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Archive for July, 2015

– Contributed by Jodi Kearns

This summer, we ran a list of all the pre-1800 books in the Cummings Center rare book collection. You can read the full list here: CCHP_pre1800_books. One title on this list is Osservazioni Intorno Alle Vipere written by Francesco Redi in 1664. For a reason I cannot entirely explain, this book stood out to me from the others on this impressive list. This book can be found in several libraries around the world, and it usually holds the subject heading “Snakes.” [vipere (Italian) = viper, poisonous snake.] An approximate English translation of the title is Observations About Snakes. I took to Google to learn more.

Osservaxioni Intorno Alle Vipere by Francesco Redi 1664

Osservazioni Intorno Alle Vipere

The Encyclopædia Britannica biography on Francesco Redi (1626-1697) describes Redi as an Italian physician and poet. It seems he spent time researching and writing to debunk commonly held beliefs about the natural world, including a study in 1668 showing that maggots on putrefying meat are from eggs laid by flies, and do not spontaneously generate. This he concluded after a series of experiments that are recognized as one of the earliest experiments to use proper controls like those used in modern scientific methods.

The Embryo Project Encyclopedia recounts an earlier Redi experiment published in 1664 that contested a popular belief by demonstrating that snake bites and venom are separate and that venom was only effective if it entered the bloodstream with a bite. This work was published in Osservazioni Intorno Alle Vipere in 1664.

Francesco Redi, 1664

That a book survives 350 years and ends up in a collection specializing in the history of psychology and related human sciences fascinates me. The Cummings Center copy has an even greater distinction among surviving copies: it is inscribed by this 17th Century scientist and author. The inscription is to “Paolo Abrams” from the Author [d’Autore (Italian)]. The trail runs cold during my search for information about a Redi contemporary named Paolo Abrams.

Osservaxioni Intorno Alle Vipere by Francesco Redi 1664

inscribed to Paolo Abrams by Francesco Redi 1664

The Embryo Project Encyclopedia claims root of the field of experimental toxicology in Redi’s work. A 1997 article in the French journal Histoire des sceince médicales claims the field of experimental parasitology also began with Redi’s work.

[This volume came to the Cummings Center with the David Shakow papers.]

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-Contributed by Danielle Bernert.

While I now progress towards uploading some of the physical material to an online catalog, I’m not afraid to admit that I still have doubts as to some of the decisions I have made.  Is there something potentially useful that I may have missed? Or, in the opposite case, is this collection composed of materials that will fail to find an interested user community?  I guess you could say that I had a few lingering qualms as to the value of the objects I have chosen.  The term value can be a slippery slope, especially in the world of archives.  This is due to its very multifaceted interpretations.  While most would usually describe something as “valuable” in terms of money, we all have things in our lives that are worth nothing in resale value yet hold an incredible amount of meaning because of the memories they possess.  How we attribute value is completely dependent on our own personal interpretations, which can make it a very complicated concept.

Are these items of value to the CCHP archives?

 

Promotional Poster

Promotional Poster

AHAP Label

AHAP Label

AHAP Tour Sign

AHAP Tour Sign

This complexity is echoed in the professional archival field. The Society of American Archivists (SAA) lists no less than 23 different types of values, from the generalized (primary value) to something with a much narrower definition (fair market value).  Mathematical and computer values are listed as well, but there are really only two types of values that I have found to be the most important when deciding what materials to add to the CCHP collection: historical value and enduring value.  The two overlap considerably, as something continues to have enduring value due to the “continuing usefulness based on the administrative, legal, fiscal, evidential, or historical information they contain”.  These two values can be applied to much of the new CCHP collection.  There a countless letters, fliers, drawings, and speeches that, while having little to no monetary value, are kept because of the information that they reveal about the past.

What type of value would you assign to these materials?

Film Archives Pamphlet

Film Archives Pamphlet

 

APA 75th Anniversary, Hosted by AHAP

APA 75th Anniversary, Hosted by AHAP

Mock-up of AHAP Exhibit Space for APA 75th Anniversary

Mock-up of AHAP Exhibit Space for APA 75th Anniversary

For example, one of the coolest objects that I found was a box of “While You Were Out” slips for Dr. Popplestone.  These slips were interesting in that they covered a long period of time and gave me a glimpse of the ordinary, day-to-day occurrences of working at the Archives of the History of American Psychology (AHAP).  It is this great historical value that ensures their continuing preservation.

I think that this is an important topic to broach as monetary and historical value are often so tied up together that they are considered synonymous.  In museums, objects that are extremely old or connected to a significant historical event are often worth a lot of money. These objects are also usually the most interesting and shown to a greater audience, thus perpetuating the idea of direct correlation. However, after watching countless episodes of “Antiques Roadshow” I can confirm that just because something is old doesn’t make it monetarily valuable. And, in the case of CCHP, just because an object is composed of mostly paper doesn’t make it worthless. Isn’t that what the American dollar is mostly made of anyway?

 

CCHP Past

CCHP Past

 

CCHP Present

CCHP Present

 

CCHP Future

CCHP Future

*See the Society of American Archivists for other types of archival values.
** Note: It was grappling with these and other existential questions that made this internship such a great experience, and I could not think of a better place to spend 12+ hours a week for the past three months.  I have learned so much about the complexities of a collection, and how surprisingly possessive you can grow to be after working with 10 boxes of old papers for weeks on end.  Up until the end, the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology continued to surprise me with the amount of knowledge, hard work, and passion that goes into advancing the study of psychology, and I count myself incredibly lucky for being able to play a role in it.

 

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