only active collection of its kind in the U.S., making it even more notable.
Another woman who was influential in shaping the East Asian collection was Ilza Veith, a German medical historian and former UCSF professor in both the Department of the History and Philosophy of Health Sciences and the Department of Psychiatry. Veith, who in 1947 was awarded the first ever U.S. Ph.D.in the History of Medicine from Johns Hopkins University, was also awarded later, in 1975, the most advanced medical degree conferred in Japan, the Igaku hakase, from Juntendo University Medical School in Tokyo. Veith was extremely knowledgeable about both Chinese and Japanese medicine, and, in her time at Hopkins, translated Huang Ti Nei Ching Su Wen, or The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine – the oldest known document in Chinese medicine. Though the text has somewhat mythical origins that make its author and date a little difficult to determine, it probably dates from around 300 BC. Veith also helped shaped UCSF’s East Asian medicine collection by donating a number of her Japanese medical books.
I would encourage anyone interested in the collection to browse the prints on our website, and to read more about their history via a finding aid on the Online Archive of California. Archives & Special Collections also houses the Ilza Veith papers. While we don’t yet have an Atsumi Minami collection, we welcome donations and would appreciate any information that the present-day UCSF community has about this amazing woman.
By Erin Hurley, User Services and Accessioning Archivist
We are currently more than halfway through Black History Month, a month that takes on special significance this year, following a summer of protests asserting, yet again, that Black Lives Matter. Archives & Special Collections would be remiss if we failed to mention the groundbreaking Black faculty at UCSF, both past and present, who have made significant contributions to the fields of medicine and psychology (as well as many others), and, who, in their work, have found ways to illuminate new facets of racism previously unconsidered and who, on their paths to success, have also sought to support and lift up others.
Mindy Thompson Fullilove is a social psychiatrist who served as Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCSF Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS) from 1983 until 1990. Her work sits at the intersection of mental health and public health, and she focuses, in her own description, on the “sources and consequences of inequality, with a focus on the American city,” including segregation, gentrification, and the impact of these forces on the mental and physical health of Black families.  She is the author of numerous books, including The Black Family: Mental Health Perspectives and Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America and What We Can Do About It.Most recently, she has co-edited a volume titled From Enforcers to Guardians: A Public Health Primer on Ending Police Violence. In 2018, she gave a TED talk which gives an overview of her work and her personal history and outlines her hopes for achieving equality.
Eritrean surgeon Haile T. Debas has, many times over, served as an example of what Black leadership can look like, and has shown how it can benefit others in a variety of ways. Debas, who came to UCSF in 1987 to serve as the Chair of the Department of Surgery, specializes in gastrointestinal physiology. During his time as Chair, UCSF “became one of the country’s leading centers for transplant surgery, the training of young surgeons, and basic and clinical research in surgery.” He then went on to serve as the Dean of the School of Medicine for 10 years, from 1993-2003. In 1997, he was appointed as the 7th Chancellor of UCSF, a position that he agreed to hold for one year while also serving as Dean of the School of Medicine.
Debas, in his long and distinguished career, has demonstrated a commitment to serving underserved areas, from his work in the Yukon Territories, where he practiced surgery early in his career, to a long-held dream of establishing a medical school in Eritrea. It was this commitment that led him to establish, in 2009, the UC Global Health Institute, which sought to leverage the expertise and resources of all ten UC campuses to address global health issues, which he says are “so big that single disciplines can’t tackle them.” He also served as Executive Director of UCSF Global Health Sciences (GHS), established in 2003, which focuses on issues like diseases of poverty, chronic illnesses, and the global threat posed by certain infectious diseases, like COVID-19.
His work in global health has informed his support for women’s empowerment movements, and he notes, “In global health, women’s empowerment is the critical element—nothing will be accomplished to a successful end without women’s support.” Debas also established the UCSF Department of Surgery’s Haile T. Debas Diversity Fellowship for Fourth Year Medical Students, which offers fourth year medical students a sub-internship in the Department of Surgery, as well as a $2,500 stipend. Debas appears often in Archives & Special Collections materials, as a part of the Office of the Dean’s records, as well as in the Global Health Sciences records and the Oral History collection.
Please join us in welcoming our new intern, Shannon Foley. She’ll be working with us on writing and researching blog posts, as well as working on part 2 of our legacy finding aid project.
“Hello, My name is Shannon Foley. I am incredibly excited to be interning at UCSF’s Archives & Special Collections this semester. I am currently in my last semester at the University of San Francisco and will be graduating with a degree in Art History and Museum Studies. Last semester I interned at the University of San Francisco’s Thacher Gallery. I helped with their online exhibitions, a great experience learning how to navigate fully online exhibitions. At the University of San Francisco, the Art History and Museum Studies program offers a diverse range of skills and experiences that I am excited to bring these skills to this internship. I grew up just an hour north of San Francisco in Sonoma County but have enjoyed living in San Francisco for the past few years. When I am not in a class, I love to cook and bake for my friends and family. I have also played tennis for the past ten years and have enjoyed playing more during the pandemic. I am very passionate about traveling and visiting museums abroad and locally. On any given day, I can be seen walking my dog Louie and reading a good book.”
We are thrilled to announce that the UCSF Black Caucus Records digital collection has added and updated descriptions for over 400 items. The collection documents the history of the UCSF Black Caucus, which began in 1968 to address the social inequalities and inequities at the University of California. It contains photographs, videos, correspondence, publications, and meeting materials about the formation and activities of the Black Caucus. Some of the major events held by the UCSF Black Caucus include the protest to end of racism and discrimination at the University of California, the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Week and Black History Month programs, in conjunction with other campus organizations including the Women’s Resource Center, and annual Gala fundraisers.
A substantial portion of this incredible collection was complied, preserved, and donated to the archives by Elba Clemente-Lambert. Throughout the recent metadata enrichment project, she has painstakingly researched and provided more detailed descriptions of events and identification of individuals in photographs. Mrs. Clemente-Lambert collaborated with her UCSF colleagues and former Black Caucus members (now retirees) on what became a true crowdsourcing project that couldn’t have been successfully accomplished without her guidance and community support. (We will list the names of all people who supported this project in future blog posts). These additions will enable users to learn about the organization’s history, membership, leadership, and accomplishments.
Elba Clemente-Lambert was born and raised in Spanish Harlem in the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York. Mrs. Clemente-Lambert received her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with a minor in Psychology from the City University of New York. She began her career in 1968 at UCSF as a Secretary II in the Department of Neurology. Then, she obtained an on-the-job training position (initiated by the efforts of the UCSF Black Caucus) in the Personnel Department (now Human Resources). Soon after joining the University of California, Elba became one of the founding members of the UCSF Black Caucus. She was elected to various positions in the Black Caucus’ Steering Committee, including Corresponding Secretary and Chair of the Publications Committee, as well as Member-at-Large. However, one of her most important positions was as “the unofficial, but official” photographer. Her passion for photography began in her high school journalism class, which stirred her belief that “we need to document what is occurring in our environment and beyond”. This dedication unintentionally led her to become a historian for the UCSF Black Caucus. Elba worked at UCSF until 1997 when she retired as a Senior Human Resource Specialist. In retirement, Elba continued to work occasionally with the UCSF Black Caucus while involved in the management of Creative Music Emporium (records store), established in April 1985 together with her late husband, first Black Officer hired at UCSF, Joseph G. Lambert, who decided to change his career after serving 18 years to become an entrepreneur in the music industry.
