Monday, February 28, 2011

Item of the Month February 2011: Notes on Yagé

Back in July last year, we wrote about some items from our collections relating to Arthur Conan Doyle. We deliberately left one item out from that post, as we wanted to write in more detail about it at a later date.

So, as our Item of the Month for February 2011, here's a post dedicated to this item: a manuscript that links Conan Doyle, fellow novelist H Rider Haggard and a hallucinogenic plant from South America (WMS/Amer.148).

It's a report from 1927 by Edward Morell Holmes, an English botanist, into the properties of Yagé, a South American drug, which - refering to a conversation initiated by Sir H. Rider Haggard, author of King Solomon's Mines - "causes clairvoyant and telepathic effects". The manuscript refers to a full account of the drug by A. Rouhier in Bulletin des Sciences Pharmacologiques, 1926, 33, 252-261 (which Holmes' notes summarise) and also to South American knowledge of Yagé.

But the Conan Doyle connection comes with the most fascinating aspect of this manuscript. The notes talk of a tincture of the drug prepared by the leading pharmacist W.H. Martindale (1875?-1933) and Holmes's attempts to pass it on to "some of our leading scientific Spiritualists to experiment with including Sir A. Conan Doyle, Professor (Sir) Oliver Lodge, and Sir (W.) F. Barrett".

These beliefs of these men in the ability to contact the spirit world is well recorded: Conan Doyle took his belief strongly enough to publish a History of Spiritualism in 1926; Lodge, a key figure in the development of the wireless, was like Conan Doyle a member of the Society for Psychical Research, and Barrett was a physicist and the author of such works as The Physical Phenomena of Spiritualism and On The Threshold Of A New World Of Thought.

But do we know if their interest in spiritualism was enough for these men to test out the "telepathic effects" of the tincture"? Did Holmes, indeed, ever contact them? So far, our research has drawn a blank...

Whilst we often feature as our Items of the Month, material from the Library that is well-researched, here's an instance of a manuscript we feel in need of more attention. Given its hoped for attraction to men of letters from the early 20th century, we even wonder if the notes may even shed light on the interest in Yagé of the beat author William Burroughs in the 1950s, in light of possible explanations as to how Burroughs developed an interest in the drug.

We wonder then, if Holmes's notes featured here may add something to this debate: even if not, they shed an intriguing light on scientific and literary circles in the early part of the twentieth century, and suggest a topic that we feel would have piqued the interest - and possibly the taste buds - of Holmes's namesake and Conan Doyle's most famous literary creation.

- Text of Holmes's Notes on Yagé
- Portrait of Edward Morell Holmes

With thanks to Mike Jay

Wellcome Library Workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Free for all: history of medicine on the Web
Where can you access over 600 000 free full-text journal articles? What online resource includes access to over 3600 digitised medical resources? What is the WWW-Virtual Library for the History of Medicine? Find the best places to start if you are looking for reliable, accessible history of medicine resources on the internet
Tuesday 1st March, 2-3pm

Finding published research (using WOS and Scopus)
Do you need to find references in the scientific, medical or social sciences journal literature? Discover how easy it is to search for citations on a particular theme or by a specific author. Stay informed and find the best way to save and develop your searches. Thursday 3rd March, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Image credit: Andreas Vesalius De humani corporis fabrica (1543)

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Sunday, February 27, 2011

At the Military Academy

On first impression, this photograph appears to be of a military figure. The epauletted tunic, the shuttered blinds... perhaps a pre-1914 army planner, taking a break from planning his country's defence from a foreign force?

The photograph was indeed taken before the First World War, and it does show an official at a Military Academy - the Imperial Military Academy in St Petersburg, to be precise. But the figure shown is not one of the Czar's officers, pondering threats to the nation, but one of the most influential scientists of the 20th century - physiologist I.P. Pavlov.

Given how famous Pavlov's work on the conditioned reflex is, it's perhaps odd not choosing a photograph to mark the anniversary of his death that shows him in a laboratory (or at the very least, with some salivating dogs). However, given that Pavlov died 75 years ago today in 1936, this photograph is suggestive of how well Pavlov was regarded by the changing rulers of his homeland.

