Doris Siegel, Pioneer Social Worker

In April we celebrate both Women’s History Month and national Social Work Month. So it is fitting that we highlight a woman at Mount Sinai who was also a pioneer in social work, Miss Doris Siegel (1914-1971). Mount Sinai’s Department of Social Services (later Social Work) was created in 1907 and, since it was still a new field of service, the Department was initially managed by a series of nurses. By the mid-20th century, this was no longer the case, and in 1954, Doris Siegel was named Director of the Department. During her tenure, she updated and expanded the services of the Department, and spent time on broadening educational efforts in social work.

Doris Siegel, 1969

When Mount Sinai School of Medicine was forming in the 1960s, a new entity was created called the Department of Community Medicine (today’s Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health). In 1968 the Social Services was moved into Community Medicine as the Division of Social Work. In this new role, the mission of Social Work was to support the School through innovative community service programs, research, and participation in medical student education. (They had been training nursing students from the beginning.) These were all activities that staff in Social Work had been doing for many years, and being an official part of the School supported and encouraged them to continue.

In 1969, social work at Mount Sinai as an academic enterprise was recognized with the creation of the Edith J. Baerwald Professor of Community Medicine (Social Work), the first endowed chair in social work in an American school of medicine. (It was a gift of Jane B. Aron, a Trustee at Mount Sinai and a long-time supporter of Mount Sinai’s Department of Social Work.) Doris Siegel was installed in the chair at a special convocation ceremony in 1969, making her the first woman named to an endowed chair at Mount Sinai. She died two short years later, but is still remembered today as a “Pioneer in Social Work.”

The Baerwald Chair remained in the Division of Social Work through the tenure of two more Directors, Helen Rehr and Gary Rosenberg. Meanwhile, the broader Department had evolved and changed its named several times. In 2017, the Baerwald Chair in Social Work became the Baerwald Professor of Environmental Medicine and Public Health.

 

The ‘Didn’t Quite Fit’ Milestones of 2021

Each January the Aufses Archives starts the New Year by installing a new exhibit highlighting events at Mount Sinai that are reaching a milestone anniversary. In 2021, that includes the celebration of the 175th anniversary of the founding of St. Luke’s Hospital (today’s Mount Sinai Morningside) and the 150th anniversary of the opening of Roosevelt Hospital (today’s Mount Sinai West).  The Archives’ staff uses images and original documents to illustrate the most important events, and tries to stick to ‘round number’ anniversaries, e.g. the 25th, 50th, 100th, etc.

Sadly, each year, that leaves us with a group of interesting milestones that are celebrating a ‘not quite a big year.’ Here are a few of those ‘misfit’ milestones for 2021.

1856 – 165 Years Ago

In its first full year of operation, The Jews’ Hospital, later The Mount Sinai Hospital, admitted 216 patients with 129 cured and 14 deaths.  Of the 216 admissions, 16 were pay, 200 free. There were two births. The first baby born at the Hospital was called Isaac Touro, in honor of a bequest to the Hospital from him. The patient census varied from a low of 9 to a high of 28.  The budget for the year was $5493.76. There were nine paid staff members: two doctors, a Superintendent, nurses, cooks, and domestics.

1866 – 155 Years Ago

May 23: the corner stone was laid for a new building between Lexington and Fourth Avenues and 49th and 50th Streets to house the Woman’s Hospital in the State of New York, an institution that would later merge with St. Luke’s Hospital. The City of New York had conveyed the deed to this block to the hospital in 1857. It had been a Potter’s field or Stranger’s Burial Place and filled with coffins.  It was noted that more than 35,000 had to be removed before the hospital could be built.

1871 – 155 Years Ago:

On July 12, The Mount Sinai Hospital cared for 25 people injured in the nearby Boyne Day riot, which saw Ulster Scots Protestants holding a parade, protected by NYC Police and State National Guardsmen, with Irish Catholic laborers protesting the celebration. Over 60 people died and more than 150 people were wounded, including 22 militiamen, 20 policemen injured by thrown missiles, and four who were shot, but not fatally.

