VIRTUE, VICE, AND CONTRABAND: THE HISTORY OF CONTRACEPTION IN AMERICA
James M. Edmonson - Curator, Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum
Friday October 16, 2009
Crawford Hall - Room 9
Case Western Reserve University
One of the more surprising resources on our campus sits, with little fanfare, in the Allen Medical Library building at the corner of Adelbert Road and Euclid Avenue. There, within the collections of the Dittrick Medical History Museum, is the Percy Skuy collection of contraception devices. The collection demonstrates that, for about as long as anyone can tell, humans have thought pregnancy might be something they would want to control. But social and political attitudes towards that quest have varied over time.
On September 17, the Dittrick Museum opened a new exhibit which focuses on the history of contraception in America. It is in part a story of the search for answers in a state of relative ignorance (the ovulation cycle was not fully understood until the 1930s) and in part a story of the difference between what can be said in private and in public. It is in part a story of the creation and then weakening of political restrictions, but also a story of social norms. It is partly a story about contraception, but also a story of issues linked to contraception, such as ideas about women’s place in society and about general levels of morality.
Join us for a discussion with Dr. Edmonson about the exhibit and the issue.
As usual, we will gather in Room 9 of the Inamori International Center for Ethics and Excellence, on the lower level of Crawford Hall, for free cookies, beverages, and brown bag lunch.
About Our Guest
James Edmonson is the Curator of the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum and supervises directed studies in the history of medicine and technology. The Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum provides the opportunity to work with a remarkably rich collection of rare medical books, archives, and medical objects. The artifacts range in period and scope from ancient surgical instruments to contemporary medical technologies. Students and their teachers at CWRU enjoy free access to this wonderful resource. James Edmonson has written about surgical instruments and their makers in American Surgical Instruments: An Illustrated History of Their Manufacture and a Directory of Makers to 1900 (1997), medicine and technology in A Companion to American Technology (2005), and his most recent work appears in Dissection: Photographs of a Rite of Passage in American Medicine, 1880-1930 (2009), co-authored with John Harley Warner (Yale).
James Edmonson's past and ongoing research projects include a cultural analysis of nineteenth century medical furniture, a study of American patents for medical and surgical devices, and continuing work on the history of endoscopy. Recent major acquisitions at the Dittrick that will be driving the focus of the museums time and energies include the Percy Skuy Collection on the History of Contraception, acquired in 2004 and installed in dedicated permanent gallery in 2009, and the M. Donald Blaufox Collection of Historic Diagnostic Instruments, received in 2009 and the subject of its own gallery in 2010. James Edmonson has served on the Council of the American Association for the History of Medicine (2006-10), UMAC (University Museums and Collections) of ICOM (International Council of Museums), and he is the American liaison and secretary general of the European Association of Museums of the History of Medical Sciences. Professor Edmonson is also a consultant to medical museums and collections including the Warren Anatomical Museum of Harvard University and the New York Academy of Medicine and he served on the grant review panels of the National Library of Medicine and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Lastly and most recently, James Edmonson a Fellow of the Institute for the Science of Origins at Case, which is a collaborative team of faculty members and researchers from diverse scientific disciplines seeking to understand how complex systems emerge and evolve, from the universe to the mind, from microbes to humanity.
Friday Lunch Upcoming Topics and Speakers:
October 23: Reforming Cuyahoga County Government. Speakers TBA
October 30: The University’s “Internationalization” Initiative. With David Fleshler, Associate Provost for International Affairs
November 6: An Update on the H1N1 Flu, With Amy Ray, Medical Director, System Infection Control Committee, Case Western Reserve University Medical Center
November 13: What Should the Common Reading for New Students Do? With Mano Singham, Director, University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education and Mayo Bulloch, Director, Educational Enhancement Programs at Case Western Reserve University
November 20: Chesapeake Bay and the Need for Dark Green Environmentalism. With Howard R. Ernst, Associate Professor of Political Science, U.S. Naval Academy
November 27: Thanksgiving Break
December 4: What the Health Care Reform Legislation Will Do, or Why Health Care Reform Failed, or Health Care Reform: What Next? or All of the Above. With Joe White, Professor of Political Science
The Friday Lunch discussions are held on the lower (ground) level of Crawford Hall. Visitors with mobility issues may find it easiest to take advantage of special arrangements we have made. On most Fridays, a few parking spaces in the V.I.P. lot in between Crawford Hall and Amasa Stone Chapel are held for participants in the lunch discussion.
Visitors then can avoid walking up the hill to the first floor of Crawford by entering the building on the ground level, through the garage area under the building. The further door on the left in that garage will be left unlocked during the period before the Friday lunch. On occasion, parking will be unavailable because of other university events.
For more information about these and other Center for Policy Studies programs, please see http://policy.case.edu.