Awarded the 1904 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, Pavlov was obviously an internationally recognised scientist by the time of the Russian Revolution of October 1917. However, a 1921 decree - signed by Lenin - noted Pavlov's achievements "to the enormous significance to the working classes of the whole world" and for the rest of his life, Pavlov and his team were given an enormous amount of freedom for their research. For indication of that, take a look at Conditioned reflexes and behavior, a film shot in 1930 and which was digitised as part of our Wellcome Film project.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Last chance to see: 'High Society'

Wellcome Collection's current temporary exhibition, High Society, closes this Sunday (27th February), meaning there's not much time left to sample its stimulating wares.

High Society draws upon a range of intoxicating material from the Wellcome Library - a small sample though, of our extensive holdings relating to mind-altering substances in all their shapes and sizes.

So, if the closure of the exhibition leaves you seeking more mental stimulation, a trip to the Wellcome Library may well be in order...

Image: Two wealthy Chinese opium smokers. Gouache painting on rice-paper, 19th century (Wellcome Library no. 25052i)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Wellcome Image Awards announced

The Wellcome Image Awards 2011 were announced last night. The Awards recognise the most technically excellent, visually striking and informative biomedical images recently acquired by Wellcome Images. The winning images have been produced by a range of imaging techniques and their creators come from a variety of fields. Every image shows the true beauty of science. Two weeks ago, we wrote about the judging process behind choosing these 21 images. We hinted at what some of the chosen ones might be, and we can now reveal the winners.
B0007757 Light micrograph of the suckers on the foreleg of a male diving beetle by Spike Walker The image described by judge Eric Hilaire as being so similar to a painting of “a large red sun spreading its rays toward rows of shooting plants, maybe in a garden bed,” is in fact this light micrograph by Spike Walker. Amazingly, rather than plant life, the image shows the suckers on the foreleg of a male diving beetle. Spike used a technique called Rheinberg illumination to produce the colours that struck Eric’s imagination.
James Cutmore, of BBC’s Focus magazine, was intrigued by one particular image on the day of judging. He remarked that it showed something so ordinary, but in a completely unexpected way. What was this ordinary occurrence? A cut finger. The image? A remarkable scanning electron micrograph of the plaster used to stem the bleeding. The resolution is so great that individual red blood cells can be seen caught in the fibrin mesh that forms the blood clot.

B0007385 Clotting blood on sticking plaster by Anne Weston, LRI, CRUK
BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh commented that many of the images gave “a new insight into medicine and science.” A prime example of this is the only animation that was awarded at this year’s ceremony. It is a 3D view of a developing mouse embryo, created using a recently developed imaging technique called optical projection tomography (OPT). The technique allows a sample to be imaged whole, and reveals how structures in the embryo develop relative to other parts of the body. The still itself is stunning, but watch the animation below and the entire beauty of the technique will be revealed.

This is but a selection of the images that were awarded last night. A complete gallery of the winners, with details about how, why, and who imaged them can be seen at The winning images are also on display in Wellcome Collection from today until July 10 2011.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Woman's Hour

Yesterday's edition of Woman's Hour on BBC Radio 4, featured an interview with Dr Lesley Hall talking about her new book - recently highlighted here - The Life and Times of Stella Browne: Feminist and Free Spirit.

The interview discusses Browne's career and relationship with other birth control campaigners, and begins with Dr Hall giving as the starting point for her research, her cataloguing of the papers of the Abortion Law Reform Association, held in the Wellcome Library.

Listeners in the UK can listen again to the interview through the Woman's Hour website.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

'Birth of the Birth Control Clinic'

The Institute of Historical Research (IHR) was founded 90 years ago and as part of a series of events to mark other notable milestones of 1921, the IHR is holding a one-day conference on the 11th March to explore the work and legacy of birth control pioneer Marie Stopes (Stopes's first clinic opened in 1921).

Speakers on the day include Dr Lesley Hall (Wellcome Library) and more details on the Conference and registration are available from the IHR's website.

The Wellcome Library holds a wealth of material on the history of birth control and these records - including material relating to Stopes' career - have been the subject of a number of posts on this Blog.