1881 – 140 Years Ago

William Halsted, MD, organizes an outpatient ‘dispensary’ (Out Patient Dept.) in the basement of the main Admin building at Roosevelt Hospital and remains its director until 1886.

1891 – 120 Years Ago

May 10: Beth Israel Hospital moves to 196 Broadway. This is the first BI location to include inpatient beds in addition to an outpatient dispensary; there are twenty beds. The hospital includes two house staff to provide 24 hour care.

1906 – 115 Years Ago

Beth Israel’s Dazian Pavilion in the 1930s

The Beth Israel Hospital Social Service Dept. is created.

 

1936 – 85 Years Ago

A Department of Hematology established at the Beth Israel Hospital under the direction of Dr. Louis Greenwald.

1946 – 75 years ago:

The Mount Sinai Hospital opened the first lab in this country dedicated solely to pancreatic disease research; led by Drs. David Dreiling and Henry Janowitz.

1951 – 70 Years Ago

St. Luke’s Hospital Board of Trustees welcomes its  first women members: Mrs. F. Huntington Babcock (Dorothy Doubleday Babcock) and Mrs. William Gage Brady, Jr.

1956 – 65 Years Ago

Hugh Fitzpatrick, MD, performs the first open heart repair of a septal defect in New York City at St. Luke’s Hospital.

2001 – 20 Years Ago

The Beth Israel Multimedia Resources Training Center opens. It is a joint project of 1199 SEIU and BI’s Department of Training and Organizational Development to train 1199 members in basic computer skills.

Mount Sinai 100 Years Ago – The More Things Change…

Whenever you look back to the past, it is easy to find it all very strange, but a longer look allows us to see the threads that connect that time to this. Some of those threads are strong and enduring and others fray and end.

One of those strong threads that tie the Mount Sinai of 100 years ago to the Mount Sinai of 2020 is research and discovery. In 1920, Mount Sinai was dealing with the last wave of a deadly worldwide pandemic that had started in 1918 but still lingered. Some Mount Sinai physicians spent a great deal of time working on a “peculiar disease” that followed the epidemic. This was popularly called the ‘sleeping sickness,’ but doctors termed it epidemic encephalitis. Another Mount Sinai physician was lending his expertise as a member of a national commission that was established to deal with the ravages of empyema, which too often followed post-influenzal pneumonia. Other physicians were doing research on gastric diseases, leukemia, surgical innovations and cardiac problems – all topics that Sinai doctors continue to pursue.

Taken from 5th Ave. and 99th St. looking east over the new buildings. The building facing with the flag pole is the 1904 main building.

Another main theme from 100 years ago, as in every decade of Mount Sinai’s existence, was the physical changes being made on campus. The world war and epidemic had delayed the progress of the largest expansion plan ever envisioned by The Mount Sinai Hospital. First suggested in 1913, it was only in 1922 that all of the new buildings were completed and the renovations of older spaces finished. This resulted in a new Private Pavilion (our current Kravis Children’s Hospital), a new pediatric pavilion and pediatric clinic building, a larger employee dormitory, a larger laboratory building, and a new auditorium to accommodate Mount Sinai’s increasing educational efforts. The growth in the number of beds called for a larger house staff than before and allowed for the growth of new specialty services.

While these themes have echoes with our current year, as does the perennial nursing shortage of that era (among many others), there was much that was unique to Mount Sinai in 1920. In February of that year, Mount Sinai leaders held an event to celebrate the staff that had served in the World War I Mount Sinai affiliated unit, Base Hospital No. 3. Special commemorative medals were given to each veteran.

The other topic of great interest in 1920 was the re-structuring of the medical staff to combine the in-patient and out-patient services under the in-patient chief of service. The Dispensary and the ward service had been two separate entities with limited overlap. The change allowed the clinic physicians to follow their patients when admitted to the hospital wards, and the ability to round and work with the in-patient staff made it more appealing to community physicians to take on clinic work. In the 1920 Annual Report, it was noted that the combined medical staff now numbered 250 physicians.

