SFGH 1930s Photograph Collection on Calisphere

This is a guest post by Griffin Burgess, ZSFG Archivist.

The Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital Archives has its first collection available as part of UCSF’s digital collections on Calisphere!

The collection consists of over 100 digitized images scanned from 3 x 5 cellulose acetate negatives that date from the 1930s. The images document the exteriors of the hospital buildings as well as interior rooms, hallways, equipment, and staff.

The ZSFG campus looked very different in the 1930s than it does today. These images capture the arrangement and layout of the buildings as they originally were when the campus was completed in 1915 (with the additions of buildings 80 and 90, which were completed in 1938).

Buildings 1, 9, 10, 20, 30, 40, 80, 90, and 100, all of which are still standing today, are represented in the photographs. Notably, the large fire escapes that the four “finger wards” have along their north sides today are missing in the images; they were added in the 1950s.

The collection also includes images of the original administration building and the infectious diseases/tuberculosis building, which were demolished prior to the construction of building 5 in 1976. The TB building housed the chest clinic, where patients were treated for TB for up to five years.

Other images document the interior of the hospital, including images of kitchen facilities, waiting rooms, and patient rooms with various types of equipment, such as medicine bottles, IV stands, and even an iron lung.

In the 1930s, San Francisco had several emergency hospitals throughout the city. The collection includes images of the exteriors of some of these, including Alemany Emergency Hospital, Harbor Emergency Hospital, Central Emergency, and Park Emergency Hospital (which still stands today at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park).

More ZSFG Archives collections will be added to Calisphere as they are processed.

Health Sciences Data Laboratory and digitized medical records

Today’s post is a brief update on the implementation of the Health Sciences Data Laboratory, a collaboration between the UCSF Archives & Special Collections and the Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine (DAHSM). Last year DAHSM and the Archives were awarded a Resource Allocation Program (RAP) grant to purchase a high-throughput document scanner and begin the huge task of digitizing some of the more than 7 million historic patient files that track the development of care at Mt. Zion and UCSF Hospitals in the 20th century. These files contain a wealth of data – demographic, clinical, and public health – which has been mostly inaccessible on paper media for the life of the record. Electronic health records – data which was collected for clinical rather than research purposes – have already proven unexpectedly useful for epidemiological and public health research (Diez Roux, 2015). Similarly, this lab aims to make the valuable data contained in these records available for new computational access, and to bring a large body of historical records into the realm of big-data health science research.

But for right now, we’re figuring out how it all works! The scanner we were able to purchase is a powerful machine, and at max speed can scan almost 280 pages per minute. Because most of our documents are relatively-fragile paper from the 20s, 30s, and 40s, we scan at a slower speed than this. This helps us to minimize potential for damage of the records and optimize image quality and file size. Even at a slow speed however, this process is vastly improved by the new scanner, which can scan an entire stack of paper (700 pages when full) in one go. Formerly each page had to be scanned one by one, on a flatbed scanner which created only one image at a time.

The new sheet-fed scanner in the Health Sciences Data Laboratory.

The new sheet-fed scanner in the Health Sciences Data Laboratory.

Now that we’ve got the scanner working smoothly and a workflow in place, we’re hoping to begin ramping up production soon. Currently, our intern Maopeli is working on digitizing patient records in order to draw some small-scale research conclusions on the income-levels of patients at that time and how these related to specific health conditions that they experienced, research being done as part of an internship with the CHORI program.

We hope not only to increase the rate of scanning (7 million records is a lot to get through!) but also to start exploring new ways to facilitate researcher access to this wealth of data. As evidenced by the image of a blank sample record, the data contained in these materials is both detailed and comprehensive, but it also requires a lot of labor, both human and computer, to make it computationally actionable. Much of it is handwritten and must either be transcribed or put through heavy-duty image processing algorithms which are more than most researchers have access to. For now though, we’re happy to be finally taking the first important steps as the first images and data from this vast trove make the transition from physical to digital.

Blank eye examination form from patient record.

An example of some of the types of data collected in patient records.

Digital Collection of Selma Dritz, Epidemiologist and AIDS Researcher

We’ve started work on our NHPRC grant project, “Evolution of San Francisco’s Response to a Public Health Crisis: Providing Access to New AIDS History Collections.” Throughout the project, I’ll be posting regular updates on Brought to Light.

For our first installment, we’re highlighting the new digital collection of Selma Dritz. Selma K. Dritz, MD, MPH, served as Assistant Director of the Bureau of Communicable Disease Control and Chief of the Division of Occupational Health of the San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) from 1967-1984. She played a seminal role in the early years of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the San Francisco Bay Area, tracking cases and collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UCSF to help establish the etiology and epidemiology of the disease. She worked to educate gay and straight people about AIDS and its prevention.

The digital collection includes photographs, correspondence, research, ephemera, and other selected material.

The Dritz papers in part document the relationships Dritz cultivated with other physicians, researchers, and community advocates. For instance, during her tenure at SFDPH, Dritz developed a close working relationship with Randy Shilts, author of And the Band Played On, a groundbreaking work that chronicled the early years of the AIDS epidemic. The digital collection includes thank you cards Shilts wrote to Dritz and the program for Shilts’s memorial service and Dritz’s handwritten notes she prepared for it following his death in 1994.

To view the Dritz digital collection, visit Calisphere.org. There you can also view other digitized material from collections in the AIDS History Project, including the San Francisco AIDS Foundation records and AIDS Ephemera collection.

If you would like to research the Dritz papers (MSS 2009-04), please make an appointment with us.