Image: Birth control clinic in caravan, with nurse (PP/MCS)

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wellcome Library Insight - Addicts and Apothecaries

To accompany Wellcome Collection's High Society exhibition, this week's free Wellcome Library Insight session - on Thursday 24th February - highlights some of the dealers and dopers, addicts and apothecaries, who reside in our collections. Discover too, how our understanding and uses of drugs have altered from antiquity to the present.

Our Insight sessions offer visitors to the Wellcome Library an opportunity to explore the variety of our holdings. Sessions are thematic in style, last around an hour and offer a chance to learn about our collections from a member of Library staff.

This Thursday's session starts at 3.00pm, and tickets are available from the Wellcome Collection Information Desk from 1.30pm onwards. The event will also be British Sign Language (BSL) interpreted. For more details, see the Wellcome Collection website.

Image: An absinthe addict eyeing three glasses on a table; advertisement for film "Absinthe". Colour lithograph, ca. 1913 (Wellcome Library no. 638681i).

Wellcome Library Workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Finding full text journals online
A guide to finding the full text of online journals in the Wellcome Library and beyond.
Tuesday 22nd February, 2-3pm

Making the most of my library: the Wellcome Library catalogue and how to personalise it
Perplexed by the Library catalogue? Find what you're really looking for! In this workshop you will learn the most effective way of searching the Wellcome Library catalogue and the best strategies for finding the resources you need. You'll also discover what you can do with your Library Account, and what it can do for you.
Thursday 24th February, 5-6pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.
Author: Lalita Kaplish

Thursday, February 17, 2011

New issue of 'Medical History'

The latest issue of journal Medical History - available free through PubMedCentral and UK PubMedCentral - carries two articles which offer interesting perspectives upon major collections held in the Wellcome Library.

Ian Burney and Neil Pemberton's article 'Bruised Witness: Bernard Spilsbury and the Performance of Early Twentieth-Century English Forensic Pathology' examines one of the many cases in which Spilsbury - the so-called 'Father of Modern Forensics', whose case notes we acquired in 2008 - acted as a key witness.

Claudia Stein and Roger Cooter's 'Visual Objects and Universal Meanings: AIDS Posters and the Politics of Globalisation and History', focuses particularly on such posters as collected material objects, and so has direct relevance to the collection of AIDS Posters in the Wellcome Library.

Image credit: Medical History website

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wellcome Library Workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Hunt the Ancestor: resources for medical family history
Was someone in your family a doctor, nurse or patient? Find out about the wealth of resources available to the family historian.
Tuesday 15th February, 2-3pm

Science in the news: keeping track of stories in the media
For anyone interested in science in the media, this workshop will introduce you to online science news sources, and internet tools for keeping up to date.
Thursday 17th February, 2-3.15pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Friday, February 11, 2011

Population Investigation Committee - Archival Material Newly Available

The records of the Population Investigation Committee (PIC) have been catalogued through a grant from the Nuffield Foundation and are now available for consultation in the Wellcome Library (Ref. SA/PIC).

On 16 February 1935 Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders, Charles Booth Chair of Social Science at the University of Liverpool, and Chairman of the Positive Eugenics Committee, delivered the Galton Lecture of the Eugenics Society entitled ‘Eugenics in the Light of Population Trends’. Carr-Saunders drew attention to the falling birth rate and concerns over the fertility of married women and a decline in the size of the family. He argued that ‘some organisation, with the whole population situation under review and desires to construct an adequate programme, should examine all the proposals made to deal with these difficulties, and weave them into a coherent population policy.’ [1] As a result, the Council of the Eugenics Society met to discuss the formation of an independent research body – the Population Investigation Committee.

The first meeting of the PIC was held in June 1936. Sir Alexander Carr-Saunders was elected Chairman of the Committee, C.P. Blacker the General Secretary, and David Glass the Research Secretary. One of the first publications of the new committee discussing the concerns facing the population was published in 1936 entitled The Future of Our Population? (SA/PIC/H/4/7).

Today the PIC are known for publishing the journal Population Studies as well as providing scholarships. However, the original purpose of the PIC, as stated in its first annual report (SA/PIC/B/1), was ‘to examine the trends of the population in Great Britain and the Colonies and to investigate the causes of these trends, with special reference to the fall of the birth-rate.’ Its remit was research, not the formation of policy. As such the PIC had a prominent role in several national surveys to investigate the economic and social factors affecting changes in the population.