Certainly, times change. Institutions changes. Medicine changes. But even 100 years later, at Mount Sinai, some things never change.

Alexander Hamilton and How Mount Sinai Got to the Upper East Side

I recently read a piece about Hamilton Square in the Roosevelt Island Historical Society’s From the Archives email. This park, which was named for Alexander Hamilton, existed on the Upper East Side of Manhattan from around 1807-1869. I found this fascinating since The Mount Sinai Hospital moved to Lexington Ave. and 66th St. in 1872. I knew that the City had ‘seeded’ this area with non-profit entities: Hunter College, many hospitals and schools, but I had never heard about the Square itself, which ran from 66th to 69th Streets between 3rd and 5th Avenues. Finally, Mount Sinai had a Hamilton connection, even though he died in 1804, 48 years before the Hospital was created!

Map of Hamilton Square from the New-York Historical Society

When the Square was broken up, The Mount Sinai Hospital (MSH) was located on W. 28th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues. It had been founded in 1852 as the Jews’ Hospital in the City of New York (the name was changed in 1866) and had opened its first building in 1855. After the Civil War, the leadership realized that the facility was inadequate and the location less than ideal due to the growth of the City. On November 2, 1867 the Directors authorized the purchase of ten lots of land from 65th to 66th Street on the west side of Park (then 4th) Ave. and later added eight more lots there. But then on October 6, 1868, the City leased Mount Sinai twelve lots of land between 66th and 67th on Lexington Ave. for $1 a year for 99 years. Somehow, over the interim, the City and Mount Sinai had reached an agreement on the Hospital taking over part of the former Hamilton Square. The earlier lots were later sold, saving Mount Sinai thousands of dollars. On May 25, 1870, the cornerstone for the second MSH was laid.  The President of the Hospital, Benjamin Nathan, and Mayor Oakley Hall were there.  (Within two months, Nathan was murdered in his bed on a ‘dark and stormy night.’)

On May 29, 1872,  a dedication ceremony was held for the new Mount Sinai Hospital.  When the building opened, it had a greatly expanded capacity of 110 beds. The building was designed by the well-known architect, Griffeth Thomas, and cost $335,000 to complete. It had an operating room in the basement of the north wards, rooms for our newly created House Staff to live in, a meeting room for the Directors, and a synagogue. Lexington Ave. remained unpaved for two more years, and the Hospital never wired the facility for electricity. A telephone was installed in 1882; the number was “Thirty-Ninth St., 257”. It was at this site that Mount Sinai transformed into what we would recognize as a modern hospital, with medical education and research joining its core mission of providing patient care.

In typical Mount Sinai fashion, this facility quickly became too small. Additional buildings were built and major renovations were begun in 1882. In 1890, Mount Sinai added a building across from the Hospital on the north side of 67th St. for our nursing school and Out Patient Department. This building is the only remnant of Mount Sinai that remains there today. It later served as the home of the Neurological Institute, the Polish legation, and finally became a school for the Archdiocese of NY. The Mount Sinai Hospital moved from Lexington Ave. in 1904 to its current East Side location on 100th St., between Madison and 5th Avenues. The name of Hamilton continues on various buildings and neighborhoods of the City, making its most recent appearance on Broadway.

The Second Annual Founder’s Day Celebration

Mount Sinai Morningside, originally the St. Luke’s Hospital, celebrated the 174th anniversary of its founding on October 16th this year. The true founding date for the hospital is October 18th, the feast of St. Luke on the liturgical calendar. On that day in 1846, Rev. William A. Muhlenberg announced to his Church of the Holy Communion congregation his intention to found a hospital to ease the suffering of the sick poor of the city. It would be a “Hôtel Dieu” (hotel of God), that would treat its patients as guests, with care and compassion, as all the guests are ill. Founder’s Day honors that spirit of care and compassion as the staff continues to put patients first, keeping our values of empathy, optimism, safety, transparency, creativity, agility, and teamwork in the forefront.

