Do you ever wonder what Thanksgiving is like for those in the midst of war far away from their loved ones? Sometimes we can catch a glimpse of these holidays spent away from home via the collections in our archives. For instance, tucked among the papers of Dr. James Thomson is a 1944 Thanksgiving dinner menu for the 45th General Hospital located in Naples, Italy. Thomson was a surgeon at this hospital and thanks to his saving this menu we know that they were treated to a proper Thanksgiving meal. The staff feasted on traditional fare such as roast turkey, chestnut dressing, mashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce. This meal provided the medical staff with a little slice of home in the midst of treating the wounded soldiers. They certainly earned a good meal as the daily patient average for the hospital in November 1944 was 2,253.1 Below are photographs of the mess halls for the hospital, and a photograph of Dr. Thomson.
These and many more fascinating items are found in the collections at Tompkins-McCaw Library, Special Collections and Archives at Virginia Commonwealth University. For more information about the James L. and Dorothy Knowles Thomson papers please view the finding aid located in the Virginia Heritage database. To learn more about the collections at Tompkins-McCaw Library please visit our website.
1 Brashear, Alton D. From Lee to Bari: The History of the Forty-Fifth General Hospital, 1940-1945. Whittet & Shepperson (Richmond, Va.) 1957.
Eighty years ago today, on September 14, 1932, students entered the Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences (TML) for the first time. Simply called the "college library" when the building opened, the Georgian-styled facility featured a large reading room with windows on three sides (the current Special Collections and Archives
Reading Room), stacks with Snead steel shelving and cubicles for students (still in use today), and five seminar rooms (presently available as group study rooms
). The interior of the original building included a skylight and walls painted in a shade of gray-green popular with designers at that time.
Please take a moment to look around the 80 year old portion of TML -- the recent renovations make the building an even better place to study, collaborate, and conduct research.
In his July update
to the University community, President Michael Rao unveiled a new University seal and
explained the importance of such symbols. He wrote:
we move into the ranks of nationally competitive universities, it is
more important than ever that we communicate with one voice in a strong,
compelling and consistent way that conveys our unique character and
academic quality. ... Toward that end, a new university seal and brand
mark have been developed and approved by the Board of Visitors. The new
seal and brand mark are the result of quantitative and qualitative
surveys and significant input from members of the university community,
including students, faculty, staff and alumni. ... The new university
seal ... reflects the unity of VCU while maintaining its grand
A new Web page in Tompkins-McCaw
Library's Special Collections and Archives section details the history
of the MCV and VCU seals and institutional symbols. Research was
provided by VCU Libraries' Jodi Koste and Ray Bonis. History of the Seal
(Below is an early MCV symbol of science and medicine.)
One hundred years ago today Richmonders and medical students participated in the formal opening of a new academic building for the University College of Medicine (UCM) located at the corner of 12th and Clay Streets. The red brick building trimmed in Indiana limestone was described as a "model of completeness ... with every new facility for the most modern methods of medical instruction." The institution's original building, the old Bruce-Lancaster House, was destroyed by fire in January of 1910. Friends of UCM rallied around the medical school and raised $100,000 towards the cost of the new building and its equipment. The college enjoyed its new facility for just one academic term. At the close of the 1913 session UCM was merged with the Medical College of Virginia to form one stronger medical school for Richmond. The new building became the property of MCV and subsequently was named "McGuire Hall" in honor of UCM founder, Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire.
Reminders of the building's former affiliation can be seen on the transom over the front doors and the tile in floor of the entry.
Currently featured on VCU in Pictures
, this photo is of the faculty of the University College of Medicine about 1894. The University College of Medicine began in 1893 in a building that was on the site of McGuire Hall. It was founded by Dr. Hunter Holmes McGuire and continued as a free-standing medical school (and rival to MCV) until 1913 when it merged with MCV.
Shown in the photo:
Row 1: Dr. Thomas J. Moore, Dr. Hunter H. McGuire, Dr. Lewis M. Corwardin; Row 2: Dr. William S. Gordon, Dr. J. Allison Hodges, Dr. Jacob Michaux, Dr. Joesph A. White; Row 3: T. Wilber Chelf, Ph.G., Dr. Landon B. Edwards, Dr. Moses D. Hoge, Jr., Dr. Charles L. Steel, Dr. Charles H. Chalkley; Row 4: Dr. Paulus A. Irving, Dr. Stuart McGuire, Dr. John F. Winn, Dr. W. T. Oppenhimer; Row 5: Dr. James N. Ellis, Dr. Charles V. Carrington, Dr. Edward McGuire, Tom Haskins, morgue attendant, Dr. John Dunn. The man in the doorway is unidentified.
October brings many things: cooler weather, changing leaves, football, and Virginia Archives Month. You might not be familiar with that last one yet, but we hope you will join us in "Celebrating Advocacy for Archives." We have long been advocates for collecting, preserving and providing access to materials of enduring value. We invite you to observe this month by attending the lectures, book talks, tours, and other events hosted by VCU and local institutions. On October 28th there will be an Archives Fair at Cabell Library. Representatives from archives around Virginia will be available to talk about their collections, institutions, and assist you with your research needs.