We would like to express our gratitude to all those who helped make this project possible: Mrs. Clemente-Lambert, Marisa McFarlane, and Charles Macquarie.
UCSF’s project supports a priority area for NLM and NIH by digitizing approximately 45,000 pages from 15 archival collections related to the early days of the AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area with the objective of making them widely accessible to the public. This project will chronicle the experience and struggles of communities of color and other marginalized communities during the onset of the AIDS epidemic.
This project will make publicly accessible experiences of communities that are “absent or excluded from the history of HIV/AIDS in the United States” [Jennifer Brier, The Oral History Review, Volume 45, Issue 1]. Its goal is to include the voices of underrepresented and marginalized groups in the historical record and increase public impact of these archival collections. These collections cover diverse issues communities are faced with: poverty, racial and socio-economic segregation, health care policy inequalities, public health and sexual education and prevention, disparities in the HIV response, the impact of HIV on migrant communities, and the intersection of the criminal justice system and HIV.
The materials that will be digitized range from hand handwritten correspondence and notebooks to typed and printed reports and agency records. Photographic prints, negatives, transparencies, and posters will also be digitized. They will be added to a growing digital collection documenting the AIDS crisis established by UCSF on the California Digital Library platform, Calisphere and the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) becoming publicly accessible around the world. The materials will be digitized by the UC Merced Library’s Digital Assets Unit that has been partnering with UCSF on successful collaborative digitization projects for more than 10 years. All materials selected to be digitized will be carefully examined for privacy concerns and the archivists will consult with an existing Advisory Board.
UCSF plans to partner with NLM’s History of Medicine Division and DPLA to create a collaborative AIDS history primary source set on the Digital Public Library of America in order to disseminate the project results and enable their educational use. UCSF will also promote the availability of this resource to organizations in the San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland, CA areas. This project is led by Polina Ilieva and Edith Escobedo serves as a project archivist.
UCSF Archives and Special Collections is pleased to announce that 93 cartons have been processed and added to the J. Michael Bishop papers. The collection was first processed in 2016 with a total of 19 cartons, it grew to 142 linear feet. The new material includes lectures, correspondence, memorabilia, and committee files. The collection’s finding aid is available publicly on the Online Archive of California.
Bishop is the recipient of numerous awards in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Biomedical Research and the American Cancer Society National Medal of Honor. In 1989, Bishop and his colleague, Harold E. Varmus, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery that growth regulating genes in normal cells can malfunction and initiate the abnormal growth processes of cancer.In 2003, he was awarded the National Medal of Science. On July 1, 1998, J. Michael Bishop became eighth chancellor of UCSF, and presided over what would become the largest academic biomedical expansion in the nation-the creation of the UCSF Mission Bay campus.
The collection is arranged into twelve series which include: Series I. Writings and publication files; Series II. Teaching files; Series III. Laboratory research notebooks and binders; Series IV. Working files; Series V. Scrapbook and artifact; Series VI. Exhibit files; Series VII. Committee files; Series VIII. Correspondence; IX. Postdoctoral files; X. Meetings and Travel files; XI. Lectures and Remarks; XII. Photographs, Slides, and Audio/Visual Material.
By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist
This coming Monday, September 28, 2020, is the day UNESCO has designated as International Access to Information Day. Their website notes that, this year, the day is focused on “the right to information in times of crisis and on the advantages of having constitutional, statutory and/or policy guarantees for public access to information to save lives, build trust and help the formulation of sustainable policies through and beyond the COVID-19 crisis.” In a time of national and global crisis, this year’s theme may resonate particularly with Americans, whether it brings to mind the availability of voting information or attempts at voter suppression, or of the deliberate obfuscation of scientific data and fact by the highest levels of government.
To this end, I’d like to celebrate libraries and archives, and their explicit mission to make information accessible. UCSF Library and its Archives & Special Collections, though closed to the public since the City of San Francisco’s “shelter in place” mandate on March 16th, continues to find creative ways to help students, faculty, staff, and outside researchers access the vast stores of information that the library and archives hold, and to find ways to facilitate access across great distances.
As the User Services and Accessioning Archivist, my job is to both make collections accessible through the accessioning process, and to help users navigate the various portals through which Archives and Special Collections shares its information. This may be through finding aids on the Online Archive of California, catalog records in the UCSF Library catalog, or through brief inventories attached to finding aids that tell a user what kinds of materials they can find in a given archival collection and to help them determine whether that particular collection may be of use to them.
Though the majority of my work is still remote, I have accessioned some exciting new collections on-site over the past couple of months, which will soon be available in the above-mentioned locations. Among these is an accrual to UCSF’s Black Caucus collection, focused on the Office of UCSF Affirmative Action, Equal Opportunity and Diversity. The collection was donated to A&SC in 2019, by Karen Newhouse, who served as Director of this office from 1970-2010, and includes materials documenting the work of various UCSF organizations committed to advancing diversity on campus, including Council of Minority Organizations (COMO), the Latin American Campus Association (LACA), and the pioneering Black Caucus organization, which was founded in May of 1968 – one month after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As the finding aid to the initial deposit notes, the organization is open to all Black women and men on campus, and “was instrumental in the establishment of an Affirmative Action Office, minority training programs and focused attention on the need for increased minority student enrollment at the UCSF campus.”
UCSF Black Caucus Flyer on a National Survey on Minority Admissions, January 1973, Black Caucus Records, MSS 85-38, UCSF Archives & Special Collections
Another exciting addition to the UCSF Archives includes the papers of Benjamin Libet – a neurophysiologist and professor of physiology at UCSF for nearly 50 years. Very recently donated to the Archives by his daughter Moreen, Libet’s papers consist of his personal files of research into the human brain, as well as extensive documentation of his experiments attempting to locate the origin of “free will.” The “Libet Experiment,” as it has come to be called, was conducted in the 1980s, and tried to determine whether conscious decisions first originate in the body or in the brain by asking subjects to perform simple movements while measuring their brain activity. This study seemed to indicate that the brain registers the decision to make a movement before a person is consciously aware of the decision to move, suggesting that decisions may originate in the body, and, as some have suggested, possibly disproving the idea of “free will.” This assertion of physical determinism has been much debated, and Libet’s experiments continue to be of great interest. His papers include some of the experimental devices that were constructed to help measure these brain activities, as well as handwritten notes, graphs and diagrams, and the data produced over the course these experiments. The collection is still in the process of being accessioned and inventoried, but will be available soon via OAC and the Library catalog.
