To be completely honest, I had no real idea of what it meant to visit an “archive.” In my mind, I could see hallways full of boxes filled with yellowed and fraying papers containing information about our history. What information that was held in the archives, I was not really sure.
But soon enough I found out what was held in the stacks. The stacks was an area carefully thought out and planned with every bit of organization. Larger flat items were placed in a map drawer, 8 inch floppy disks in one corner, and books on the shelves.
However, the biggest surprise of all was actually being able to touch and handle the materials inside of the archive. I had imagined that because these items are one of a kind, we would have to be wearing gloves to protect the books from the oils of our hands (if we were even allowed to touch the items at all). But we were actually allowed to touch the books and even the surgical tools (yet another surprise)! It was an experience to be able to compare and actually see how surgical tools have changed over the years. For example, in the 1850s, surgical tool handles were wooden which would collect the blood of the patients that they were used on before they later were converted to stainless steel instruments we are accustomed to seeing in the present.
And most interesting of all of the materials presented before me was the record of Dr. Cooley’s implantation of the world’s first complete artificial heart. It was fascinating to read the descriptions of what occurred during the surgery as well as the photographs which illustrated what actually occurred during the surgery itself.
After the artificial heart, the next collection that caught my eye was the Psychiatric Bulletin. It was interesting to see the cartoon illustrations demonstrating the ways people viewed psychiatric diseases in the past. For example, in one issue of the Bulletin, there was an illustration of a hole cut in a person’s head to release the demons from inside.
Overall, this initial visit to the McGovern Historical Center was a great experience as it showed me the preservation of the Texas Medical Center’s medical history through multiple forms such as articles, photographs, and tools.