A large proportion of the records of the PIC include correspondence and papers relating to research projects on vital statistics, foreign population policies, birth control, marriage, fertility, maternity services, social mobility, and the health and development of children (SA/PIC/F). Surveys involving the PIC include the Maternity Inquiry of 1946 in collaboration with the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which developed into the National Survey of Health and Development (SA/PIC/F/7); the Scottish Mental Survey of 1947 in cooperation with the Scottish Council for Research in Education to examine the trend of intelligence in children aged 11 years old (SA/PIC/F/8); a national survey concerned with marriage and divorce in 1959-1960 (SA/PIC/F/14); and a national survey of fertility and birth control practice in 1967-1968 (SA/PIC/F/15).

As well as involvement in research projects the collection documents the broadening interests of the Committee and their concern with the encouragement of research in the field of demography. The proposal to establish a journal devoted to demographic research was first mentioned in 1945 (SA/PIC/C/2). Volume One of Population Studies was published in 1947 as the first English language journal exclusively concerned with demography. Whilst the PIC was actively involved in research, the Journal often reported the results. In 1963, David Glass, then Chairman of the PIC, applied to the Ford Foundation for a grant to fund a postgraduate demographic training programme in collaboration with the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) with special reference to students from developing countries. The grant was approved and the first students began their studies in September 1965. Although LSE took over complete responsibility of the programme in 1980, some staff continued to divide their time between the Population Studies department of LSE and the PIC.

The 52 boxes of papers of the Population Investigation Committee, now available in the Wellcome Library, are a testament to the influence and contribution of the Committee and its members to the field of demography. They not only demonstrate the social context and development of the PIC, but they contain detailed information relating to research projects which continue to have significance for the study of epidemiology today, such as the National Survey of Health and Development. The collection is a valuable resource and we hope that the collection will be consulted by those from a wide range of disciplines.

To celebrate the launch of the historical archives of the PIC at the Wellcome Library, the Population Investigation Committee will be hosting an afternoon symposium at the Wellcome Conference Centre on Friday 18 February. This free event aims to highlight the importance and influence of the Population Investigation Committee throughout its history. For further information see

Image credit: Bar chart, c.1935, showing projected percentages of persons in particular age groups and included in The Future of Our Population? Reproduced from the Eugenics Society Collection (SA/EUG/G.31/3) with the kind permission of the Galton Institute and the Population Investigation Committee.

[1] A.M. Carr-Saunders, ‘Eugenics in the Light of Population Trends’, Eugenics Review, Vol. 27, No. 1, Apr 1935 p18
Author: Toni Hardy

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Judging the Wellcome Image Awards

In exactly two weeks, the Wellcome Image Awards will be announced at Wellcome Collection. Louise Crane looks back to October, when the judging of the awards took place.

Last year, a team of picture editors, scientists, writers and broadcasters met in a room at the Wellcome Trust to select the winning pictures for the Wellcome Images Awards 2011. The judging panel was assembled and facilitated by Dr Laura Pastorelli, who acquires new biomedical images for Wellcome Images. She says, “Our eight judges represent the world of science and media. They all recognise the great value of scientific imaging – not only to research, but also for communicating this research to a wider audience. The judges were looking for recently acquired images that were visually stunning and conveyed scientific information in an interesting way. They also looked for skilful use of imaging techniques.”

Enter Dr Alice Roberts, who presented the awards in 2009 and was asked back as a judge for this year. Alice is not only a scientist and broadcaster (you may know her from BBC’s Coast and Don’t Die Young) but an artist too. Before the judging took place, she said "I love judging the Image Awards - there is always a great selection of beautiful, surprising and thought-provoking images to pore over. But that makes it very difficult as well!"

Over the next hour, the room buzzed with the deliberations, as Alice and seven other judges mulled over the 180 long-listed images laid in front of them. “What’s the story behind this image? Have I produced this myself, but better? If I was a teenager would I stick this up on my bedroom wall?!” were just some of the judges’ musings.