Don't forget about Special Collections and Archives here at Tompkins-McCaw Library. Our manuscript collections include the personal papers of nurses, physicians, dentists and others as well as the records of various professional organizations. Collections are always being added and are available for use by faculty, staff, students and the general public. Special Collections also holds a wide array of medical artifacts, rare books, photographs, and portraits. If you have questions please stop by. We are here to help.
Thank you for your support!
Here's a new way to support Virginia Commonwealth
University and VCU Libraries: Vote in Virginia's Top 10 Endangered
Artifacts campaign. This public awareness campaign is designed to show
the importance of preserving artifacts in care at collecting
institutions such as museums, libraries and archives.
"It is important to save and preserve these artifacts and other items
that comprise our material culture because they hold much symbolic,
research and educational value," says Jodi L. Koste, archivist at
Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences.
VCU Libraries has nominated two artifacts in need of preservation
that tell significant stories about its special collections. They are:
- Matriculation Book of the Medical College of Virginia, 1838-1871.
In this book all the names of students were recorded along with the
student's address, preceptor and previous schools attended. Student
entries are annotated when the individual graduated. The book is of high
value for the information it provides on early students. It is also an
interesting artifact because it includes the signatures of several Union
soldiers who left their "mark" in the book during the occupation of the
college's building after the Civil War.
- The office door of pioneering cartoonist Billy DeBeck featuring an oil painting of Barney Google
and his equine sidekick. William Morgan DeBeck, 1890-1942, was a giant
in the "comic strip" art form. To readers in the Jazz Age and Depression
era, his characters were as beloved as Superman, Peanuts and Doonesbury
became to later generations. Dialog from Barney Google became part of
the cultural syntax. Catchphrases from his strips included:
"Horsefeathers!" "Heebie-jeebies;" "Jeepers Creepers!" "Bus' Mah
Britches!" and "Time's a'wastin'!" DeBeck invented the moniker "Google"
for his character.
These two artifacts are examples of
the content of VCU Libraries' special collections. Tompkins-McCaw
Library for the Health Sciences houses archives, artifacts, books,
manuscripts, photographs, portraits and prints related to the history of
health care in Virginia. The archives for the Medical College of
Virginia campus are also located in the library on the MCV Campus. On
the Monroe Park campus, James Branch Cabell Library is home to
significant collections in comic and graphic arts, artist's books,
modern Richmond history and culture, oral histories, literary
manuscripts, and documentation of Central Virginia minority and activist
To vote: www.vatop10artifacts.org/p/how-do-i-vote.html Voting
is online and there are two ways to vote. One is to go to the photo
album, create a free account in the Picasa platform, and "like" your
favorite artifact. Or, you may prefer to choose from a drop-down box in a
Google spreadsheet. Links to both voting methods.
If you have difficulty voting, send your choice by email to email@example.com Use Internet Explorer.
Voting ends Sept. 20. Public voting will be considered by an
independent panel of collections and conservation experts who will
select the final Top 10. That list will be announced in November.
Follow on Twitter: #vatop10
* * *
Virginia's Top 10 Endangered Artifacts is a program of
the Virginia Collections Initiative, which is a project of the Virginia
Association of Museums, made possible by a grant from the U.S. Institute
of Museum and Library Services. The IMLS is the primary source of
federal support for the nation's 123,000 libraries and 17,500
Recent renovations in the original portion of the Tompkins-McCaw Library revealed a pleasant surprise from our architectural past.
Tompkins-McCaw Library originally opened in 1932, constructed and decorated in a popular Georgian revival style that hearkened back to the simple elegance and symmetry of high-style urban structures in Colonial Virginia. The main lobby of the building was situated at the site of today's Pastore Memorial Exhibit Hallway, forming a grand atrium extending to the second level and lit by an extensive quarter-paned skylight above.
A major addition wrapping around the original structure opened in 1974, and at this time the older part of the building was substantially altered. The main entrance was relocated to the new section, and the atrium was closed off, turning the second floor into a normal hallway and making room for new Group Study Rooms. The renovations also included adding a false ceiling to accommodate air conditioning ducts, surely a welcome addition for users of the older part of the library. Unfortunately, adding this modern amenity and additional space for a growing library and student population came at a cost to the original style of the building. The elaborate and careful plasterwork and moldings that had helped make the library a showpiece for the Medical College of Virginia in the 1930s summarily disappeared behind the acoustical tile, where it remained hidden for decades.
One of this summer's improvement projects for the building included a new dropped ceiling for the second floor Group Study Room area. When contractors removed the old dropped ceiling in this area, the original ceiling infrastructure was completely exposed for the first time since the 1970s.
We were delighted to see that, behind all the wires, tiles, ducts, fluorescent light fixtures, and sheetrock walls that have been installed in the interest of modern improvements, the original high-style top of the atrium is almost completely intact, right down to the Williamsburg Green paint so popular in the South just a few short years after John D. Rockefeller Jr.'s Colonial Williamsburg restoration project had opened to the public.
