Let me tell you of medicine in the American Civil War... and interesting things hiding about at the University of Alberta.
History is full of serious-looking men.
So I had potatoes (and roast beef) for supper tonight... unlike the Irish that I'm writing about! D: ... Sorry, that was callous, but it had to be said. My paper on the Irish famine of 1845-50 is going rather well. :) Well, I'd be happier if I didn't have to suddenly go through three books all at once, just tonight, but... yeah. I've had these books for a few weeks, but because of other presentations, papers, and midterms, I hadn't managed to go through them yet... and when I went to renew them yesterday, it turned out that someone had placed a hold on the three that I needed most. D: I think that someone in my class has gone "shit! The paper's due in a week! I'd better start my research!" and has, of course, picked my topic... and the books were due back yesterday, but I couldn't return them as I didn't have them on me, so I'm just accumulating fines, now. D: I have today and tomorrow off (for Remembrance Day), and I'll be heading down to the university tomorrow to return them, but still... it's pissy. D:
Anyway... My novel's coming along decently well. I've hit a bit of a rut, writing-wise, but that's not surprising since I have so many other things to write right now - scholarly things.
So yesterday, I had an interesting adventure into the university's library system! I usually hang out in the Rutherford - that's the history/English/languages/social sciences type library. But for my essay on medical innovations of the American Civil War, for my history of American medicine class, I had to make a foray into the Health Sciences: the J.W.Scott Library. I had no first class on Monday, so I just came in an hour earlier than usual to research a book that I couldn't put on hold.
Well, first I had to find the library. It was ridiculously hard to find: no signage whatsoever. The website was useless - it just highlighted the entire Health Sciences complex, which is nearly as large as the hospital it sits right next to. After circling the building once and wandering around inside for like twenty minutes trying to find any indication that this library even existed, I finally had to ask someone right outside the building. Oh, it was simple! I was told. Just go through these doors, up that staircase, turn right, go down the hallway, turn left, go through the cafeteria, turn right, down the ramp, keep going, then it should be on your left. If you end up in the hospital, you've gone too far. Clearly, I should have been able to find it on my own.
Then the book I was looking for - The medical and surgical history of the war of rebellion, 1861-65/ prepared, in accordance with the acts of Congress, under the direction of Surgeon-General Joseph K. Barnes, 1870 edition - wasn't in its place on the shelf. I went to the desk, and to my delight, it was because it was in special collections! I was led by the helpful librarian to a small little room. All of the bookshelves had locked glass pannels over them.
Before she took me to my book, the librarian asked if I wanted to see something neat. You bet I did! She took out this rather small book - about as tall as a normal paperback, a bit thicker. It was in its own plastic case. It was a German book, written in either the 15th century or the 1500s (I forget which)... and it was bound in human skin. D: Interesting, but disturbing. I didn't touch it.
The book I was actually looking for was in six volumes - each about 1,000 pages long. These things were taller, wider and thicker than most telephone books, people. But they were endlessly fascinating! I obviously just skimmed the things (well, two of them. That's all I had time for). Mostly just looking at the pictures. They had super-awesome lithographs in them. I started to take photographs of them.
That's a helpful description and illustration of a weapon used by "Indian or other savages".
Note "sabre wounds of the head", "head injuries from falling trees" and "Miscellaneous Injuries of the Head".
Another thing I was amused by:
Okay, so this chart looks pretty boring at first glance. But look at the values. Look at "sprains". Three people died from sprains. Also, nine from dislocations, but I picture something to do with your neck getting dislocated or something.
Some of the pictures made the men in them look like zombies:
Or strangely like some sort of bizzarre pin-up photo of the scarred:
But seriously, these books were absolutely fascinating. I'm really sad that my camera ran out of batteries before I got to this guy with partial facial paralysis. He was shot in the temple (it glanced off), but his left eye was droopy. They have a lithograph of him looking stoic (with his droopy eye) and you can just hear the original photographer going "no no no - we need to see that it's paralyzed" so the second shot, next to it, is of the guy scrunching up his face to demonstrate. XD
That isn't to say that a lot of the stuff in the book wasn't disturbing. Gangrene was very common, and so were amputations, and disfiguring shots to the face... D: Um. Yeah. Not for the weak of stomach. And this is why I'm not in medicine.
Also, when I was about to leave the room, I turned to the left to turn off the lights... and saw a glass display case. I shouldn't have looked in the case. There was a child's arm and leg in there - discected to dispaly the veins and preserved - from 1810. It was brought over to Upper Canada from England, I think, and from there to the West by some relative. And I was in the room with it (and that human skin book) the entire time! Giggling away at lithographs!
The University also has an Egyptian mummy, P.S. I've never seen it, but we apparently have the only verified Egyptian mummy in Western North America(?). Awesome stuff.