Also on the panel was another BBC presenter, Dr Adam Rutherford, who runs the podcast and video department at Nature. Adam explained that in the initial stages of judging, he was looking for images that gave him a strong reaction: something striking, or something that had never been seen before. Catherine Draycott, Head of Wellcome Images explained further: “To start, we eliminated anything where the image quality (focus, composition, etc.) wasn’t up to the standard we’d expect for the technique and the magnification. Then we started to home in on the images that stood out from the rest. We talked about what each one represented and how well this was conveyed by the picture.”
“Judges… ready! Images… ready! 3, 2, 1 – go!” From L-R: Fergus Walsh, Catherine Draycott, Laura Pastorelli, James Cutmore, Robin Lovell-Badge, Eric Hilaire and John Durant.

The long-list was narrowed down to a selection of around 50 images that the judges discussed in great detail. Aesthetics were admired, and detailed technical information unpacked. Laura’s expert knowledge of imaging techniques was complemented by Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, a scientist who is highly recognised in the field of developmental biology, not least for discovering SRY, the gene that determines if a developing embryo will become male. Sometimes the beauty of an image is almost a by-product of cutting edge imaging technique, but it is beautiful nonetheless. The Wellcome Image Awards are a great showcase for this. Robin explains, “anything that brings the beauty and the fascination of science to the general public is a good thing.”

The judges share their thoughts From L-R: John Durant, Catherine Draycott, Fergus Walsh, Alice Roberts, Adam Rutherford, Eric Hilaire

BBC medical correspondent Fergus Walsh was another of the judges. He commented on the impressive range of the images submitted and the variety of imaging techniques, and said that many images gave “a new insight into medicine and science.”

A few pictures polarized debate. One slightly blurry photograph caused a minor argument. “It’s not out of focus, it’s just got many focal planes!” exclaimed Adam.

“It’s not out of focus, it’s just got many focal planes!” Adam Rutherford scrutinises an image.

Some images totally absorbed our judges. I caught Eric Hilaire, Picture Editor at the Guardian, with a print in his hand staring intently at its patterns and colours. I could imagine a swirl of thoughts going round his head, which he elucidated later: “The first time I saw the print of this photomicrograph, I, for a second, wanted to look for a signature as if it was a painting. Later I tried to work out what it was that made me react this way: the subtle framing as well as an evocative choice of colours that recalls the brightness of dry pastel. Then, it was also the way I was reading this picture: a large red sun spreading its rays toward rows of shooting plants, maybe in a garden bed?”

Unfortunately for the readers of this blog, I can’t say which image he’s describing so evocatively until the awards are announced on February 23rd.

Eric enthuses about an image to the rest of the judging panel

Eventually, 21 winners were chosen by the panel. John Durant, Director of MIT Museum, who had flown from Boston to be on the panel, announced: “We have a great final list of images to be displayed.” The winning images will be on display at Wellcome Collection from February 24th until July.

What can you expect from the exhibition? Here’s a clue, from James Cutmore, Picture Editor at BBC Focus and second-time judge, about just one of the winners: “It's one of those pictures that truly intrigues people, because it shows an everyday occurrence in a completely unexpected way.” All the award-winning images provide a vision of science that you’ve not seen before, a close-up view of the beauty of nature. As James hints, expect the unexpected.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Wellcome Chinese New Year in Glasgow

Inaugurating the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, the exhibition China through the lens of John Thomson 1868-1872 opened at the Burrell Collection in Glasgow on 4 February 2011. It was opened by Professor Nick Pearce (Director of the Institute for Art History and Professor of Chinese Art in the University of Glasgow): his book Photographs of Peking, China 1861-1908 (2005) brilliantly identified in Durham University a collection of early photographs of China by both John Thomson and his associate Dr John Dudgeon, physician to the British Legation in Beijing.

At the opening Professor Pearce (right) emphasized the pioneering nature of John Thomson's endeavours, as Thomson travelled not just to Beijing and the Treaty Ports but also off the beaten track and into the landlocked provinces. Chinese music was provided at the opening by Eddie McGuire (flautist, composer, and a member of the first Scottish music group to tour the People's Republic of China in 1991) and Hooi Ling Eng, both members of the Sino-Scottish group Harmony Ensemble.