If you’d like to learn more about any of these collections, or have questions about A&SC’s extensive digital collections, please feel free to get in touch.
Blog post was written in collaboration with Jazmin Dew.
When the UCSF Library closed back in March, the Archives team had to change its projects to adjust working from home. One of the projects that we were able to work on while sheltering in place is the digitization-on-demand project. This project consisted of describing and publishing digital items on Calisphere. We hoped that by working on this project we would help the public have more access to our collections remotely while the library is still closed. The digitization-on-demand project has let us create new collections and also expand existing collections. We are excited to announce that approximately 710 digital items from various collections have been publish on Calisphere. Some of these include:
San Francisco AIDS Foundation is an organization founded in 1982 to help end the HIV/AIDS epidemic through education, advocacy and direct services for prevention and care. Many of the new items digitized for this collection include photographs, letters, and flyers.
The UCSF School of Nursing collection includes photographs, correspondence, and reports. One of the items that we were able to digitize is the 50th anniversary booklet “Fifty Years A Great Beginning”. The booklet celebrates the progress of the UCSF School of Nursing and has some great photographs from the past.
Laurie Garret was a public health and policy advocate, research, and Peabody, Polk, and Pultizer Prize-winning journalist, writing about global health system global health systems, bioterrorism, and chronic and infectious diseases. The new materials added to the Laurie Garrett Papers collection detail Brazil’s national response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.
Nancy Stoller was a researcher, writer, and political activist. She wrote about the AIDS epidemic and healthcare equality under the pen name Nancy Shaw. Stoller’s two most prominent works wereÂ Lessons from the Damned: Queers, Whores, and Junkies Respond to AIDSÂ andÂ Women Resting AIDS: Feminist Strategies of Empowerment. Two interesting essays added to the Nancy Stoller Papers collection discuss how the HIV/AIDS epidemic affected the Asian and Pacific Islander community, including the impact of the Asian/Pacific AIDS Coalition (A/PAC).
Robert K. Bolan was a community doctor, president of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation (SFAF), Center of Disease Control (CDC) consultant, and active participant of the Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (BAPHR) and the National Coalition of Gay Sexually Transmitted Disease Services (NCGST). The new materials added to the Robert K. Bolan collection include multiple articles by the NCGSTD and how they informed the GLBTQ community and others about the AIDS epidemic.
To explore more new material, check out these collections on Calisphere:
When the UCSF Library closed its buildings on March 16, 2020 to comply with shelter-in-place orders, library staff, like everyone, had to adjust to a significant change in work routines and responsibilities. In particular, our Access Services staff — who normally greet visitors at the front desk, check out books and other materials, manage interlibrary loan deliveries, and provide in-person help and information — faced a sudden need to shift their focus to remote activities.
Meanwhile the interest in online access to library materials was surging, and the Archives and Special Collections (A&SC) and Industry Documents Library (IDL) staff were working hard to expand digitization-on-demand services and to create and update descriptions for digital collections.
In light of these rapidly changing developments, the Access Services and A&SC/IDL teams came together in April 2020 to pilot a new initiative, which has resulted in increased access to our digital collections and a wonderful opportunity to work with colleagues across departments. Read more about this exciting ongoing project in Library News.
By Polina Ilieva, Head of Archives and Special Collections
When HIV/AIDS first seized the nation’s attention in the early 1980s, it was a disease with no name, known cause, treatment, or cure. Beginning as a medical mystery, it turned into one of the most divisive social and political issues of the 20th century. The University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) was at the forefront of medical institutions trying to understand the disease and effectively treat early AIDS patients.
From medical professionals defining the disease and developing a model of care, to activists calling for treatments and public education, this exhibition amplifies the resilience of a community not only responding to its local needs, but also breaking ground on a larger scale with efforts that continue to impact HIV/AIDS care and research today.
The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt panels displayed at San Francisco City Hall during San Francisco Lesbian and Gay Freedom Day Parade, UCSF Library, Archives and Special Collections.
UCSF Archives and Special Collections identifies, collects, preserves, and maintains rare and unique materials to support research and teaching of the health sciences and medical humanities and to preserve UCSF institutional memory. The Archives serve as the official repository for the preservation of selected records, print and born-digital materials, and realia generated by or about the UCSF, including all four schools, the Graduate Division, and the UCSF Medical Center.
The Special Collections encompasses a Rare Book Collection that includes incunabula, early printed works, and modern secondary works. The East Asian Collection is especially strong in works related to the history of Western medicine in Japan.The Japanese Woodblock Print Collection consists of 400 prints and 100 scrolls, dating from 16th to the 20th century. The Special Collections also contains papers of health care providers and researchers from San Francisco and California; historical records of UCSF hospitals; administrative records of regional health institutions; photographs and slides; motion picture films and videotapes; and oral histories focusing on development of biotechnology; the practice and science of medicine; healthcare delivery, economics, and administration; tobacco control; anesthesiology; homeopathy and alternative medicine; obstetrics and gynecology; high altitude physiology; occupational medicine; HIV/AIDS and global health.
Calisphere provides free access to California’s remarkable digital collections, which include unique and historically important artifacts from the University of California and other educational and cultural heritage institutions across the state. Calisphere provides digital access to over one million photographs, documents, letters, artwork, diaries, oral histories, films, advertisements, musical recordings, and more. Calisphere Exhibitions are curated sets of items with scholarly interpretation that contribute to historical understanding. Exhibitions tell a story by adding context to selected digital primary sources in Calisphere, thereby bringing the digital content to life. Calisphere Exhibitions are curated by contributing institutions and undergo editorial review. We are currently refining these processes, which are outlined in the Contributor Help Center. Please contact us if you’re interested in learning more about Calisphere Exhibitions.
This week, we join the International Council on Archives and colleagues around the world in celebrating archives and their role in empowering knowledge societies. Against a pervasive backdrop of disinformation, manipulated facts, and extreme prejudice which has fostered such horrific pain and suffering in our world, we recognize the value of archives and all those who uphold truth, accountability, and justice.
Archives perform an essential function as keepers of the records of evidence of human activities and experience. They directly encourage the creation of knowledge, the affirmation of the histories and identities of individuals and communities, and the transparency and accountability of government and other entities of power. Archives are not dusty enclaves of archaic knowledge for the privileged; they are living repositories of information which should reflect our societies, our decisions, and our lived experience. To celebrate archives is to celebrate a record of human progress, and to celebrate our collective ability to scrutinize and call out disparities and injustices embedded in that progress.
The theme of this year’s International Archives Week is Empowering Knowledge Societies. The concept of a “knowledge society” emerged from work first attributed to the management theorist Peter Drucker in the 1960s, and by the 1990s was being defined and contrasted against the idea of an “information society” as the proliferation of technologies like the internet and World Wide Web increased the production and spread of data. A crucial difference is that an information society is one which simply creates and disseminates raw data, often relying on technological innovation; a knowledge society is one which can study and evaluate that data in context to create knowledge which informs action.
