The bus pulled up to what seemed to be a desolate parking lot, and looking around, I remember thinking, “Oh, of course. This is it.” A California native, I was still adjusting to the “empty zones” of Texas – the space between buildings and streets into which one could gaze for a moment and not be disturbed by the nuances of city life, as in the Bay Area. The Historical Center seemed to be located in one of these “empty zones,” and so I indifferently followed my peers through a glass door, having similar expectations for the inside.
I soon discovered these expectations had been extraordinarily low. Laid on a table surrounded by endless stacks of journals and volumes were instruments, texts, and visuals from another era of medicine. The anatomy-loving, intricacy-seeking geek within me jumped to life. I picked up the “amputation devices” of past centuries and reveled in their rusty glow. The idea of touching an object from another time and place was exciting beyond measure. The instrument in my hand, I realized, was a representation of how far science had come. Doctors no longer believed in mysticism, bled out their patients, and used saws as amputation devices in the twenty-first century. Just like our bodies, we had evolved. Science had evolved. And the documents on this table in this archive center were a testament to that evolution.
The texts and collections in the archive center were not just a static collection of irrelevant facts. They were a part of ongoing studies of issues still relevant today. Looking through the Psychiatry Bulletin, words such as “psychosis,” “anorexia,” and “retardation” caught my attention because of their prominence today. I realized the Bulletin was a reflection of the norms, stereotypes, and views of another era, so not only was I learning facts by glancing through the documents, I was also learning history. And by conducting research on these topics and connecting it with issues today, I was becoming a part of the history and the quest of furthering knowledge that extended through time and space.
I walked away from the archive excited to begin my research on The Psychiatry Bulletin and explore the opinions of another era and in awe of the mystery, discovery, and dynamism characteristic of the McGovern Historical Center.