Although the photographer John Thomson (1837-1921) was a Scot, this is the first exhibition in Scotland to be devoted to his photographs of China. The exhibition contains prints from a selection of his glass negatives which were acquired by Henry S. Wellcome in 1921 and are preserved in the Wellcome Library. It shows the range of Thomson's work: the physical environment of China (rivers, mountains, agricultural land, palaces and hovels); the life of the poor, whether as street vendors in the cities or rice and tea workers in the countryside; Han and Manchu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian; the Imperial family, grandees, mandarins and merchants; and intricate portrayals of family relationships. The exhibition was installed in the Burrell Collection's exhibition gallery and curated by Dr Yupin Chung, Curator of East Asian Art with Glasgow Museums (above left, with one of Thomson's photographs of an ancient tree-shrine in Taiwan).

Among the local residents attending was Dr Nigel Allan, former Curator of Oriental Collections at the Wellcome Library and former Hon. Secretary of the Friends of the Wellcome Library and Centre (right).

The exhibition continues until 12 June 2011. Admission is free, and there is a programme of talks by the curator and other activities. Haunting music in the gallery comes from a poetic video of Thomson's work by Thomas Jacobi, with an Imagistic commentary "Motes of living light" by the poet David Greygoose and flute accompaniment by Eddie McGuire.

Visitors can also see the amazing collections of the Glaswegian ship-owner Sir William Burrell (1861–1958) including (among other things) Chinese ceramics from the Tang, Song and Ming dynasties; paintings by Degas, Cézanne and others; and the great Warwick Vase. The collection is housed in a spacious and free-flowing modern building which has won several awards: it is sited in Glasgow's beautiful Pollok Park, where one might meet the friendly rangers patrolling on gigantic Clydesdale horses (left).

The exhibition has been shown with acclaim in four venues in China, starting in Beijing in April 2009, and subsequently in Liverpool and Hartlepool in the UK. Further showings of the exhibition are being arranged: see this website for the content of the exhibition, and please contact the Wellcome Library with suggestions of additional venues.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Library's Oriental Topography collection

The Wellcome Library is well known for its Asian collections, which characteristically deviate from the Library’s usual remit of the history of medicine. Its Oriental Topography component, the core of which consists of monographs written about the ‘orient’ by Westerners during Henry Wellcome’s lifetime, is perhaps less well known. This choice of title is evidenced by the collection’s prior and somewhat whimsical categorisation by geographic location, with books shelved from east to west. It has now been re-catalogued to make it more accessible.

The idea of Oriental Topography itself is indicative of the collection’s status as a time capsule of European attitudes towards foreign lands at the height of colonialism. Here the ‘orient’ even includes West Africa, much of which literally lies to the west by longitude of this collection and is, of course, in Africa, thereby escaping most definitions of the ‘orient’ itself. Beyond the collection’s provenance, representative of Henry Wellcome’s wider interests and collecting habits, there are some very interesting individual items here.

That books on Africa have achieved such prominence in an Asian collection says rather a lot about Henry Wellcome’s passion for the continent, born out by his extensive projects in Sudan. Wellcome’s biographers have also noted that one of his closest friendships was with Henry Morton Stanley, a man inseparable from African colonial mythology. Wellcome wrote the introduction to Stanley’s autobiography, and the Topography collection contains Wellcome’s personal copy of The Congo and the Founding of its Free State, gifted to him by Stanley.

Inscription from Henry Wellcome's personal copy of Stanley's THE CONGOMoving into Asia itself, particularly well-represented are some of the publications on exploration and intrigue in Central Asia from a period when the Great Game between the Russian and British empires was at its height. Many of Sven Hedin’s works are included here, alongside those of his rivals Marc Aurel Stein and Nikolai Przhevalsky. At the turn of the twentieth century, the lines between archaeology and exploration remained blurred as explorers risked their lives in the last uncharted regions of Asia, supported by imperial governments desperate for geopolitical intelligence.

For documents that explicitly document the Great Game, amongst the collection is the personal copy of a “strictly confidential” report on the Gilgit Mission of 1885-6 belonging to Henry Mortimer Durand, Foreign Secretary in India at the time. Durand had launched the mission in order “that a correct knowledge should be obtained of the Hindu-Kush range…,” following in the footsteps of the British explorer George Hayward who had been mysteriously murdered in 1870 during his journey to explore the Pamirs.