Beyond our validation and promotion of these principles, archives and libraries must design our workflows and services to actively enable and empower these pillars of knowledge societies. Here at UCSF Archives & Special Collections, we strive to empower knowledge societies by providing open access to our collections, to the greatest extent possible, to all users, regardless of location or affiliation. We practice collection development which is aware and inclusive of diverse cultures and communities in the history of the health sciences, and we work to amplify voices which have historically been silenced or marginalized. We preserve evidence of harmful activities in industries which influence public health to enable researchers, policymakers, and members of the public to thoroughly investigate these sources and determine the best course of action to protect the health of our communities and our environment.
In 2005 UNESCO published a World Report titled Towards Knowledge Societies to lay out the global benefits of building knowledge societies, and the challenges many countries face in reaching that goal. The report emphasizes that “knowledge has not only become one of the keys to economic development; it also contributes to human development and individual empowerment. In this sense, knowledge is a source of power because it creates a capacity for action.”
We continue to work towards empowering knowledge societies through archives, to enable the action that’s urgently needed to address the systemic inequalities, racism, violence and injustice threatening the lives of people of color and the future of our communities worldwide. We are committed to building this capacity in partnership with and in awareness of the histories and experiences of all people, in respect and solidarity.
In his recent article Dr. Brian Dolan looks at the politics of protests during the 1918 influenza epidemic in San Francisco.
“On April 17, 2020, San Francisco Mayor London Breed did something that had not been done for 101 years. She issued an order that face masks be worn in public as a measure to help prevent the spread of infectious disease in the midst of a pandemic. This act promptly raised questions about how things were handled a century ago. The media soon picked up on the antics of an “Anti-Mask League” that was formed in San Francisco to protest this inconvenience, noting some historical parallels with current public complaints about government overreach. This essay dives deeper into the historical context of the anti-mask league to uncover more information about the identity and possible motivations of those who organized these protests. In particular it shines light on the fascinating presence of the leading woman in the campaign—lawyer, suffragette, and civil rights activist, Mrs. E.C. Harrington.” Read the full story in Perspectives in Medical Humanities (UC Medical Humanities Consortium, May 19, 2020)
This is a guest post by Aaron J. Jackson, M.A, Ph.D. Candidate, UCSF History of Health Sciences.
From time to time, events in the
present so closely resemble events from the past that the aphorism “history
repeats itself” seems feasible. This can be demonstrated by comparing the
current crisis of the novel coronavirus with the influenza pandemic of 1918-1919.
The similarities are compelling. Like the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, the variety
of H1N1 influenza that swept across the world in 1918 and 1919 produced a
significant shock. It spread like wildfire, was frustratingly resistant to
contemporary therapeutics, exhibited novel characteristics, and forced
governments to resort to what some considered to be heavy-handed public health
interventions. Bay Area residents in 1918 were required to wear masks and
practice social distancing, just as they are required to do so today. Such
historical similarities are not, however, proof that history repeats itself.
But they do provide interesting opportunities for comparison between the past
and the present—opportunities that hold the potential to make the past more relatable
by building connections through common circumstances. And perhaps, through that
understanding, an opportunity for hope to shine in dark times.
This post is not an exhaustive
study comparing 1918 and 2020. Rather, it focuses on responses to crises and
specifically the ways that communities innovatively addressed shortages of
personal protective equipment (PPE). So, of course, it will be about war,
pandemics, socks, and sheet protectors. Naturally.
When the United States declared
war on the Imperial Government of Germany in April 1917, the nation was
woefully unprepared for the conflict. The war represented an unprecedented
crisis—one that required the federal government to assume new powers in order
to coordinate the resources of the entire nation. President Woodrow Wilson’s
administration worked with Congress to institute a draft to raise an army,
enacted strict economic control measures to conserve and direct resources
towards the production of war materiel, and passed laws that infringed on civil
liberties, all in the name of the war effort. To ensure public support for
these moves, the government mounted a massive propaganda campaign that appealed
to a specific version of American patriotism, appealing to citizens’ sense of
Mustering an army of sufficient size presented significant challenges. The men not only had to be inducted into military service—either by volunteering or being drafted—they required hundreds of training camps, transportation to those camps, equipment to train with, uniforms to wear. Once at the camps, they required food, shelter, and medical support. Military training was and remains a dangerous business, but the most significant medical problem at the cantonments was disease.
As tens of thousands of American
recruits assembled at Army camps across the United States, they unwittingly
brought diseases with them, which found ample opportunity to spread in cramped
camp conditions. Most of these infections fell into the category of “common
respiratory unknown disease”—an unofficial designation among military recruits
who learned to add C.R.U.D. to the lexicon of military acronyms they learned.
The crud largely consisted of the common cold and other respiratory infections,
but cases of measles, mumps, and chicken pox were also common. Most cases of
the crud cleared up without need for treatment, but the prevalence of these
infections and the fact that new waves of infections would spring up with every
new trainload of recruits had the effect of masking a more dangerous threat.
Army physicians first identified more than 100 soldiers who had developed a
rather severe flu-like illness in March 1918. Within a week, the number of flu
cases at Fort Riley was over 500 and climbing. The H1N1 virus that caused the
influenza pandemic of 1918-1919 had arrived, but the nation was focused on the
war. And as American troops began arriving in France and moving into the front
lines—many of them no doubt bringing the virus with them—medical personnel
tasked with supporting the war effort shifted their focus from induction
screening and camp illnesses to other health concerns.
The First World War introduced a bevy of new ways to mangle and maim human bodies. From high-velocity rifle rounds and machine guns to high-explosive artillery shells, flamethrowers, hand grenades, aerial bombardment, and chemical weapons, the U.S. Army Medical Corps understood that the hospital system it established in France had to be prepared first and foremost for trauma care, which posed significant challenges. Not only did modern weapons cause extensive damage, the risks of sepsis and gangrene in an era before the discovery of antibiotics were high. Complicating this, European battlefields tended to stretch across agricultural land, teeming with bacteria after years of fertilization. Soldiers wounded on the front lines thus ran an extremely high risk of bacterial infection. To address this, the Medical Corps and its affiliates prioritized training Army health care workers in antiseptic wound care.
The experiences of the personnel of Base Hospital No. 30 are instructive in this regard. Base Hospital Thirty was the military hospital unit assembled from physicians, surgeons, and nurses associated with the University of California’s School of Medicine—the precursor to UCSF. Organized with the help of the American Red Cross Society shortly after Congress declared war, the unit spent more than a year training for the anticipated challenges of running a hospital for wounded soldiers in France. The unit’s nurses received orders to depart San Francisco on December 26, 1917 and reported to Army cantonment camps along the East Coast to help care for soldiers who had fallen ill with the crud, gaining invaluable experience in nursing soldiers and recognizing disease presentation. The unit’s surgeons practiced the ancient technique of wound debridement—removing foreign objects and cutting away dead and dying flesh to produce a clean wound—and attended clinical instruction that prepared them for the types of injuries they would face. And the unit’s corpsmen trained in the production and use of the Carrell-Dakin solution, a novel antiseptic more effective than carbolic acid and iodine but also a solution that required careful training and preparation. Thanks to training like this, the base hospital system was able to treat more than 300,000 sick and wounded soldiers with remarkably low mortality rates compared to previous wars.
