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H MS c30

Salpêtrière (Hospital). Records, 1859-1942 (inclusive), 1900-1919 (bulk): Finding Aid.

Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

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Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)

© President and Fellows of Harvard College


Processing of the Salpêtrière Hospital records was supported in part by donations to the Center for the History of Medicine's Discovery Fund. Preservation rehousing of the collection was funded by the Mellon Foundation through the Weissman Preservation Center with additional support from the Boston Medical Library.

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: H MS c30
Repository: Center for the History of Medicine (Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine)
Title: Salpêtrière Hospital records,
Date(s): 1859-1942 (inclusive),
Date(s): 1900-1919 (bulk).
Quantity: 1 collection (152.50 cubic feet (316 negative storage boxes, 68 letter size document boxes, 7 legal size document boxes, and 19 records center cartons).)
Language of materials: Collection materials are predominantly in French, with some German and English.
Abstract: Consists of approximately 16,800 glass plate negatives, original negative enclosures, photographic indices, and a small number of prints produced by the Photographic Service of the Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris, France between 1880 and 1942, the bulk of which date between 1900 and 1919, as well as one legal document box (.5 cubic feet) of notes, lectures, case histories, and pen drawings created by Salpêtrière Hospital staff between 1859 and 1893. Records concern patients with physical and mental diseases, as well as the research of J. M. (Jean Martin) Charcot (1825-1893) and other physicians. Negatives and related prints were created for the purpose of patient care, the study of disease, and medical instruction. They depict whole body images of patients and heath care workers, partial body images illustrating specific medical conditions and tissue and lesions discovered during autopsy, and wards and hospital buildings.

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

Records were retrieved from a Salpêtrière Hospital building formerly housing the laboratory and offices of J. M. (Jean-Martin) Charcot on the occasion of its demolition in 1972 and gifted to the Francis A.Countway Library of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.

Processing Information:

Processed by Emily R. Novak Gustainis, with photographic indices and annotated negative enclosures transcribed and translated by Hanna Clutterbuck concurrent with the Weissman Preservation Center's initiative to survey, analyze, and rehouse the collection (2009-2010). Transcribed and translated content has been compiled in a project-specific Microsoft Access database; documentation related to transcription practices employed for this project are available in the Center's control file for the collection. All collection records, including negatives, photographic prints, and original plate sleeves, were rehoused in acid free enclosures and reboxed. Excluding broken plates, negatives are in the order in which they were received; no attempt has been made to rearrange the plates chronologically, by patient, or by medical condition. Sample boxes of unexposed photographic plates were retained in their original packaging. Glass plates in boxes 384-389 were separated from the rest of the negatives because they are broken.

Conditions Governing Access:

Records in Series I (Subseries B) and II (Subseries B, C, and D) contain personal information about individuals. Researchers must apply for access to restricted records, including use of the project database, in this collection. Contact Public Services for further information.
Use of the Salpêtrière Hospital records is by appointment only. Researchers are advised to contact Public Services for scheduling and access information.

Conditions Governing Use:

The Harvard Medical Library does not hold copyright on all the materials in the collection. Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to Public Services. Researchers who obtain permission to publish from Public Services are responsible for identifying and contacting the persons or organizations that hold copyright.

Preferred Citation:

Salpêtrière Hospital records, 1859-1942 (inclusive), 1900-1919 (bulk). H MS c30. Harvard Medical Library, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine, Boston, Mass.

Related Records

Historical Notes

The Salpêtrière Hospital, Paris, France was built in 1603 as an arsenal and converted by 1656 into an almshouse for elderly indigent women. During the eighteenth century, the hospital developed facilities for the care of the infirm and insane; its reputation for psychiatric care furthered by Phillippe Pinel (1745-1826), Jean Étienne Dominique Esquirol (1772-1840), and Jules Gabriel François Baillarger (1809-1890). In 1862, J. M. (Jean-Martin) Charcot (1825-1893) and Edmé Félix Alfred Vulpian (1826-1887) became the hospital's chief physicians. At this time there were about 5,000 residents, divided into two sections: one housing elderly indigent women, patients with incurable cancers, and the blind, and the other (numbering over 3,000) housing mentally disabled, mentally ill, and epileptic patients. Charcot's work with the second population proved pivotal in the development of both modern neurology and psychology. He established laboratories and a section on clinical psychology, directed by Pierre Janet (1859-1947), and he published case studies on hysteria and a wide variety of neurological disorders, namely: Iconographie Photographique de la Salpêtrière (1877-1880) and Nouvelle Iconographie de la Salpêtrière (1888-1918). Photographs for these publications were produced by the photographic service established at the hospital by Charcot in 1878 for the purpose of patient care, the study of disease, and medical instruction.

Additional Resources

Series and Subseries in the Collection

Scope and Content

The Salpêtrière Hospital records have been organized into three series: I. Textual Records, 1859-1942, undated; II. Negatives, Photographic Prints, and Enclosures, 1882-1942; and III. Photographic Ephemera, undated. Series I (1.5 cubic feet) conists of notes, lectures, case histories, and pen drawings created by Salpêtrière staff between 1859 and 1893, many authored by J. M. (Jean-Martin) Charcot, who entered into the Salpêtrière's service in 1856 and served as chair for the study of nervous disorders from 1882 until his death. Records concern patients with physical and mental diseases, as well as the research of Charcot and other physicians. Series I also includes nine indices created and maintained by the photographic service of the Salpêtrière Hospital. Series II (147 cubic feet), which comprises the bulk of the collection, contains approximately 16,800 glass plate negatives, original negative enclosures, photographic indices, and a small number of prints produced by the photographic service of the Salpêtrière Hospital between 1880 and 1942, the bulk of which date between 1900 and 1919. Negatives depict whole body images of patients and heath care workers, partial body images illustrating specific medical conditions and tissue and lesions discovered during autopsy, and wards and hospital buildings. The majority of the plates are five inches by seven inches, but approximately 1,500 are roughly eight inches by ten inches and 1,600 are several sizes smaller. A group of these smaller-sized plates were used to produce stereopticon cards. Series III (4 cubic feet) consists of a selection of unexposed plates in a variety of sizes that have been retained in their original packaging, as well as a representative box illustrating how negatives were stored prior to preservation rehousing.
Records are predominantly in French, with some German and English.

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