public historian ~ museum educator and curator ~ history, arts, and culture writer
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Cross-posted from my blog -- Introducing my new projects!
I'm delighted to announce that I'm taking a hiatus from my list items on A Catalog of Curiosity for at least the next year and a half -- the reason that this is delightful is that I'm taking the hiatus to give me more time to work on the book I'm writing! While the blog posts here aren't long or frequent, they often represent a number of hours of what I'm doing with my time, such as when I take a class, read a meaty book, or do a research project. So, what's this book? The working title is "Exploring Healthcare History through 50 Historic Treasures," and it will focus on medicine and public health in the United States through the lens of historic sites and artifacts in museums around the country. It's under contract with the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) Press, an imprint of Rowman and Littlefield. I'm at the very beginning of the project, so don't expect any updates on a release date or preorder information anytime soon, but I promise that I'll announce that information here when I have it.
Wait, that's not a writing utensil... (or a historic treasure, it's just a bit vintage.)
In the meantime, I'm taking this site on a detour -- it will be A Catalog of (Medical) Curiosity, a place where I'll post tidbits of information that I loved but couldn't fit in the book, and occasional anecdotes from the writing and research process. Fair warning, some of them will be more graphic than what usually appears on this blog. The first tidbit comes from my research relating to the history of gastroenterology, for an article in the book on the first fiber optic gastroscope. In the late eighteenth century, when Italian Lazzaro Spallanzani demonstrated that digestion includes chemical processes, he obtained stomach acid by having people swallow a sponge attached to a thread, which he used to pull the sponge up again. [https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15075462]. I should take a minute to unpack the blog's name. As many of you know, "A Catalog of Curiosity" is a play on the 19th century cabinets of curiosity, which were (usually white, wealthy) Victorians' collections of anything that caught their fancy, like rocks and mineral samples, antiques and archeological finds, and natural history specimens. This trend was a part of the genesis of museums as we know them today, and it appeals to the part of me that likes to learn a little bit about a lot of things. However, cabinets of curiosity were also the repositories for a lot of heavily imperialist practices, like poaching endangered species, or stealing religious artifacts against the wishes and sometimes literally over the dead bodies of their owners. A whole lot of scientific racism (which was actually pseudoscientific attempts to separate, classify and rank human races), medical experimentation on unwilling and coerced subjects, and other seriously harmful elements of the medical field at the time were wrapped up in these same imperialist practices and ideas. Racial minorities, intersex people, disabled people, and other marginalized groups were targeted. Now that I'm taking the blog in a medical direction for a while, it's time to make explicit that I'm calling back to the tradition of cabinets of curiosity with tongue firmly in cheek -- I find pieces of it lots of fun, but not the exploitative parts, and I do not endorse those at all.