This year’s celebration included posters and balloons decorating the lobby of the Main Hospital where volunteers and staff distributed delicious anniversary cookies, bearing the image of Rev. Muhlenberg himself, to staff. The cookies were provided through a gracious private donation. St. Luke’s Café offered a special 1850s-era meal of pot roast, mashed potatoes and green beans, courtesy of Café manager, Michael Shapiro.

A virtual program began with a message from Chaplin, Meredith Lisagor, who spoke about the founding values of the Hospital, which continue to be upheld by the staff today, followed by an encouraging message by President Arthur Gianelli, who also announced the upcoming 175th anniversary of the founding of the Hospital in 2021. Segments from the video, For the Common Good, relating the history of St. Luke’s Hospital through the late 1970s merger with Roosevelt Hospital were shown. Originally made to celebrate the 150th/125th anniversaries of the former St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospitals, the film features images of New York City in the early 20th century as well as many historical images of St. Luke’s Hospital from the Hospital’s archival collections. The complete version of this film is available for viewing on the Icahn School of Medicine YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtrMsIh4STI.

The main segment of the Zoomcast featured Dr. Erna Kojic, Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West speaking about, “Global Pandemics 1918 and 2020: What Have We Learned?” This enlightening talk compared and contrasted the Spanish Flu and Covid-19 pandemics, drawing the conclusion that there are many similarities to the two events, but the public response to them has not changed much despite the one hundred two years between them.

The event ended with a surprise when Dr. Carl Braun presented the Spirit of Compassion award to wife Dr. Norma Braun while on Zoom. The award honors those who brings commitment and compassion to their caregiving at Mount Sinai Morningside and exemplifies the MSM and MSHS Values. Congratulations and well-done, Dr. Norma Braun.

A Mount Sinai Employee Murdered! – in 1937

Some of you may have read the sad story about the murder of a woman in the Justice Story column of the Daily News on Sunday. It is about how Irma Pradier thought she was going to run off with her boyfriend to California, but instead she was found murdered the next day along the Harlem Speedway, today known as the Harlem River Drive. I was particularly interested in this because it noted that she had been a maid at The Mount Sinai Hospital, and had even lived at the Hospital. I also realized that she had been hired before 1937, which meant there was a good chance the Aufses Archives had some record about her in our one existing employee logbook, which dates from 1882-1937. This lists all persons hired to work at Mount Sinai, which would exclude the medical staff who were generally not paid anything, or worked under a contract model.

And I was right!

Below is a portion of the page from our logbook that includes Irma Pradier.  You can see from this she was hired February 13, 1934 and she lived ‘In,’ which would have meant the Employee Dormitory that faced 99th St., near Madison Ave. (across from today’s Atran and Berg buildings.)  She was hired to be a Maid in the OPD (Out-Patient Department) for $35/month. (She would have also received a free meal as part of her compensation.) When she resigned on July 19, 1937, she had advanced to $47/month. As the News‘ article says, her reason for leaving is listed as “Going to Calif.” And the rest is history, or at least, an article in the Sunday Daily News.

The Irma Pradier entry from The Mount Sinai Hospital Employee Logbook

*The book is organized chronologically under each letter of the alphabet. Every entry was done by hand by an employee of the Personnel Office. This was THE official employment history of each worker. The blue bottom edge is from a long ago ink spill that saturated the pages. Note the other reasons for leaving employment. Some are fascinating!

George Nicholas Papanicolau and the ‘Pap’ Smear

George Nicholas Papanicolaou was born in the seaport town of Kymi, on the Greek island of Euboea, on May 13, 1883. He entered medical school to please his father, Nicholas, who was a physician, and the mayor of their town. He graduated medical school in 1904. In 1906, after completing military service obligations, he joined the family practice, but was more inclined to scientific research.

