As someone who had never been to an archive before, I thought that an archive would be an extremely formal, museum-like place full of old materials. Because of my preconceived notion of what I thought an archive would be, I merely expected an informational tour around the archives with not much interaction with the works that were being stored there. However, through our guide, archivist Sandra Yates, I learned that an archive is a place that stores and preserves unpublished works that can be easily accessed and interacted with. Even though there still is a formal attitude that must be maintained in order to respect the works in the archives, the atmosphere of the archives was a little more informal in the sense that the works there could be touched.
During my visit to the archives, I was most surprised at the fact that the items at the archives could be touched. This interesting characteristic of the McGovern Historical Center gave me my first opportunity to touch real surgical instruments, even if they were outdated. At the archives, we were able to pick up and observe each instrument in a surgical kit that was used from 1850-1880 before the germ theory of disease existed. Instead of stainless steel or any kind of metal for the handles, the surgical instruments’ handles in this kit were made out of wood. As a result, blood often seeped into the handles of the instruments, creating a home for infection and unsanitary buildup. Another work that caught my eye was the article from the Medical World News that was published on October 4, 1968. The article’s elaboration on Cooley’s step-by-step transplant film was enthralling because I was able to see pictures and read about the procedure in such detail. Also, after asking Sandra more about the transplant surgery, I learned that the McGovern Historical Center has the actual footage of the surgery itself, which was an even bigger surprise.
Being able to see works from centuries ago all the way up to modern day confined into one big space was fascinating. Through our class visit to the McGovern Historical Center, I was able to see how medicine and its history have changed over the years due to improving technology and constant research by scientists- an example being the surgical kit. Now, I know that archives are more than just a library full of information that can only be accessed from afar. Instead, I know that archives serve as an interactive exhibit for observers to be able to learn more as they interact with the different works that are stored in the archives.