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Posts Tagged ‘historical photographs’

-contributed by Rhonda Rinehart.

When “Psychic Killer” was released in 1975, there wasn’t much on the surface to set it apart from other horror movies of the same ilk.  There was violence.  There was gore.  There was sex.  There were victims.  “He freed his mind and body to commit the most sensual and shocking acts imaginable!” promised the movie poster.

Such claims probably don’t mean all that much in the 40-something rearview mirror of Leatherface and Michael Myers but one thing did set “Psychic Killer” apart from other movies and that was The Kirlian Effect.  Based on a 1939 concept developed by Russian inventor Semyon Kirlian that all living things project an energy field, and these energy fields can be photographed, The Kirlian Effect received some attention; at best as a sort of pseudo-psychology and at worst as a complete myth.  The technique developed to capture these energy fields came to be known as Corona Discharge Photography, so named for the electrical discharge brought about by connecting an object to both a photographic plate and a high-voltage electrical source, and snapping a picture of the resulting electro-discharge.  And so Kirlian Photography, as it is also known, was born – and “Psychic Killer” was created in its wake.

Though the movie didn’t quite get it right – turns out the protagonist was astral projecting (a story for another blog) rather than discharging any coronal impulses – Kirlian Photography was indeed the muse for the film’s screenwriter and producer, Mardi Rustam, and, surprisingly, for a handful of psychologists in the ‘70s and ‘80s.

One of those psychologists, Willard Caldwell, was hanging out in a cute little cottage named Kipling Arms, tinkering with his own coronal discharge equipment around the same time that Rustam was conceiving his psychic killer.  While photographing electromagnetic discharges or “auras” of everything from lizards and grasshoppers to vials of his own blood, Caldwell wasn’t just playing a 1970s version of Dr. Frankenstein.

Vial of Willard Caldwell blood.

Willard Caldwell’s left and right frontal lobes.

Willard Caldwell’s hands.

Rather, Caldwell was developing techniques that would come to focus on the effects of magnetic fields upon behavior, schizophrenia, and neuropsychology.  Caldwell worked to incorporate the neuroscience of brain damage and schizophrenia through the use of Kirlian photography into a more serious application, though he did take time to further develop Kirlian photographic techniques for other living things.

Coronal discharge from a grasshopper.

Caldwell’s notes on handling the grasshopper during photography

Biting grasshoppers aside, the applications of Caldwell’s techniques were reported by him in numerous research papers on topics as diverse as cancer and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.  Though mostly unpublished, Caldwell’s prolific research did get some academic attention, but Kirlian photography remains an outlier in health and psychological research.

But perhaps Kirlian, Caldwell and Rustam were on to something.  The brain, as we know, is a powerful tool.  It stands to reason that we would want to know more about how it works and how it relates to our being.  How we get there is up to us.  We can make movies or we can do research.  Either way, the result is only part of the journey.

Sketch of Kirlian photographic techniques, by Caldwell.

 

The Willard Caldwell papers are located at the Cummings Center for the History of Psychology at the University of Akron.  View the collection finding aid here: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/archives/ead/OhAkAHA0036.

Photographic equipment Caldwell used in his experimentation is also located at the Cummings Center: http://cdm15960.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/singleitem/collection/p15960coll7/id/1713/rec/1

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-contributed by Emily Gainer.

October is American Archives Month and National Family History Month.  Two important topics in one month!  In recognition, I wanted to share a little bit about how an archivist (me) thinks about storing family treasures.

Most people have important items that document their family’s history.  It might be photographs, diplomas, cookbooks, or a Bible.  The items may have historical value or sentimental value.  Whatever your treasured items are, there are some general tips for preservation.

General advice for preserving family treasures:

  • Store important items in a cool, dry area with a stable environment. This generally means no basements or attics.  Fluctuation in temperatures and humidity can be very damaging.
  • Store items away from water tanks, water pipes, humidifiers or anything else that introduce moisture to your historical materials.
  • Similarly, store items away from a heater, fireplace, or furnace. This includes displaying items by hanging them on the wall.  Don’t hang family photographs directly over a heating vent.
  • Store items away from light. Sunlight and light bulbs can cause photographs and ink to fade over time.  Before displaying items in your home, consider the amount of light they will be exposed to.
  • Store paper documents and photographs unfolded and unrolled. Folds can weaken the paper and cause tears over time.
  • Family treasurers are meant to be shared and enjoyed! When sharing those items with family during the holidays, use clean hands.  Wash lotions off, and keep the items away from the dinner table or drink glasses.  When handling photographs, wear cotton gloves to avoid leaving fingerprints and oils.

