digital historical fiction resources: history of medicine

headache?

I’ve finally started sorting through hundreds and hundreds of links to research resources I use in writing historicals. It occured to me that other people may find this stuff useful, so I’m going to post a selection of such resources by topic, on an irregular basis. Starting now with the history of medicine. Do you know when they first started using CPR? Might be important if you’re writing a novel based in, say, a war-time naval base on Hawaii. My rule of thumb: never assume that they did things then as they do them now.

These are not in any particular order, and I’ve included the “about us” information where I thought it might be useful.

Images From the History of the Public Health Service, Table of Contents

This exhibit is an online version of Images from the History of the Public Health Service; A Photographic Exhibit by Ramunas Kondratas, Ph.D. printed in 1994 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Public Health Service.

SPER: Home

The FDA Notices of Judgment Collection is a digital archive of the published notices judgment for products seized under authority of the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. The NJs are resources in themselves but also lead users to the over 2,000 linear foot collection of evidence files used to prosecute each case. The evidence files are a rich documentary resource filled with legal correspondence, lab reports and data, photographs, and product labeling and containers. This digital library, created using the SPER system, allows for browsing the collection as well as searching the collection’s metadata and full-text.

Historical Anatomies on the Web: Browse Titles

Images have been selected from the following anatomical atlases in the National Library of Medicine’s collection. Each atlas is linked to a brief Author & Title Description, which offers an historical discussion of the work, its author, the artists, and the illustration technique. The Bibliographic Information link provides a bibliographical description of the atlas, so users will know which edition was scanned and if there are any characteristics special to the Library’s copy.

History of the Historical Collections | n m h m
Historical Collections division includes artifacts documenting the material culture of medicine, with an emphasis on military medicine and federal government medicine. The collection contains approximately 15,000 objects ranging in size from a suture needle to a two-ton Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) magnet. The earliest objects date from circa 1660 (Robert Hooke Microscope) to medical instruments and equipment presently in use. The collection continues to serve as a Department of Defense resource for the study of how technology influences the practice of medicine.

Turning The Pages Online: Book Menu

Using touchscreen technology and animation software, the digitized images of rare and beautiful historic books in the biomedical sciences are offered at kiosks at the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Visitors may ‘touch and turn’ these pages in a highly realistic way. They can zoom in on the pages for more detail, read or listen to explanations of the text, and (in some cases) access additional information on the books in the form of curators’ notes.

Now we offer Turning The Pages for the enjoyment of home users with an Internet connection. This Web version has been created via Macromedia Flash MX. Simply click the BOOKS button above and select the book you wish to view.

Cornell Medical Center Archives

Limited digital access, but lots of great historical overview information and images.

Medicine in the Americas

Medicine in the Americas is a digital library project providing scanned historical American medical books in pdf and as searchable text files. The project is aimed at the general public, with special emphasis on historians, students, clinicians, and librarians.

The project draws on the collections of the History of Medicine Division of The National Library of Medicine and includes works not only from the United States, but from all over the New World.

In order to produce the highest quality images, the pages of the books are scanned directly. Pdf files are offered for downloading, the texts are searchable, and direct links are provided from NLM’s online catalog, LocatorPlus.

The books are mounted on the NCBI Bookshelf, which makes their texts searchable.

Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection

The Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever On-line Collection is a compilation of several distinct manuscript collections housed in different libraries.  This extensive on-line archive comprises correspondence, notes, reports, printed materials, photographs, negatives, and artifacts spanning a period of almost one hundred years.  The core of the on-line archive is the Philip S. Hench Walter Reed Yellow Fever Collection, a monumental array of items occupying seventy-two linear feet of shelf space and 147 boxes in the Department of Historical Collections and Services, The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, University of Virginia.  Additional material from The Claude Moore Health Sciences Library includes selected items from the Henry Rose Carter Papers, the William Bennett Bean Papers, and the Wade Hampton Frost Papers.  The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library of the University of Virginia houses the important and equally extensive Jefferson Randolph Kean Papers, many of which are included here.  A small but significant deposit of Walter Reed’s letters are held at the Library of Virginia, Richmond, Virginia. Finally, the many government documents reproduced here as photostats derive from originals in the National Archives and Records Administration in Washington, D. C.  The Hench Reed on-line archive presents a series of complex and interrelated stories, all linked to the U. S. Army Yellow Fever Commission’s demonstration in 1900 that the mosquito Aedes aegypti is the vector for the transmission of yellow fever. example newspaper clipping