Indeed, the medical apparatus and personnel organized to support the American Expeditionary Forces were well prepared for the anticipated hazards of the war. But in one of the remarkable parallels to the current coronavirus crisis, their job was perhaps made more difficult by the failure of American logistics in providing adequate personal protective equipment. But the shortage in 1918 was not one of N95 masks; rather, it was a matter of needing socks.
Today, the Occupational Safety
and Health Administration defines PPE as “equipment worn to minimize exposure
to hazards that cause serious workplace injuries and illnesses.”[i]
Under this definition, and in the context of soldiering, a good pair of socks
certainly applies. Trench warfare was a dirty business. It also tended to be
cold and wet—the perfect climate for a condition known today as “trench foot.”
Afflicted soldiers’ feet would go numb, swell, develop sore and infections, and
in extreme cases become gangrenous, possibly requiring amputation. Obviously,
this ran the risk of keeping soldiers from the front lines and thus undermining
the war effort. But ensuring a plentiful supply of clean dry socks somehow
slipped through the cracks of the Army’s logistical efforts to prepare for the
war. Fortunately, the American Red Cross and thousands of civilian volunteers
found ways to meet the challenge.
Beginning in 1917, the Red Cross put out calls for knitted garments, especially socks. The organization distributed officially-endorsed knitting patterns and free wool to anyone willing to “knit your bit.” The Priscilla War Work Book contains roughly a dozen such patterns ranging from socks to coats and winter hats.[ii] But the demand was greatest for socks. Across the country, knitters worked individually at home and collectively in social groups to try to keep up with the demand. Those who could not knit were urged to purchase or donate wool for the cause. Some organizations turned to mechanical solutions. The Seattle Red Cross utilized a knitting machine to produce long wool tubes that could be cut into 27-inch lengths, requiring only the toes to be stitched by hand.[iii] In this way, those behind the front lines were able to support the war effort by providing the PPE the soldiers needed to keep themselves in fighting shape.
Celebrating the end
of the First World War in San Francisco, November 11, 1918. Image from The San Francisco Chronicle files.
The knitting campaign continued
until the war ended with the declaration of the armistice on November 11, 1918.
By then, the nation was in the midst of the first wave of the influenza
pandemic. On October 9, 1918, San Francisco’s hospitals reported 169 influenza
cases. A week later, there were more than 2,000 and the city’s Board of Health
issued recommendations for social distancing.[iv]
With so many health care professionals supporting the war effort, the Bay
Area’s medical infrastructure was stretched to the limit and cities put out
calls for volunteers. Hospital space soon became a valuable commodity and many
facilities, including the Oakland Municipal Auditorium, were converted into
temporary hospitals, and public health officials began recommending the use of
face masks, which they later made mandatory.[v]
But it is important to remember that these were local efforts to respond to the
pandemic. The federal government, which had mustered the resources of the
entire nation to fight the war in Europe, was unwilling to do the same to
combat the pandemic at home, leaving it up to local authorities, medical
institutions, and volunteer organizations to make do as best they could.
Unfortunately, we find ourselves
in a similar situation today. As the novel coronavirus took on pandemic
proportions, stores of PPE for frontline healthcare workers reached critical
levels. Before the pandemic, China produced approximately half the world’s
supply of medical masks. As the infection spread in China, their exports
stopped, and the resulting shortage spurred competition between institutions
and governments to secure PPE, which only exacerbated the situation.
Thankfully, a multidisciplinary team at UCSF found a way to be a part of the
solution, echoing the efforts of American knitters from over a century ago.
Noting the need for face shields, experts at UCSF specializing in biochemistry, engineering, logistics, medical workplace safety, and 3D model design came together in March 2020 to develop something that could help address the PPE shortage. By April, the team completed designs for three different models of 3D-printable face shield frames that, when combined with rubber bands and transparent document protectors, serve as functional and reusable face shields. They then collected seventeen 3D printers from across the university and turned the UCSF Makers Lab in the Kalmanovitz Library into an ad hoc face shield factory that can produce more than 300 shields each day—enough to supply UCSF’s front-line health care workers and then some.[vi] Extra shields are distributed to Bay Area hospitals. Moreover, like the Red Cross with the distribution of the Priscilla War Work Book, the UCSF team is sharing their plans in an open source repository so that others can emulate their efforts.[vii] This allows those with access to 3D printers and a few dollars’ worth of office supplies to contribute to the ongoing PPE shortage by producing face shields that have been designed, tested, and vetted by experts at one of the nation’s leading medical institutions.
Certainly, there are remarkable
similarities to be drawn between the modern crisis and those in the past. Once
again, the government was unprepared for a crisis despite advanced warning.
Once again, people are working in the front lines to save others despite
inadequate supplies. And once again, like the First World War and the influenza
pandemic of 1918-1919, the coronavirus pandemic is a devastating event likely
to be measured in the tally of lives lost. In the face of such grim statistics,
it is easy to fall into cynicism and say that history is repeating.
In 1905, philosopher George
Santayana explored the notion of progress—the idea that things move toward
improvement—and stated that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned
to repeat it.”[viii]
This is likely the origin of the aphorism “history repeats itself.” But Santaya
was not making a hopeless argument; rather, he noted that if progress is to be achieved,
it will be because humans not only record the past, they engage with it, learn
from it, and seek to understand it. And how that is achieved depends on the
ability to draw relatable connections with the past that emphasize human
agency. In 1918, knitters took up their needles. Today, a team of scientists,
engineers, and others figured out how to make face shields using 3D printers
and office supplies. These may seem like small contributions in the grand
scheme of things, but they are important examples of positive human agency in
the face of crisis.
Schappel Barsaloux and the American National Red Cross, The Priscilla War
Work Book: Including Directions for Knitted Garments and Comfort Kits from the
American Red Cross, and Knitted Garments for the Boy Scout. Boston, Mass.:
The Priscilla Publishing Company, 1917. Available at the HathiTrust Digital
By Erin Hurley, User Services & Accessioning Archivist
Although, in 2020, advice like “wash your hands” and “cover
your mouth when you cough” seem fairly obvious and common sense, there was a
time when this was not the case. That time was March 1855, when the situation
in British hospitals outside of Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey) during
the Crimean War had become so dire that Florence Nightingale and 40 other women
acting as trained volunteer nurses were finally allowed access to patients
(they had previously been denied access because of their gender). Hospitals
were overcrowded and extremely unsanitary conditions encouraged the spread of
infectious diseases like cholera, typhoid, typhus and dysentery, which Nightingale
recognized immediately. She implemented basic cleanliness measures, such as
baths for patients, clean facilities, and fresh linens, and advocated for an
approach that addressed the psychological and emotional, as well as the
physical, needs of patients. Her improvements brought a dramatic decline in the
mortality rate at these hospitals, which had previously been as high as 40%.