This oversize photograph at the CCHP was folded and rolled. You can see the damage it has caused. It is recommended to store items unfolded and unrolled. I’ve been working on unrolling this photograph by enclosing it an archival folder and placing heavy books on top.  Over time, it will relax but will never go back to its original state.

There are many resources available to provide more details about preservation.  The Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC) publishes a series of preservation leaflets.  The Image Permanence Institute specializes in storage guides for photographs, including digital images.  Additionally, many archivists order archival supplies, such as folders, boxes, and photograph sleeves, from Gaylord.

White cotton gloves are recommended for handling photographs, negatives, and glass plates. No fingerprints! I keep a pair of gloves in my desk drawer at all times.

So this month, think like an archivist!  Look at your family history treasures and consider what you can do to ensure their long-term preservation.

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– Contributed by Jodi Kearns

Fall 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Archives of the History of American Psychology. The April 2015 book-of-the-month selection pays tribute to this rich history  that CCHP staff and students have dedicated the past 50 years to preserving. In 2015, the mission of the Cummings Center is to support access to the complete historical record of psychology and related human sciences in order to foster understanding of the human condition.  The Illustrated History of American Psychology, 2nd edition, published 17 years ago, was an early project in providing access to the historical record of American psychology.

Populated largely by photographs and digitized materials from CCHP collections and written by the co-founders of the Archives, Drs. John A. Popplestone and Marion White McPherson, the Illustrated History describes in words and illustrations with more than 350 pictures the (at the time) just over 100-year story of American psychology . The book visits experimental psychology laboratories, writings and works of prominent figures, military testing for intelligence and vocation, and more.

The photographs and objects from the Archives in the Illustrated History are still in the CCHP collections today.

exhibit in Museum of Psychology showcasing artifacts from CCHP collections

exhibit in Museum of Psychology showcasing artifacts from CCHP collections

The phrenology bust on page 37, for example, is on exhibit in the Museum of Psychology. (Can you find it in the above gallery photograph?)

An Illustrated History of American Psychology, page 37

An Illustrated History of American Psychology, page 37

So, too, is the pseudophone now on display in the Museum depicted in this 1928 image on page 86. (Do you see it in the gallery photo?)

An Illustrated History of American Psychology, page 86

An Illustrated History of American Psychology, page 86

Additionally, images in the Illustrated History of manuscript papers and testing materials remain in the CCHP collections and available to researchers.

An Illustrated History of American Psychology,  page 127

An Illustrated History of American Psychology, page 127

An Illustrated History of American Psychology,  pages 148-149

An Illustrated History of American Psychology, pages 148-149

Dorothy Gruich, CCHP Coordinator, helped Drs. Popplestone and McPherson put the first edition together while she was an undergraduate student assistant at the Archives.

Please visit the University of Akron Press for information about other CCHP publications.

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Stephanie_ M Harrower - Headshot-B wm

Molly Harrower, 1906 – 1999

 

-Contributed by Stephanie Cameron.

Stephanie Cameron has volunteered and worked at the Center for the History of Psychology for several years and is currently processing photographs from the Molly Harrower papers.

Molly Harrower (1906-1999) received her Ph.D. in 1934, working with E.G. Boring, Arnold Gesell, and Kurt Koffka. Over the course of her career, she focused on  electrical brain stimulation, the Rorschach test, psychodiagnostics, consulting, and psychotherapy. She also served as a Military Consultant for the United States Air Force and Army.

Medical Field Service School

Medical Field Service School

As one of the first women to practice psychology in a male dominated profession, Harrower experienced the effects of prejudice and inequality by men and women. Refusing to waver in her aspirations, she accomplished many of her goals and became the first woman to dine in the Montefiore Hospital doctor’s dining room.

Stephanie_ M Harrower - Panel-B wm

At the age of 61, Harrower joined the University of Florida as a faculty member and taught Clinical Psychology.

Stephanie_MHarrower - Tubing - B wm

Harrower, tubing with her students.

 

While Harrower dedicated her life to the field of psychology, research, practice, and writing, she had several hobbies. She was passionate about animals and their care, writing poetry, swimming, and golfing. For her 80th birthday, she took an opportunity to swim with manatees.

Stephanie_ M Harrower - 80th b-day-B wm

Stephanie_M Harrower - Cubs -B wm

Based on the interpretation of the rich Molly Harrower collection housed at the Center for the History of Psychology, Harrower would have encouraged us to work past our barriers, think outside of the box, and to LIVE!

As she said in 1946, “Life, you will lose a lover when I die!” (cited in Harrower, 1946, Time to squander, time to reap. New Bedford, MA: Reynolds)

Stephanie_ M Harrower-Life-B wm

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