Archive for June, 2015

– contributed by Lizette Royer Barton

The Cummings Center’s second installment of the 5 Minute History Lesson focuses on the life and career of Dr. Ruth Winifred Howard (1900-1997).

Dr. Robert V. Guthrie‘s (1976) Even the Rat Was White: A Historical View of Psychology introduced many of us to Dr. Ruth Howard via a brief two-page biography. Lucky for all of us, during his early research, Dr. Guthrie was able to track down Dr. Howard and interview her for his book.

He called information and asked for a Chicago listing for A. S. Beckham (her husband was psychologist Albert S. Beckham). He dialed the number and Dr. Ruth Howard picked up the phone. They spoke for nearly an hour and Dr. Guthrie recorded the entire interview.

“Lo and behold I received a number; I couldn’t believe it.” 

The phone interview is one of just a handful of known original artifacts for Dr. Ruth W. Howard. She speaks candidly with Dr. Guthrie about her upbringing in Washington DC and her quest toward a doctorate in psychology that took her to numerous universities until she finally earned her Ph.D. in psychology in 1934 from the University of Minnesota. They discussed her work in private practice alongside her husband Dr. Albert S. Beckham as well as her independent work within the Chicago mental health community following his death in 1964.

Throughout the early part of the interview Dr. Guthrie repeatedly referred to her as Dr. or Mrs. Beckham. Finally after roughly 20 minutes she had enough.

“I would appreciate it if you could call me Dr. Ruth Howard….”

Gladly, Dr. Howard. Gladly.

See the 5 Minute History Lesson series on youtube.

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contributed by Nicole Merzweiler.

The start of summer has filled me with a mix of excitement for the break, and dread of my senior year, which begins in the fall. I was comforted though, when I found these two books, and I was reminded that even famous psychologists had to begin at “the bottom” as a student. I found my choices while I was finishing up on the digitization of the Professor Robert H. Wozniak Collection of Books on the History of Psychology. After the recent CCHP Board of Directors meeting, Professor Wozniak suggested that I add some of the interesting signatures and bookplates in the collection. During this process, I came across a bookplate that caught my eye from Kurt Koffka.


The bookplate was inside two unpublished carbon copy notes on lectures given by Carl Stumpf at the University of Berlin; the first Psychologie Winter Semester 1906/1907 and the second Logik & Erkenntnis Sommer Semester 1907.

Title page 1

Title page 2

The notes belonged to Kurt Koffka and were taken from a class in psychology and the second in logic and epistemology. Both sets of bound notes include not only his bookplate, but hand corrections made by Koffka. Among other things, he added page numbers to the table of contents.

Table of contents

Koffka went on to become one of the cofounders of Gestalt psychology along with Wolfgang Köhler and Max Wertheimer, who all studied at the University of Berlin. Koffka finished his PhD in 1909, completing his thesis under Stumpf’s guidance. Gestalt psychology,a school of thought focused on perception, emphasizes the idea that people see the whole of something independently of its individual parts. These ideas have changed the way perception is viewed, and it is very exciting to get to see the beginning of that through Koffka’s class notes.

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contributed by Danielle Bernert.

As some of you may know, the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. While this is quite an accomplishment, I am troubled by the fact that my own one month anniversary here at the CCHP has somehow been overlooked. Don’t worry, if you act quickly and get your cards to me by next week, I promise to still act surprised.

Speaking of surprises, I cannot believe that it has already been over a month since I began work on the CCHP archives collection. Fifty years can accumulate a great amount of material, and I have spent most of my time here trying to figure out what items really capture the mission and essence of CCHP. I have sorted through floorplans, numerous newspaper articles, employee training manuals, and (my favorite) a personalized letter to AHAP founder Dr. Popplestone from a “world-famous” hypnotist, listing a complete breakdown of his show and subsequent charges. I don’t know if Dr. Popplestone ever replied.

Early plans for the AHAP space in the Polsky Building.

Early plans for the AHAP space in the Polsky Building.


Early plans for the AHAP space in the Polsky Building.

Early plans for the AHAP space in the Polsky Building.

I have since moved on from the gleaning process to organizing selected materials. This involves complex and standardized actions such as sorting the objects into categories, wrestling with putting together the archival boxes, and organizing materials into these boxes. Folding archival boxes aside, the most challenging part of this process has been deciding upon the best theme of organization. What is the best way to divide up these materials? I decided to focus more on the topic rather than type of object, with category topics such as “Finances” and “Publicity”. I felt as though centering certain materials on the topic would better serve researchers, as it would be much easier to find a certain event in the “Events” section, rather than a box marked “Pamphlets”. Dividing by topic may also help the CCHP employees, as the organization’s digital files are divided similarly on the server. These broad-themed divisions are called “series” in the archival world, with subsequent smaller groups that can be measured in boxes, folders, items, etc.

Example of smaller group items within a collection; in this case AHAP phone messages from 1990-1999.

Example of smaller group items within a collection; in this case AHAP phone messages from 1990-1999.

I was advised to keep the series fairly general, as this collection will continue to grow with the organization. This type of mindset is based off of the principles of extensible processing, a term discussed heavily in the book Extensible Processing for Archives and Special Collection: Reducing Processing Backlogs by Daniel A. Santamaria (2015). Extensible processing revolves around an attitude of “iterative rather than linear and one size fits all” processing, meaning that there is no set routine of steps. Rather, the archivist adjusts as the collection develops and grows. This collection is unique as it (unlike many collections) is not one square, completed amount of material. Rather, it will be added to and re-organized multiple times.

Well-known visitors to AHAP from earlier years.

Well-known visitors to AHAP from earlier years.


Well-known visitors to AHAP from earlier years.

This idea of a fluid collection is somewhat new to me, as I am used to something much more static with definite boundaries. This new assemblage contains no such limits and is not so easily defined. It contains items that date from 1965 to less than a month ago. While the beginning date is clear, the end is left open, leaving room for further specification and growth. My responsibility in this extensible process to make sure there is a stable structure of organization for others to build upon yet still allowing room for flexibility and adjustment. As this project progresses and I continue to work on the creation of a finding aid and online companion, I will have to keep this idea of an extensible collection first and foremost in my mind.

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