Anatomia Collection – University of Toronto Libraries

This collection features approximately 4500 full page plates and other significant illustrations of human anatomy selected from the Jason A. Hannah and Academy of Medicine collections in the history of medicine at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, University of Toronto. Each illustration has been fully indexed using medical subject headings (MeSH), and techniques of illustration, artists, and engravers have been identified whenever possible. There are ninety-five individual titles represented, ranging in date from 1522 to 1867.

Images from the History of Medicine (IHM)

Images from the History of Medicine (IHM) provides access to nearly 70,000 images in the collections of the History of Medicine Division (HMD) of the U.S National Library of Medicine (NLM).

The collection includes portraits, photographs, caricatures, genre scenes, posters, and graphic art illustrating the social and historical aspects of medicine dated from the 15th to 21st century.

The records from the Images from the History of Medicine database are also searchable in LocatorPlus.

History of Medicine Home Pageall exhibitions and digital projects by date

NLM historical collections of material related to health and disease are among the richest in the world.  Holdings include pre-1914 books, pre-1871 journals, archives and modern manuscripts, medieval and Islamic manuscripts, a collection of printed books, manuscripts, and visual material in Japanese, Chinese, and Korean; historical prints, photographs, films, and videos; pamphlets, dissertations, theses, college catalogs, and government documents.  The collection is constantly growing, with new material added through an active Acquisitions Program of purchase and donation.

Contagion: Historical views of dieases

This online collection offers important historical perspectives on the science and public policy of epidemiology today and contributes to the understanding of the global, social–history, and public–policy implications of diseases.

Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics is a digital library collection that brings a unique set of resources from Harvard’s libraries to Internet users everywhere. Offering valuable insights to students of the history of medicine and to researchers seeking an historical context for current epidemiology, the collection contributes to the understanding of the global, social–history, and public–policy implications of disease. Contagion is also a unique social–history resource for students of many ages and disciplines.  See especially the section on domestic medicine.

a note about writing prompts

A handful of you are taking part in the writing prompts, and may I say: wow. Some really interesting turns, unexpected characterizations, and hints of larger behind-the-scenes conflicts.

After a lot of thought I have come to the conclusion that I can’t respond to each person’s contribution. I will make an occasional exception and pull out a comment to talk about in a new post, but mostly this is just an exercise to limber up your storytelling mind. If you would like to comment on each other’s work, that’s something else entirely. My sense is that constructive feedback would be welcome. Please tell me if I’m wrong.

This may or may not take off. If it does, I want to be sure that the tone is supportive. In the case that things don’t stay that way, I may make it necessary to register before contributing or commenting. But that’s all in the (hazy) future. In the meantime, I really enjoy reading your paragraphs on the photos I dig up.

 

back to business: padding verbs

It is really hard to keep focused when the cyber universe is going nuts, as it has been since mid January. In the last couple weeks readers and authors and bloggers (primarily in the romance community) have been trying to outshout each other until everybody is deaf and hoarse, too. Saying even the calmest, most reasoned thing (and there were lots of people who tried to do this) could get you called outside for a fist fight. I tried to stay out of it for the most part (I’ve already got one Author Behaving Badly badge, after all). Though I admit it was tempting to say some things. Some things that might have brought the mob to my door. I could be incendiary and get lots of attention that way, or I could get back to talking about writing. One simple sentence before I do that:

Plagiarism is morally and ethically wrong.

So there you go, my stance on the subject. Now, about padding verbs.

Right now in fiction the trend and fashion is for very distinct point-of-view boundaries. Head-hopping is frowned upon. A story written in third person will have more than one POV character, and the writer switches back and forth between them. So you experience the beginning of the argument from inside Maria’s head, then comes a break (usually a double return so you get an island of white space on the page) and you experience the rest of the argument from inside Gwen’s head. Gwen sees Maria’s reactions and interprets them, and you get that information in the narration.

