On April 1st, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia released what we lovingly refer to as the “Digital Spine,” one of the few catalogs in the United States that merges descriptions of, and access to, library, archival and museum collections.
Approximately 145,000 bibliographic records for collections in the Historical Medical Library and approximately 28,000 records for objects in the Mütter Museum will be merged in a single, cross-searchable database. To sample this integration, go to https://cpp.ent.sirsi.net/client/en_US/library and search for “foreign bodies.”
OUR FIRST ADVENTURE TAKES US DEEP INTO AN INTERN’S FIRST EXPERIENCE IN ORIGINAL CATALOGING, MEDICAL SUBJECT HEADINGS, AND THE WONDROUS HISTORY FOUND IN MEDICAL TRADE EPHEMERA.
– by Hend El-Santaricy, Library intern
In my quest to become a more experienced cataloger, I found the internship opportunity at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia (HML) to be a perfect way to achieve my goal. My project was to catalog the medical reprints and pamphlets described in this blog. I started the cataloging process after the collection was initially sorted by another librarian. This allowed me the privilege of spending all my time cataloging.
I started this internship wanting nothing more than a cataloging experience. I have had opportunities to work on different collections before. In every previous experience, I was able to delve into a special relationship with the collection, its history, its use, and its potential. I knew I could perform my assignment at the HML well but I was not certain, though, if I could build a relationship with a collection about the history of medicine. I was a stranger to the medical field.
As is the case in so many libraries and archives, the manuscript collections at the Historical Medical Library used to be difficult to find, let alone search. Some were available through the College website as (essentially) text files. Unless a researcher knew the name of the collection he or she wanted to consult, it was virtually impossible to find the correct information.
Every librarian has come across a particular collection and has wondered what librarians in the past were thinking. The most recent such example at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia contains 700 boxes filled with uncatalogued reprints, medical trade ephemera and pamphlets. How and why did we end up with nearly 70,000 uncatalogued items?
Book and reprint exchanges were a very popular method for medical libraries to accumulate texts for their physicians without making purchases. At the head of the exchange was the Medical Library Association’s (MLA) founder and College of Physicians of Philadelphia Fellow, George M. Gould. Dr. Gould preached that resource sharing among libraries was the best way to advance knowledge for doctors. MLA’s original intent was for libraries to share their duplicate medical literature. This caused libraries to be proactive in asking for prints from publishers and for reprints from journals so they could trade them later for material they did not have. In 1890, libraries started to see increased cooperation with publishers and among each other – this is where our collection of reprints and pamphlets begins. In 1930, there is a shift from exchanging modern periodicals and pamphlets to exchanging medical treatises. This marks the end of the formation of this pamphlet and reprint collection. It can be concluded from looking at the Library’s history, and trends in medical publishing, that many of these pamphlets and reprints derive from these book exchanges.