Moving further east, the collection includes Commodore Matthew Perry’s Narrative of the Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, documenting one of history’s most significant acts of gunboat diplomacy as Perry’s ‘Black Ships’ delivered President Fillmore’s demand for a trade treaty with Tokugawa Japan in 1853. It would be almost one hundred years before the tensions surrounding this initial encounter between Japan and the United States would be fully resolved. The three volumes in the collection were published with money awarded to Perry by US Congress for his services in Japan upon his return in 1855.

Wellcome Library Workshops

This week’s free Wellcome Library workshops are:

Making the most of my library: the Wellcome Library catalogue and how to personalise it
Perplexed by the Library catalogue? Find what you're really looking for! In this workshop you will learn the most effective way of searching the Wellcome Library catalogue and the best strategies for finding the resources you need. You'll also discover what you can do with your Library Account, and what it can do for you.
Tuesday 8th February, 2-3pm

Wellcome Images
Do you need a picture? Find what you need from the Wellcome Images catalogue: search 160 000 pictures online, covering the history of medicine and the history of human culture from the earliest periods of civilisation to the present day.
Thursday 10th February, 2-3pm

Our programme of free workshops offer short practical sessions to help you discover and make use of the wealth of information available at the Wellcome Library. Book a place from the library website.

Author: Lalita Kaplish

Friday, February 4, 2011

Stella Browne in the archives at the Wellcome Library

This week my biography of Stella Browne, early twentieth century British feminist sex radical and socialist, was published by I B Tauris: The Life and Times of Stella Browne: Feminist and Free Spirit. While it contains the fruit of extensive research in archives and libraries over three continents, a solid core of essential material for any study of Stella Browne is to be found in the archives at the Wellcome Library.

She was one of the founders of the Abortion Law Reform Association (1936). Her own activism on the subject during the previous two decades had been an inspiration to other campaigners – in her chronology of the movement, Janet Chance placed one entry, STELLA CAMPAIGNS ALONE, between the 1861 Offences Against the Person Act on which the criminal status of abortion rested, and the informal discussions in 1935 leading to the inauguration of ALRA. Stella Browne’s activities in pursuit of ALRA’s aims are particularly well-documented for the latter part of the 1930s. A file of correspondence (SA/ALR/B.5) with her colleagues during the 1940s and 50s, following her move to Liverpool for family reasons during the War, reveals how committed she remained even when she was physically distant, poor, ageing and in deteriorating health, communicating with them on matters of mutual interest until very shortly before her death.

This is however by no means her only appearance in the collections in the Wellcome Library. Her rather tense relationship with Marie Stopes, whom she had known prior to the latter’s emergence into notoriety with the publication of Married Love in 1918, is discernable in a small group of letters preserved among the latter’s ‘ML [Married Love] – GEN’ correspondence (PP/MCS/A.42). Although there is a letter of warm congratulation about Married Love and commiserations with the difficulties the US edition was experiencing under the Comstock Laws, the tone soured rapidly. In 1922 Stella Browne was appalled by Stopes’s rewriting of the history of her involvement with birth control to conceal Margaret Sanger’s priority. This escalated into high levels of antagonism on both sides, and Stopes’s correspondence in the British Library indicates that she even considered suing Stella Browne for libel (a rather pointless exercise, given Stella’s continual state of penury).

Her relations with Dr C P Blacker, General Secretary of the Eugenics Society, were also somewhat fraught. Although she attended meetings at the Eugenics Society, and was briefly a member, her antipathy to the class-biased and anti-feminist nature of hereditarian ideology is extremely well-documented, as is her opposition to authoritarian solutions to social problems. However, as part of Blacker’s reform eugenics initiative of the 1930s, the Society was increasingly forming strategic alliances with campaigners in related areas such as birth control and family allowances. Although when Stella Browne first mooted the topic of abortion in a Society meeting, it was met, according to Alice Jenkins of ALRA, by a silence ‘that could be felt’, the question of legalisation was at least up for discussion by the later 1930s, and the Eugenics Society constituted a forum where ALRA might find potential allies and sympathisers.

