Volunteer Report: The Papers of Robert Langley Porter

This is a guest post by Seth Cotterell, UCSF Archives Volunteer.

As a UCSF Archives volunteer, I get to play an important supporting role in achieving our mission to identify and provide access to rare and unique material and support research and teaching of the health sciences, medical humanities, and the history of UCSF. Toward that end I have been updating old records and creating new ones that will result in making new, detailed finding aids for collections available online to researchers soon. You’ll have to come back for my next guest blog post to hear the details of that project, though. Today I thought I’d share with you a sneak peek at one of those collections.

If you’re familiar with the history of UCSF you’ve probably heard of Robert Langley Porter. Dr. Porter was a pediatrician and later served as dean of the UC School of Medicine from 1927-1940. He may be best known for spearheading the creation of the Langley Porter Institute, today called the Langley Porter Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics, which receives more than 20,000 visits per year. Of course, this is the kind of information you can get from any web search. What I love about archival research, what you don’t find anywhere else, is the added insight. It’s the glimpse into the mind of the creator, the display of personality, and the richness of character captured in archival collections. For example, did you know that Dr. Porter was also a poet, sometimes writing verses on the back of Office of the Dean letterhead? This collection includes a love sonnet, a poem about potatoes, and this one which he apparently wrote in the bath!

Poem by Robert Langley Porter, 1924. Porter papers, MSS 77-11. Carton 1, folder 6.

Research is about so much more than simply gathering and reporting data points. Where else but in an archival collection could you expect to find a historical figure’s musings on the great questions, like what is life and what separates human beings from animals and microscopic organisms, next to guidelines for managing the “behavior abnormalities of children,” alongside the outline for an opera he wrote starring a Pan-like deity symbolizing the antithesis of materialism and destruction of nature? Spoiler alert: all this and more can be found in just the miscellaneous writings folders of this collection. And I, for one, would love to know in what context he used these jokes:

From miscellaneous writings (1), Porter papers, MSS 77-11. Carton 1, folder 14.

One of the most interesting items in the collection for me is a scrapbook that may have been given to Porter on the occasion of his retirement. Included are heartfelt and humorous well wishes from students and colleagues that give us an idea of the impact he had on those around him, not just as a highly respected professional in his field, but as a genuine human being.

Scrapbook, Porter papers, MSS 77-1. Oversize folder 1.

I look forward to continuing to work with our fascinating collections and to improving accessibility by publishing a number of new finding aids in the very near future for your viewing pleasure.

Processing the John Greenspan Papers

As part of our current National Archives NHPRC grant, “Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collections,” we’ve been processing the papers of John S. Greenspan. Greenspan served as the founding Director of the UCSF Oral AIDS Center and the UCSF AIDS Specimen Bank. He is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Oral Pathology in the Department of Orofacial Sciences and the former Associate Dean for Global Oral Health in the School of Dentistry at UCSF along with Director-Emeritus of the campuswide AIDS Research Institute at UCSF.

John S. Greenspan and Deborah Greenspan. Photograph by David Powers. AR 2015-31, carton 2.

Greenspan’s work has played a major role in HIV research and care. He and his longtime collaborator and wife Deborah Greenspan, BDS, DSc, discovered the lesion hairy leukoplakia and determined the significance of this and other oral lesions in HIV/AIDS. He has published and lectured widely on the oral aspects of AIDS, oral pathology, and immunopathology.

Photographs of the Second International Workshop on the Oral Manifestations of HIV Infection, 1993. Greenspan papers, MSS 2016-14.

Greenspan’s research interests include the global health aspects of AIDS and his professional service reflects this. He has served as President of the American Association for Dental Research (AADR) and the International Association for Dental Research (IADR). He is the founding President of the IADR Global Oral Health Inequalities Research Network (IADR-GOHIRN) and of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health’s Global Oral Health Interest Group (GOHIG).

Conference programs. Greenspan papers, MSS 2016-14.

Greenspan’s papers include records of his research and work developing the Oral AIDS Center and the AIDS Specimen Bank. They also include material related to his teaching and service in professional organizations, including AADR and IADR. Greenspan’s papers feature correspondence with members of his global network of researchers and healthcare providers and records of the various national and international conferences and meetings of which he was a part. The collection includes some unique types of material, including audiovisual recordings, glass microscope slides, dental instruments, and conference posters and photographs of events.

Dental instruments. Greenspan papers, MSS 2016-14.

At the conclusion of the Greenspan processing project, a detailed finding aid will be available to researchers online and a small portion of the collection will be digitized and made available on Calisphere.

UC 150th Anniversary Highlight: Jay Levy

This is a guest post by Edith Martinez, UCSF Archives Volunteer.

The University of California is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year. Over the 150 years, the UC campuses have accomplished great things that have changed California and the world for the better. To commemorate the anniversary, a 150 year timeline has been created that features the history and accomplishments of the UC and its students, faculty, and staff.

One of the accomplishments that stood out to me was that of UCSF’s Jay Levy. Jay Levy, virologist and immunologist, became the third independent discoverer of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS. Levy received a request for advice about a patient with rare skin cancer lesions which led him to research the virus. His work led to better treatments for the disease and he has dedicated his career to further understanding HIV/AIDS.

Jay Levy

UCSF remains at the center of HIV/AIDS research and patient care. As a volunteer with the UCSF Archives, I am working on the NHPRC-funded grant, Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collections, an expansion of the AIDS History Project. I have learned the important role that UCSF has played in research and treatment and will continue to play in finding the cure for AIDS.