[photo: George Nicholas Papanicolaou (1883–1962) (obtained by public domain at http://www.hmsny.org/en/archivesgallery/news-bulletins/hms-ny-news-April-2012.html). ]

In 1907, he moved to Germany to study zoology, earning a PhD in 1910. Afterwards, Papanicolaou worked as a physiologist. In 1913, he and his wife immigrated to New York. He worked in various odd jobs for a time until he was able to find part-time employment in the Department of Pathology and Bacteriology of the New York Hospital. A year later he moved to the Department of Anatomy at Cornell Medical School and worked as an assistant; his wife was hired there as his technician.

His assignments included studying sex determination in guinea pigs. Part of this testing required harvesting the animals’ eggs just before ovulation, a guessing game that usually meant killing many of them before finding an animal at the right stage to be useful to the study. Instead, Papanicolaou developed a method to chart a guinea pig’s menstrual cycle by using a nasal speculum to take vaginal swabs and preparing a smear slide, which, under a microscope displayed distinctive cytologic patterns that helped him predict ovarian status. Eventually he broaden this method to human subjects to study similar smears in women. (Some have speculated that his wife was his first subject in this study.) He was surprised to find malignant cells present in some of these smears, which led to further study. In 1928, he presented a paper on the smear procedure as a method to detect cervical cancer in women. Unfortunately, this report was not well received by the general field.

He began on a clinical study collaboration with Herbert F. Traut, MD, a gynecologic pathologist at Cornell, in 1939. During this study, Papanicolaou detected many asymptomatic cancer cases, some in such an early stage that they were undetectable on biopsy. Traut and Papanicolaou published a paper titled, “Diagnosis of uterine cancer by the vaginal smear,” in 1943, which was a step forward in accepting the ‘Pap smear’ a standard procedure for detecting and preventing cervical cancers.

Why am I telling you this? Dr. Papanicolaou served as consulting OB-GYN staff for St. Luke’s – Woman’s Hospital Division from the 1956 to the early 1960s.

Tennis at Mount Sinai and Beyond

This started out as a story about Althea Gibson, the first African American to win at Wimbledon, which she did on July 6, 1957. It was also about a summer sport, and being outside – two things people today find important and hopeful. But, as often happens in the Archives, those stories reminded us of other stories, which are, of course, about Mount Sinai.

In 1950, Harlem-born Althea Gibson made her U.S. Open debut at a time when tennis was largely segregated. On July 6, 1957, when she claimed the women’s singles tennis title, she became the first African American to win a championship at London’s All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, aka Wimbledon. (Arthur Ashe was the first African American to win the men’s singles crown at Wimbledon in 1975. Ashe later had quadruple bypass surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital in 1979.) The Associated Press named Althea Gibson Female Athlete of the Year in 1957 and 1958. During the 1950’s, Gibson won 56 singles and doubles titles, including 11 major titles. Gibson retired from tennis and later became a professional golfer. She was voted into the National Lawn Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 1971 and died in 2003.

The Mount Sinai Hospital tennis courts on 5th Ave and 99th St, behind 5 E. 98th St., where KP is today.

Tennis has a long, up-and-down history at Mount Sinai. The first tennis court was built at the Hospital in the late 1800’s, back when the Hospital was still located at Lexington Avenue and 67th St. Space was tight, so the court was built between buildings, and the only way to get to it was to climb through a window on one of the wards. (Fortunately, a gong would sound whenever an Attending arrived at the Hospital, so the players were warned to get back inside.) In 1904, Mount Sinai moved uptown to 100th St., and it took 20 years before tennis returned. The growing House Staff asked the Trustees to build tennis courts that they could use for exercise. The Trustees

A small pewter trophy belonging to Noreen McGuire, School of Nursing Class of 1932. The trophy was for winning the tennis tournament in 1929.

eventually agreed in June 1923 and two courts were built on the southeast corner of 99th St and 5th Ave. Mount Sinai had purchased the land for future expansion needs, but had recently completed major additions to the campus and had no immediate plans to build. The courts were used by the Mount Sinai Hospital School of Nursing for gym classes, and nurses and doctors could sign up to play when a court was free.