Maria lifted her upper lip and Gwen had to turn away or laugh. Mandy was right, Maria did look like a chipmunk when she was mad.

This clearly comes from Gwen and not from Maria, who observes Gwen in her turn:

She’s not going to leave this alone, Maria realized. This is that ridiculous episode with the toilet plunger and the squirrel, all over again.

One of the challenges of this switching back and forth is signaling the switch to the reader without being too blatant. This is managed most usually with little coded phrases

Maria thought (so you are inside her head)
Maria felt (ditto)
Maria saw the color leave Gwen’s face.

This might not seem like a big deal, and in many ways it isn’t. But this constant signaling the reader (yoohoo! we’re over here now, in Laura’s head!) can be a burden.

You might write: Gwen felt the sweat soaking into her silk blouse, or, more vividly: Sweat blossomed under the arms and along the collar of Gwen’s silk blouse. The difference starts with that padding verb: felt. I think of this as a padding verb because it steps between the reader and the action or emotion in order to establish POV. This habit can get out of hand.

I try, when I’m writing, to look for these padding verbs and if I can do without them without confusing the reader’s sense of which character has the POV, I’ll cut the little intruder right there.

Elizabeth saw Nathaniel reach down and grab at a root sticking up out of the ground.

Do we need those first two words? Maybe not. Probably not.

Of course, if you are writing a first person narrative this will not be much of a problem for you because there’s no POV switching at all. On the other hand, you’ll have to figure out a way to keep the reader informed of all the stuff they need to know — but you can’t tell them because the narrator doesn’t know them.

On a different front: I’m delaying the photo contest, and I may fold it into the other, bigger giveaway. The same prizes, so never fear about that.”

streamlining dialog

One thing I never take for granted: the threading of a dialog into the scene. Maybe some authors do this without thinking and do it flawlessly, but that is not the case for me. When I’m reading, badly threaded dialog will stop me in my tracks. You’re wondering what I mean by this.

Reading process
Reading process (Photo credit: giulia.forsythe)

In part, it’s the old he said/she said dilemma. How to keep characters distinct when they are in the middle of a game of cards or a rip-roaring argument or a business meeting — without drawing undue attention to the mechanics.

The more characters you’ve got, the harder the juggling act.

I’m going to put together a little dialog here, and set it up as if it were from a script (because one of the nice things about scripts is that you don’t have to worry about this stuff). Then next post I’m going to rewrite it as a novel scene in the most clumsy, awful way possible. After the taste of that is out of my mouth, I’ll start again and look at all the possibilities I can think of to vary rhythm, keep the dialog flowing, and draw character. C’e qui:

Mother

(taps the table top)

We talked about this, last night. Right here at the table.

Son

(studying himself in the mirror, with some pleasure)

You talked about it.

Father

By your silence you were agreeing implicitly that the clothes you wear to school are –

Son

(turning to face parents)

-Didn’t you teach me always to get it in writing, Dad? Implicit doesn’t cut it. Unless you drew up one of your iron clad contracts and I signed it while hypnotized, I’m wearing what I’m wearing.

Mother

(distressed)

That t-shirt is unacceptable.

Father

It’s inappropriate.

Son

(very relaxed)

So’s the ketchup stain on your tie, Dad.

Mother

(steps in front of the kid, hissing)

It’s obscene.

Son

(looking down at himself and reading the t-shirt upside down)

Obscene? Lick Bush? Whatever do you mean? You know that I’ve joined the progressive democracy club at school, and I’m campaigning. You wanted me to get involved.

Father

You know what your mother means.

Son

I’m afraid you’ll have to explain it to me if you want me to change. Is there some dark double entendre you’re seeing? Have you raised this with your psychiatrist, how you read sexual acts into even the most mundane language?

Mother

(busily moving dishes around on the table)

You know the euphemism perfectly well. Lick is a reference to – to -”

Son

(emptying his cup)

Let me know when you come up with that word, would you mom? In the meantime I’ve got to get to school.

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