Blacker’s own views on Stella Browne, expressed to various correspondents in his capacity as General Secretary of the Eugenics Society, and among his personal papers, were not sympathetic (‘moderately mad’). She contacted him about a delegation to the Ministry of Health being organised by the National Birth Control Association in 1933 – her letter survives among his personal papers (PP/CPB/C.3/3) – with which he was very reluctant that she should be involved.

She enjoyed better relations with other bodies active in the campaign for birth control, including the Malthusian, later New Generation, League, and the Workers’ Birth Control Group. However, although she was clearly very active in promoting the latter’s endeavours to obtain official permission for birth control advice to be given in local authority maternity welfare clinics, her name is striking absent from their literature, a little of which survives among the archives of the Family Planning Association. The clue to this mystery is provided by Dora Russell’s files relating to the WBCG in the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam, which indicate a policy decision that the names associated with the group should all be of married people who were parents (except for Dorothy Jewson, MP, their main Parliamentary ally). Stella’s strong ties with the WBCG are confirmed by the very significant overlap in membership between the by then defunct WBCG and the founding group of ALRA.

Her enduring connections with the wider world of sexual reform movements even in later life are testified to by her listing as one of the Vice-Presidents of the Society for Sex Education and Guidance, active during the 1940s and 50s, literature of which has been preserved among the archives of the Family Planning Association.

5 million manuscripts, films and texts…

…that’s what Europeana Libraries will be contributing to Europeana over the next two years.

The Europeana Libraries project kicked off last week and the Wellcome Library was there to be involved right from the start.

Europeana Libraries will add 5 million digital objects to the 15 million already available at Europeana. The Wellcome Library will be contributing images and films in the area of the history of science and medicine.

Europeana Libraries will make significant European cultural objects, such as letters from Immanuel Kant and the Wellcome Library’s own medical science films, more easily available to everyone from humanities and social science researchers to the general public.

You can read more in the Europeana Libraries press release.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Archives and Manuscripts cataloguing: January 2011

A new year, and more new material made available for research. During January, nearly four hundred new database records were created for archive material, one hundred and fifteen becoming visible online during that month. As the disparity in numbers indicates, much work went on behind the scenes on collections that are not yet ready for release but which will appear in their entirety in due course. (And, as has been noted before, outside the database retroconversion work continues on the catalogue of the Chartered Society of Physiotherapists (SA/CSP).)

Two complete collections were made available this month (and described in a recent blog post): they comprise data gathered by ESDS [Economic and Social Data Service] Qualidata at the University of Essex, which acquires digital data created during the course of qualitative research across a wide range of social science disciplines.

'AIDS-relevant cognitions in Dundee and Kirkaldy' (GC/252), consisting of transcripts and tapes of interviews with children and students in those towns, 1988-1990, to elicit their understanding of AIDS and their attitudes towards it.

'Project SIGMA (Socio-sexual Investigations of Gay Men and Aids)' (GC/260), meanwhile, is mostly made up of microfiche copies of anonymised diaries in which gay and bisexual men recorded their sexual behaviour during 1987-1994. The diarists recorded any sexual activities every day for a month – details including partner/s involved, day, time and setting, and the precise details of what happened to whom in what order.

Both these collections of course document material that is potentially highly controversial. Controversy stalks another figure in this month’s statistics: MS.8758 comprises a letter by Prince William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland (1721-1765), ordering the release of funds to an army surgeon under Cumberland’s command in the Low Countries. “Butcher” Cumberland, second son of George II, is of course still a highly controversial figure for his role in the 1745-6 Jacobite rising, in which the Jacobites were killed in huge numbers at the Battle of Culloden and captured stragglers were subjected by Cumberland to “military execution” or extra-judicial shooting.

Maybe our most significant cataloguing highlight, however, is one that is still invisible: the final tranche of our catalogue of the papers of Francis Crick (PP/CRI) will be released in the next month and considerable work is going on behind the scenes to prepare this, both physically (boxing up the material in appropriate, acid-free containers) and intellectually (over 900 database records requiring fine-tuning). There will be more to report on this in the next cataloguing summary, a month from now.

Image: a detail from MS.8758, showing the flowing hand of an Army clerk and the slightly less fluent signature of the Duke of Cumberland.

Design by Free Wordpress Themes | Bloggerized by Lasantha - Premium Blogger Templates