The Aufses Archives has a wonderful interview with Gus Burton from 1988. Mr. Burton joined Mount Sinai’s staff in 1948, first as an x-ray file clerk, and then later trained as a technician in the Dept. of Radiology. What initially attracted him to work at Mount Sinai was because there was a tennis court. Here is how he described it:

Burton: …Back in those days the buses that ran along Fifth Avenue were owned by a company called the Fifth Avenue Bus Company. They had double deckers. The top deck was so that you could ride the bus for a nickel. At the time I was a student at NYU and sometimes I would take the bus down because the classes were at Washington Square. It was almost like a bus tour going down Fifth Avenue, seeing all the different places, and I saw the Hospital. I wasn’t impressed with the hospital so much, but where Klingenstein is there used to be tennis courts. At that time I was an avid tennis player, and I could see these people playing tennis. I thought it was very, very interesting, because I had found that there weren’t many places to play tennis in New York and here these people were running around playing tennis. Eventually, one day I was coming back home and I got off the bus. It was approaching the end of the semester and I said I need to find some kind of work for the summer. It was raining pretty hard, so I ran under the canopy that they had by the [Guggenheim] Pavilion. So I said, let me just check in here and see what’s going on. In those days, they didn’t really have what you call a personnel office. I guess they called it an employment office. They had about one or two clerks and the person who ran it, a Mr. Kerr (?). I just walked in and asked them if they had any jobs available. Said Mr. Kerr, “we may have some available in the radiology department. We’ll refer you to the person there who is looking for somebody and see what happens.”

So I went over and I was interviewed by a Dr. Joan Lipsay. She was the second in command in the radiology department. She was just really impressed that I came along and, sure, we’ll take you and they hired me as an X-ray file clerk. So I have always said in the years since then, that I had enough sense to come in out of the rain.

Interviewer: Did you ever get to play tennis?

Burton: Well, I found out after I started working here that those tennis courts were for the professional staff, the doctors and the nurses, and they were the ones I had seen playing on them. It so happened that one of the radiologists on our staff was an avid tennis player, he used to play out there frequently so I was able to get with him and I did get a chance to play on those tennis courts.

Unfortunately for Mr. Burton, the tennis courts were closed later in 1948, when Mount Sinai began the process of building the Klingenstein Pavilion along 5th Ave. It would be 65 years before tennis came back to Mount Sinai, but this time it was in a much different form. In 2013, it was announced that The Mount Sinai Medical Center was now the official medical services provider for the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and the U.S. Open. In addition, Alexis C. Colvin, MD, from the Leni and Peter W. May Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, would serve as the USTA’s Chief Medical Officer. In 2020, this continues to be the case. Every now and then, a mini-tennis court is built in the Guggenheim Pavilion lobby to showcase the Hospital’s role with the USTA, and for a brief moment, tennis is played again at Mount Sinai.

The Legacy of a St. Luke’s School of Nursing Alumna

The trials of life can crush one’s spirit or force one to overcome and create something exceptional out of the rubble. Mary Breckinridge, a 1910 St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing alumna, is a fine example of later. Born into a Kentucky family of influence and means, Breckinridge was well educated and well-traveled. She was married in 1904 and widowed by 1906, at age 26. She then completed St. Luke’s nursing program and worked teaching French and hygiene in an Arkansas women’s college. In 1912, she married the president of that school and had two children with him, but her daughter was premature and did not survive; her son died suddenly two years later at age four.

Additional struggles broke the marriage beyond repair and she left her husband in 1918 and worked as a public health nurse while awaiting a posting with the American Red Cross in France. She arrived there after the armistice of WW I and helped to initiate a program to provide food and medical assistance for children, nursing mothers, and pregnant women. While in France, she also spent time in England, observing the conditions of children and mothers there, and became convinced that American women in rural areas would benefit from the help of trained midwives. Ad educational visit to Scotland demonstrated how to provide medical care to a dispersed population.