While Nightingale is well known as one of the world’s first nurses, she is less well known for her strikingly lovely data visualizations (including pie charts and a rose-shaped design called the “coxcomb”), which she used to highlight the number of deaths from diseases, in addition to deaths from wounds or injury, during the Crimean War. Nightingale, a mathematician and statistician, recognized the importance of eye-catching visuals in communicating the impact of her innovations.
Please join me in welcoming our new User Services and Accessioning Archivist, Erin Hurley. Below is her bio:
“My name is Erin Hurley, and I’m excited to join the UCSF Archives & Special Collections team. I have a BA in English and Art History from Oberlin College, and an MLIS in Archival Studies and Informatics from UCLA. I’m originally from Cleveland, Ohio, but I have lived in California for 16 years, and in San Francisco for 13 of those years. I’ve worked as an archivist at places like the Getty Research Institute, the William Andrews Clark Memorial Library in Los Angeles, Stanford University, and the California Historical Society.
I live in the Sunset, and I love going to the beach, visiting the Botanical Garden, and exploring Golden Gate Park. I’m a huge music fan, and worked at Amoeba Music on Haight Street for five years, in addition to being active in college radio at Oberlin. I love to read, especially fiction, memoir, poetry, and biographies. I’m also a fan of ambitious cooking projects and dogs.”
We are delighted to announce a launch of an online exhibit, Shanti Projects: Histories of Shanti Project and the AIDS Crisis curated by University of Minnesota American Studies graduate student Brendan McHugh. It documents Shanti Project’s AIDS care work during the early decades of the AIDS crisis. Since 1974 Shanti has provided psychosocial peer support counseling to people with life-threatening illnesses and their loved ones in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. During the early years of the AIDS crisis, Shanti rose to the challenge by creating groundbreaking services for people living with AIDS/HIV. For much of the 1980s and 1990s Shanti was one of the largest AIDS organizations in the U.S. The plurality of the exhibit’s title reflects the vast array of people’s experiences at Shanti during that time period, as well as those who work with Shanti today. Visit the exhibit at https://shantiprojects.dash.umn.edu.
Shanti Projects is organized to reflect the process of becoming involved with Shanti as a volunteer. Alongside the main exhibit are three multimedia pages showcasing the work of photographers Judi Iranyi, Mariella Poli, and Jim Wigler and their portraits of people with AIDS/HIV who played important roles with Shanti. In the future, the final page Active Listening will provide audio clips from oral histories conducted for this project with accompanying transcripts to follow. Additional materials and sources have been provided by The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Historical Society, University of California, San Francisco, and generous interviewees personal materials.
There will also be a newsletter published monthly to announce updates on new material and events connected to the exhibit. Please sign up through the link on the exhibit website. For more information contact Brendan McHugh at email@example.com.
Robert E. Allen, Jr., MD, (1935-2018), was born in Blountstown, Florida and always aspired to become a doctor. In pursuit of his dreams, Allen received a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Florida A&M University, master’s degree in Genetics from Michigan State University, and a doctorate in Medicine from Meharry Medical College. He completed his residency in surgery at UC San Francisco, and a fellowship in surgery oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Allen also completed two additional postdoctoral fellowships in surgery at the National Institute of Health and peripheral vascular research at San Francisco General Hospital. As a SFGH fellow in trauma, he organized the ambulance paramedic program while training under F. William Blaisdell, MD.
Dr. Allen began his career at UCSF as a Surgical Oncologist,
specializing in Melanoma Surgery. He soon became the first Black Clinical
Professor of Surgery at UC San Francisco, serving as a faculty member for over
Allen was a cofounder of the Northern California Melanoma
Center with Dr. Lynn E. Spitler and other surgeons. Here, he participated in
consultation panels and surgeries on the Center’s patients until his
He has authored many articles for medical periodicals, wrote
chapters in medical publications, and spoke a medical conventions throughout
the United States and Europe. In addition, he was a member of various honor
societies, including the UCSF Naffziger Surgical Society.
To learn more about Dr. Allen’s work, check out these articles:
Vicki Alexander, MD, has dedicated her life to improving the social determinants of public health.
Alexander attended the UC San Francisco, where she completed her medical degree and residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1974. She went on to Columbia University, where she obtained her master’s degree in Public Health.
Dr. Alexander began as an Ob-Gyn Clinical Instructor at San Francisco General Hospital. She soon became the director of SFGH’s Perinatal Health Project, which served high-risk mothers and infants in the community. Alexander then relocated to New York, working as a clinical instructor and chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Harlem Hospital. Eventually, she returned to the west coast and became the Maternal Child Health Director and Health Officer for the City of Berkeley until she retired in 2006.
Alexander has participated in many organizations to improve the living conditions for women and children, including: Rainbow Coalition, Center for Constitutional Rights, Reproductive Rights National Network, Planned Parenthood, City Material and Child Health.
In 1978, she established the Coalition to Fight Infant Mortality in Oakland, which helped women with medical care and social issues.
In 2000, Alexander began the Black Infant Health program in Berkeley, which grew from her coalition at Highland Hospital. This was the foundational step to the creation of the Alameda County Coalition to decrease infant mortality.
Alexander is also the current founder and board president of Healthy Black Families (HBF), Inc., which dovetails with the Black Infant Health program. It was founded as a non-profit organization in July 2013 to support the health, growth, development, and future of Black individuals and families.
For her devotion towards health and social justice, Dr. Vicki has won many awards, including: Women of the Year Award (2011); Martin Luther King, Lifetime Achievement Award (2014); National Jefferson Award for Community Service (2015); Alameda County African American Black History Month Award (2017); Madame CJ Walker Award for Black Women (2017); and 15th Assembly District Woman of the Year Award (2017).
To learn more about Dr. Vicki, check out these articles available in our digital collection on HathiTrust and Synapse Archive:
Please meet our new archives assistant, Jazmin Dew who will be helping with diverse archival
projects in the next few months. Below is Jazmin’s bio:
“My name is Jazmin Dew and I am thrilled to join the archives team as a temporary Archives Assistant. As a brief introduction, I have graduated from CSU, Sacramento with a Bachelor’s degree in Food and Nutrition. Currently, I am attending Clarion University’s Information and Library Science online graduate program. I also have a broad range of experience working in various types of libraries, such as Vacaville Public Library as a Coordinator and Concord High School’s library as an Instructional Media Assistant. During my time at the UCSF Archives & Special Collections, I am excited to gain more practical experience as well as an in-depth look into the archives and special collections field. I look forward to working with you all over the next few months.”
