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.

New Archives Intern: Maopeli Ali

We’re happy to welcome new intern Maopeli Ali to Archives & Special Collections. Born and raised in San Francisco, Maopeli is currently a sophomore at Kenyon College in Ohio where he is pursuing a major in biology with a minor in Latin. At Kenyon, he also participates in club rugby and is a member of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity. Maopeli is a seasoned intern; he has previously worked at various institutions in the Bay Area, including an architecture firm, the Geology Department of the California Academy of Science, and the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute (CHORI). Maopeli is very ambitious, and is proud to be a First Generation to College student. He plans to attend graduate school after completing his undergraduate studies to pursue a Criminal Justice Master Degree in Forensic Science. His career goal is to become a forensics investigator for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Portrait of Maopeli Ali with San Francisco in the background.

New Archives intern Maopeli Ali

Maopeli comes to us as part of the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute Summer Research Program. “This program is designed to provide an opportunity for High School and Undergraduate students to immerse themselves in the world of basic and/or clinical research for three months during the summer. The program pairs students with one or two CHORI principal investigators who serve as mentors, guiding the students through the design and testing of their own hypotheses and methodology development. At the end of the summer, students present their research to their peers just as any professional researcher would do.” As a CHORI intern, Maopeli is mentored by Dr. Aimee Medeiros from the UCSF Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine and Polina Ilieva, Head of Archives & Special Collections.

Maopeli will be working on digitizing medical records using our newly-implemented scanning lab purchased with funds from UCSF’s RAP Shared Instrument program. He will then have the opportunity to work with some of this data to formulate a research question which can be addressed by the records.

The Archives are a new experience for Maopeli, whose previous work has mostly focused on biology. He is excited to work in this context, and explore ways in which this study can both help the archives and increase awareness within the health sciences fields about the wealth of historical medical data which is available in the archives and records of large health science universities like UCSF.