Returning to the United States, she relocated to Leslie County, Kentucky, which had the highest maternal mortality rate in the country. Here Breckinridge, pictured left, introduced nurse-midwives into the region with the founding of The Frontier Nursing Service in 1925, eventually bringing maternal and neonatal death rates down well below the national average. In 1929, The Frontier Nursing Service staff started the American Association of Nurse-Midwives, a precursor of the American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the first American school of midwifery in New York in 1932. Mary Breckinridge served as director of the FNS until her death on May 16, 1965.

A Project Comes to Life: Part Two

This is a continuation of a guest blog post by Colleen Stapleton. Colleen is a Patient Navigator with the Liver Education and Action Program (LEAP) at Mount Sinai, where she works to improve linkage to care for patients living with Hepatitis C. You can read the original post here.

Scanning

My first day scanning, the team and I addressed the technology involved in making our Mount Sinai News collection available online. I learned about the scanning specifications to best archive our newsletters digitally. These specifications included 300 dpi (dots per inch), “do not scale,” and others particular to our scanner.

I also learned how to navigate the interesting physical space of the IT office, where the scanner was placed in a small kitchenette. Since I was scanning during lunchtime, I saw a few lunches popped in and out of the microwave. I learned that I could go ahead and put the precious paper newsletters on a non-descript plastic yellow barrel drum object, but under no circumstances should papers be placed on the potentially wet nearby water cooler!

Starting with November of 1958, I began electronically piecing together our carefully preserved collection of Mount Sinai Hospital history.

Folding Paper

Gently unfolding each 60-odd year old newsprint was both a physical challenge and delight. I soon fell into the rhythm of scanning the first page, then the second, then switching to scanning the inserted third and fourth pages. Since the newsletters are not stapled, in total I would carefully reverse the seams of two folded pages, then finish up with the back section of the first folded page.

After a few sessions, I noticed that the newsletters were getting considerably longer – some included 12 pages! This 12-page spread would include a total of three seams, and so unfolding and folding would come to resemble the act of taking apart and putting back together a precious Russian doll.

Troubleshooting

My first day at the scanner I became aware that any file containing more than five pages could not be sent via email to our Archives team account. I made the decision at this time to scan four pages at a time, sending the files to the Archives account in pieces. I soon saw the stacks of newsletters flowing from the “un-scanned” to the “scanned” pile.

After each session I would return to my desk and make sure every issue was represented and the scan quality was good. The various parts of each issue were then virtually ‘stitched’ together. Though some months came and went without Mount Sinai Hospital News editions, each newsletter is marked chronologically with issue numbers.

The first Science News insert of the new Mount Sinai School of Medicine

One of my favorite developments in my scanning came with the advent of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Science News, an insert that was developed as the medical school was founded and produced more and more significant scientific discoveries. There was also the Mount Sinai Medical Center News title change in November-December 1969 to correspond with the newly built school of medicine. The history of Mount Sinai was expanding before my eyes and I had to ensure my metadata reflected these changes!

Moving Forward with Metadata

After scanning part I of the MSH News archive, the team met with the Aufses Archives’ Digital Archivist to clarify our strategy moving forward. We confirmed our goal of making the Adobe PDFs of the News pages available online, creating a digital index of all MSH News electronic files, as well as providing readers with a search function powered by Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to more easily search the newsletter files.

We identified questions to the tune of “How should we put the PDF files online?” and “how can we most easily create an index to the publication?” We ultimately decided to OCR the PDF documents with Adobe and then dump the words into a database program used by the Aufses Archives called DBTextworks. We started with a few pilot issue files and we identified any necessary metadata fields for our project.

So began an exciting new phase: cleaning and inputting metadata. Unfortunately, this was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to stay home, and we have not been able to continue the scanning. However, the work continues with the efforts of a fantastic new summer intern working remotely — soon all of the scanned issues will be described and searchable.

Stay tuned for more blog installments exploring this digitization project along with coverage of the many unique historical Sinai snapshots found in the MSH News!