UCSF Archives & Special
Collections was awarded a $14,986 local assistance grant by the California
State Library for the “Documenting the LGBTQ Health Equity Movement in
California’s LGBTQ History
is a grant program that funds projects that support physical and/or digital
preservation and digitization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer
(LGBTQ) materials relating to California history and culture. This California
State Library program will award a total of $500,000 in one-time grants for
projects from large archival institutions with a global reach, as well as
smaller, localized collections. The program aims to preserve materials that
demonstrate the significant role of LGBTQ Californians and the LGBTQ movement
in this state, as well as providing a more comprehensive and inclusive view of
The UCSF project will support
preservation through processing and partial digitization of two collections
documenting the LGBTQ health equity movement in California:
• San Francisco AIDS Foundation Magnet Program Records
• UCSF LGBT Resource Center Records
The San Francisco AIDS
Foundation (SFAF) Magnet Program is a health and wellness program located in
the SFAF’s Strut Center in the heart of the Castro District of San Francisco.
They offer community events, sexual health services, substance use counseling,
PrEP, HIV and STI testing, learning events and rotating art displays from queer
artists. In spring 2001, a Community
Advisory Board comprised of community members, social workers, and activists
began meeting regularly to discuss how to proceed with the development of a new
Gay Men’s Health Center. The new center chose
to address gay men’s health in innovative ways instead of simply replicating
existing programs in a new location. Since 2003, Magnet’s overarching vision
has been to promote the physical, mental, and social well-being of gay men.
Magnet activities are guided by the following core values of the agency:
self-determination, access, sexual expression, diversity, and leadership.
Magnet provides individual STI/HIV services and community programs including
book readings, art exhibits, town hall forums, and other social events. In 2007
Magnet merged with the SFAF to increase the services available to men
throughout the Bay Area. Magnet also serves transgender, gender non-conforming,
gender non-binary, and gender-queer people.
This collection includes
founding documents, surveys of clients, assessments of services, marketing
materials, advocacy campaigns, photographs, community art pieces, and posters
documenting the establishment and activities of the Magnet program.
The LGBT Resource Center
serves as the hub for all queer life at UCSF, including the campus and medical
center. It works toward creating and maintaining a safe, inclusive, and
equitable environment for LGBTQIA+ students, staff, faculty, post-docs,
residents, fellows, alumni, and patients. It aims to sustain visibility and a
sense of community throughout the many campus sites. This community takes an
intersectional approach and is committed to building workplace equity,
promoting student and staff leadership, and providing high-quality,
culturally-congruent care to UCSF patients. Founded in 1998, it was the first
LGBT resource center in a health science institution.
This collection includes the center’s
founding documents, traces the earlier LGBT community activities in the 1970s
through the 1980s, and contains materials chronicling the history and evolution
of the center. It also includes records of diverse events organized by the
center: Coming Out Monologues, Trans Day of Remembrance & Resilience, and
Trans Day of Visibility, as well as correspondence and announcements related to
OUTlist, Mentoring Program, and Annual LGBTQIA+ Health Forum. These materials also
document UC-wide advocacy work for providing equal benefits for same-sex
The UCSF Archives & Special
Collections have been working on preserving materials documenting the LGBTQ
health equity movement in California. These two recently acquired collections
will enable researchers to investigate these communities’ efforts to address health-related
issues and advocate for health equity.
The Magnet collections allow researchers to
investigate how the “San Francisco model” of AIDS care continued to evolve in
the twenty-first century by providing free and equitable health care, education,
and community space. Both collections contribute to an understanding of the
medical, social, and political processes that merged to develop effective means
of treating those with AIDS and other illnesses.
Diverse audiences will benefit
from having access to this project’s archival collections, including scholars
in disciplines such as medicine, nursing, jurisprudence, journalism, history
and sociology, college students, and members of the general public pursuing
individual areas of interest.
The collections included in
this project are currently only accessible at the UCSF Archives reading room.
The digitization of these collections will grant access to these valuable
primary sources and other hard-to-find materials to scholars, students, and
others worldwide. This project will significantly expand the historical record
of the LGBTQ health equity movement in California and make a new corpus of
materials related to the movement’s progress discoverable to a broad audience.
Over the past three decades, UCSF Archives & Special Collections has played a vital role in documenting the AIDS epidemic.
We are seeking your help to maintain and grow the AIDS History Project (AHP) archive as a critical, one-of-a-kind public record of the institutions and individuals involved in containing and treating the HIV both locally, and worldwide.
Your generosity advances vital work to collect, preserve, and provide universal access to stories of the AIDS epidemic.
35 years have passed since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, and many of the original researchers, health care providers, and community activists who were on the front lines of defense against HIV have now begun to retire from public service. There is an urgent need to collect, preserve, and provide open access to their collections.
Your support will allow us to:
Catalog and digitize recently acquired collections, including, papers of Drs. Jay Levy and Steven G. Deeks, SF AIDS Foundation records
Record a new set of oral histories with clinicians, researchers, pharmaceutical and biotech scientists, health care workers, activists, community members, patients, and their family members
Expand the AIDS History Project statewide scope, solicit and acquire material fro regional community health centers
Organize exhibits and public events to share materials and stories preserved in the archives
Since 1963, the UCSF Archives & Special Collections holdings
have included the historic Danz collection of ocular pathology specimens. The
set, one of 13 believed to have been made, was originally intended as a
teaching tool for use in medical schools. These blown orbs, some still retaining
a long delicate stem, were made in Germany, in the 1880’s, by master
glassblower, Amandus Muller. Each glass eyeball depicts, in minute detail, the
various diseases and defects that can afflict the eye and is a unique
masterpiece of the art of glass making.
In June 2018 the collection was examined by Tracy Power and Lesley Bone to determine the nature and scope of condition problems that these objects. Past treatments and current breakages were evaluated, the deterioration of the glass was examined, and current storage conditions were assessed.
While the majority of the glass eyeballs were in stable
condition, there were ironically a couple that were themselves suffering from
glass disease. This presents with a sticky surface; as a component of the glass
leaches out of the surface due to an instability in the glass mix. These
surfaces readily attract dust.
Of the previously repaired items, some were in stable
condition, but most were in poor condition due to deterioration of the repair
materials used and inferior skills of the person or people doing the repairs. One
particularly peculiar repair was filled with bright red dental wax.
The eyeballs were stored in their original compartmented box, with light damaged (faded), velvet-covered cavities for each specimen, and a hinged lid with a glass cover. The box was still serviceable, but the cavities for the eyeballs had wads of old cotton wool, which was not suitable for the collection since the blown balls retained the thin tubular glass extensions that had been snapped from the rod when the ball was blown. These tended to snag on the cotton.
A treatment plan was agreed upon which would include
upgrading the storage container, cleaning all of the glass eyeballs, and
repairing the broken glass orbs.
The eyeballs were removed
sequentially for cleaning, and at that time the cavities in the display box
were cleaned and new, improved supports were made. The old cotton wool was replaced with new
storage materials that will not be as likely to snag the glass tips. Small pillows were made of polyester batting
in Holytex fabric. The glass pane in the
box was cleaned with detergent and water.