For more information about this exciting discovery, contact Special Collections and Archives.
On March 31 we'll be kicking off the first in a rotating series of exhibits in the first floor lobby of Tompkins-McCaw Library.
Bedpan Elegance explores an oft-overlooked object in the history of medical care that provides a simple yet vital service to the bedridden patient. The photography of William W. Dubois elevates and explicates these items in carefully composed object studies, and specimens from Tompkins-McCaw Library's own collection will be on display nearby.
Please join us for the opening reception and gallery talk, which will be held March 31 from 4-6 PM at the Tompkins-McCaw Library. The exhibit will remain open through the end of June.
For more information about the exhibit and the history of bedpans, check out the exhibit website or contact Special Collections & Archives.
The papers of biophysicist and former Medical College of Virginia (MCV) faculty member Dr. William T. Ham, Jr., have recently been processed and are open for research. Ham, a pioneer and leader in the biomedical application of lasers and an expert on the effects of radiant energy on the retina, served as the first chair of the Department of Biophysics at MCV. His papers document his tenure at MCV from 1948 to 1989 and his consulting work for the federal government and private industry. During the 1950s and early 1960s Ham participated in government sponsored studies on thermal flash burns and radiation exposure from nuclear blasts.
For a complete description of the Papers of Dr. William T. Ham, Jr. 1933-1996 see the finding aid in Virginia Heritage, or contact Special Collections and Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org
The VCU Libraries is pleased to announce the release of a new addition its digital collections: The First 125 Years of the Medical College of Virginia. MCV celebrated its 125th anniversary in 1963, culminating in the publication of this volume. Issued as hard- and soft-back publications in the college's bulletin series, the 96-page photo history, largely the work of Thelma Vaine Hoke, was the college's first full-length history. Hoke pulled photographs, letters, documents, reports, and publications for the book from a rich collection of historical materials gathered and preserved by James Ralph McCauley, who served as secretary-treasurer for the college and secretary for the Board of Visitors from 1902 until his death in 1950.
Visit the VCU Libraries Digital Collections
The entrance of neurasthenia into medical knowledge, coined by Dr. George Miller Beard in the late 19th century, spawned a pandemic throughout Europe and North America affecting the middle class, especially women. Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, a physician deeply interested in psychological ailments after working with Civil War soldiers experiencing "phantom limb syndrome," became the leading expert in treating neurasthenia with his rest cure. Denying the patient any movement, thought, or extraneous effort for a long period of time was thought to relieve their symptoms and cure them of their ailments. Dr. Mitchell received a letter from Charlotte Perkins Gilman imploring his help. He diagnosed her with neurasthenia and prescribed his rest cure method. In a few weeks Ms. Gilman became thoroughly depressed and alarmed that her mind was deteriorating. She abandoned the treatment. She wrote "The Yellow Wallpaper" as a reactionary tale towards Dr. Mitchell and others like him who advocated that women shun intellectual advancement for fear of it being a detriment to their health. The short story was disturbing to many at the time and later brought back into the public eye by feminists in the mid-20th century. Ms. Gilman's work revealed the deep division between the sexes during the early 20th century and how detrimental prevailing thought on "modern" medicine was to women. Neurasthenia was eventually removed as a legitimate disease from medical journals, however, the disease and its cure are fascinating topics still today.
For more information on Neurasthenia and the Rest Cure:
Beard, George Miller. American Nervousness: Its Causes and Consequences, a supplement to nervous exhaustion (neurasthenia). 1881, Putnam: New York. [Tompkins-McCaw Library: RC552.N5 B368A 1881]
Mitchell, S. Weir. Fat and Blood: and how to make them. 1877, J.P. Lippincott & Co.: Philadelphia. [Tompkins-McCaw Library: RC343.M6 1878]
Mitchell, S. Weir. Lectures on the Diseases of the Nerves, Especially in Women. 1885, Lea Brothers & Co.: Philadelphia. [Tompkins-McCaw Library: RC340.M682 1885]
For more information on Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Feminist Theory:
Golden, Catherine; Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. The Captive Imagination: A casebook on The Yellow Wallpaper. 1992, Feminist Press at the City University of New York: New York. [Cabell Library: PS1744.G57 Y453 1992]
Bassuk, Ellen L. The Rest Cure: Repetition or Resolution of Victorian Women's Conflicts? Poetics Today, 1985, 245-257
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins. Herland, The Yellow Wallpaper and selected writings. 1999, Penguin Books: New York. [Cabell Library: PS1744.G57 A6 1999a]
For more information online, go to:
Reflections on Health in Society and Culture. University of Virginia, Historical Collections at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library, Charlottesville, Va.
Print the handout!
Compiled by Paxton Schunter
Special Collections & Archives
Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences
The Medical Artifacts Collection consists of instruments and equipment related to the history of health care in Virginia over the last 150 years. The collection contains representative instruments from nineteenth-century medical practice including lancets, amputation sets, medicine chests, stethoscopes, obstetrical forceps, microscopes and dental forceps. This digital collection provides access to images of a representative group of 168 objects.