Several discolored areas of paper on the box were toned with conservation
stable watercolors and some lifting edges of paper were glued down.
Cleaning of the glass eyeballs
Each glass eyeball was
carefully cleaned. A detergent designed
specifically for cleaning glass was used for this process. Handling the eyeballs safely was a major
concern and we ended up using foam tubes to make little doughnuts for the glass
balls to sit in. The foam was held in
place with toothpicks, so their creation and adjustment was relatively quick.
During the cleaning we identified some additional cracks in the glass eyeballs
that hadn’t been obvious until they were wet up. This step was very satisfying as the eyeballs
went from dull and cloudy to glistening after cleaning.
Repairing of Glass Eyeballs
Before the eyeballs could be repaired,
those with unsightly or failing old repairs had to be undone. The method varied depending on the types of
repair materials previously used.
Several of the repairs had been done with red wax. The wax remained soft and sticky making it
messy and it did not closely resemble glass.
The wax material was removed by gently warming it. Some of the other old adhesives had failed after
becoming brittle. The brittle material
could be brushed from the surfaces, with special care taken to not scratch the
glass. Other old repair materials were
removed with solvents.
the individual eyeballs was the most challenging part of the process, as they
are thin and delicate. Added to that,
the high-grade epoxy that was designed for glass conservation can take several
days to fully set. While this can be advantageous,
as it allows adjustment of pieces, it also means the fine shards have to be
held in place for long periods of time while the resin sets. An advantage of
this epoxy is that it is very thin and can be fed by capillary action into
cracks. That property was useful for
many of the eyeballs. Also this adhesive has the added advantage of being far
superior to commercially available epoxy resins in terms of long-term stability
and greater light-stability, therefore it does not yellow like commercially
Once the eyeballs were repaired, a few had areas where the fragments of the glass were still missing. Glass eyeballs that were incomplete were filled with tinted thermoplastic resin mixtures and details such as veins, were inpainted (inpainting is the process of restoring lost or deteriorated surface decoration or details on an artwork) with commercially ground pigments in acrylic resin.
The glass eyeballs were incredible to work on. They were beautifully made, if often difficult to look at. Only one of the eyeballs examined was failing due to unstable glass, or a poor match between the cream under layer and the colored surface glass. The glass blower had incredible mastery in working with glass in addition to skill in depicting the defects and conditions. We hope that after this conservation project the glass eyeballs continue to illustrate medical conditions and inspire awe for years to come.
This is a guest post by exhibit curator Sabrina Oliveros
When HIV/AIDS first seized the nation’s attention in the early 1980s, it was a disease with no name, known cause, treatment, or cure. Beginning as a medical mystery, it turned into one of the most divisive social and political issues of the 20th century.
October 1, 2019, UCSF Archives & Special Collections is opening the exhibit
They Were Really Us: The UCSF Community’s Early Response to AIDS.
Featuring materials from the Archives’ extensive AIDS History Project Collections, the show highlights ways individual
professionals affiliated with UCSF acted to address HIV/AIDS following its
outbreak. Their responses included working in and with the larger San Francisco
community – and continue to impact HIV/AIDS care and research today.
exhibit title comes from a statement by Dr. Paul Volberding, who co-founded the
country’s first dedicated AIDS Clinic in 1983; he now serves as the Director of
patients were exactly our age… all those other ways that we tend to separate
ourselves meant very little when you realize that the patients had gone to the
same schools, they listened to the same music, they went to the same
restaurants. So they were really us… which added to the commitment that I think
all of us had.”
The first proofs of that
commitment are traced through displays on the main lobby (third floor) of the
Here, papers, slides,
photographs, and artifacts help outline early milestones in HIV/AIDS research
and care. These include the foundation of the Kaposi’s Sarcoma Clinic at UCSF, which
sought to understand the mysterious “cancer” that turned out to be AIDS; the
discovery of the HIV virus in 1983 by Dr. Jay Levy; the establishment of the
outpatient and inpatient AIDS clinics at San Francisco General Hospital; and
the development of the holistic San Francisco Model of AIDS Care.
Pioneering and compassionate,
this model treated people with AIDS not simply as patients requiring medical
attention, but as complex individuals also in need of psychological, social,
economic, and political support.
Excerpts from the diary of Bobbi
Campbell – a UCSF nursing student
who championed the People With AIDS Self-Empowerment Movement – help tell some
of these individual stories. So do a selection of newsletters and other
materials that lend voices to persons with AIDS.
loaned section of the AIDS Memorial Quilt caps off the displays.
outbreak of HIV/AIDS devastated the city of San Francisco; it also mobilized the
community. Exhibits on the first floor of the library showcase the work done by
community organizations that, beyond the medical front, fought HIV/AIDS.
of posters – mostly from UCSF’s longest-running partners, the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Shanti Project – represent outreach and educational
campaigns necessary to combat the disease. Materials from Mobilization Against AIDS and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power
(ACT-UP) speak to the political battle that AIDS became.
the fifth floor of the library, displays touch on two more milestones following
first, UCSF’s sponsoring of the 6th International Conference on
AIDS, is one of the many
examples of how physicians and researchers have expanded their work on a global
scale. Revisiting this 1990 conference is timely, as the 23rd
International Conference on AIDS
will take place in Oakland and San Francisco in July next year – the first time
the conference will be in the Bay Area in nearly three decades.
second milestone, the founding of the AIDS Research Institute in 1996, puts a
focus on the UCSF’s continuing efforts to find a cure, and end HIV/AIDS once
and for all.
The conference was convened to celebrate a decade of digitizing and making available medical history resources. Keynote speaker Dr. Jaipreet Virdi, Assistant Professor for the Department of History at the University of Delaware, presented her work on Digitized Disability Histories. She discussed disability identity as represented through material objects of disability, and examined how disability history is separate from medical history.
The program also included fascinating talks from nine other speakers, ranging from the rhetoric used in early 20th century motherhood manuals to medicalize infant care and degrade traditional knowledge, to using convolutional neural networks (CNN) to identify and label objects in historical images in order to visualize thematic collections at scale, to studying the historical lessons from popular culture and medical discourse of face masks during the 1918-1919 Flu epidemic.
UCSF Archives & Special Collections is a contributing partner to the Medical Heritage Library. In 2015-2017 A&SC collaborated with four other medical libraries to digitize and make publicly accessible state medical journals, funded by a $275,000 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant. 97 journal titles were digitized (nearly every state medical journal in the U.S.) resulting in over 2.7 million full-text searchable pages.
The Industry Documents Library has contributed over 5,000 video recordings to the MHL, beginning in 2012. These videos are part of our Truth Tobacco Industry Documents collection and include recordings of cigarette commercials, marketing focus groups, internal corporate meetings and trainings, depositions of tobacco company employees, and congressional hearings. The recordings document the industry’s marketing and public relations strategies to cast doubt on the harms of smoking and to prevent or delay public health regulations.