Jennifer Bazar is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto and Waypoint Centre for Mental Health Care. Her research focuses on the history of psychiatric institutionalization.
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AHP is pleased to announce the launch of a rich new web resource: the Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais [the History Museum of Behavioral Neuroscience]. The site features a digital collection of scientific instruments connected to the history of neuroscience, particularly behavioral neuroscience, in Brazil. It likewise highlights several key researchers who contributed to the development of behavioral neuroscience in Brazil.
The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais will be of particular interest to those interested in scientific instrument collections and will make for a great online resource for both historians of psychology and their students alike. If your Portuguese is on the weak side, do not despair! You can use your browser settings to translate the pages to your language of choice (Google Chrome makes this particularly easy – see instructions here).
The Museu de História das Neurociências Comportamentais has plans to continue growing and contributions to the site are welcomed. To submit a photograph of an instrument, laboratory space, or researcher connected to the history of behavioral neuroscience in Brazil, contact firstname.lastname@example.org with a description of the person or object featured in the image, the name of the institution to which it is connected, and any references or links you would want included with the entry (You can download the contribution form here).
The April issue of History of the HumanSciences is now available online. Among a number of articles that will likely appeal to AHP readers, two in particular caught my eye for their historical treatments of contemporarily “hot” topics:
David Pilgrim of the University of Liverpool has jumped into the volatile DSM-5 debate. In “Historical resonances of the DSM-5 dispute: American exceptionalism or Eurocentrism?” he expands the boundaries of the oft-American focused discussion with an international scope on the history of psychiatric diagnoses.
In “Deprived of touch: How maternal and sensory deprivation theory converged in shaping early debates over autism,” Mical Raz of the Yale School of Medicine delves into the intertwined histories of autism and sensory deprivation experiments. As she summarizes: “This interplay between the two theories also informed new forms of intervention, including ‘rage reduction therapy’, which served as a precursor for controversial forms of therapy today termed as the ‘attachment therapies’.”
As the old adage goes, there is more than one way to share history. A new project that takes this idea to heart will be made available to the public next week. The Telegraph has reported that Edward Elgar’s “Music for Powick Asylum” will be available from Somm Recordings on March 3rd, 2014 (a book of the written music is already available).
Edward Elgar (1857–1934) was an English composer who, at the age of 22, was conductor of the attendants’ band at the Worcester and County Lunatic Asylum in Powick, England. In this role, he reportedly both coached his fellow musicians and wrote the music they played. As was commonly practiced during the period, the institution’s resident physician, James Sherlock, encouraged these musical performances as part of the Friday night dances that were held for patients.
The music written by Elgar for the Asylum band between 1879 and 1884 was forgotten until it was re-discovered by contemporary British conductor Barry Collett. First re-played for the closing of the institution in 1988, the collection has now been recorded by the Innovation Chamber Ensemble. In describing the music, The Telegraph quotes Collett as saying “Some are quirky, some are foot-tapping and some are full of grace. I love them all.”
Personally, one of the reasons I am so fascinated with this project is the auditory experience that it provides of the historical record. This recording brings to life the “sounds of the asylum” – or at least those that were heard on Friday nights. Dolly MacKinnon, of the University of Queensland, has written about the importance of the historical soundscape of asylums and the Elgar project provides an opportunity for contemporary listeners to glimpse into this auditory world. Needless to say, I have already ordered a copy of the album.
A project is underway to digitize the records of the Central State Hospital in Virginia. Led by King Davis, director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis at the University of Texas at Austin, the project includes some 800,000 documents which span the period between 1870 and 1970. The collection is extraordinarily unique both in terms of its size and its scope. Davis has described that: “This is the most complete set of records on African Americans and mental health in place in the world” (source: Alcalde).
The Central State Hospital – formerly the Central Lunatic Asylum for Colored Insane – was opened in 1870. It was the only institution designated for the treatment of African Americans to operate in the state prior to the passing of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Its story is one of only a small handful of “Colored Asylums”: while institutions for the insane would open in every state in the continental US during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the vast majority served a uniquely White demographic.
The impetus for the project was reportedly the deterioration of the Central State Hospital’s records. Although digitization provides a way to preserve this rare archival collection, researchers must face the challenge of maintaining the privacy of the individual patients. To address these concerns the team is developing new Steganoscription software that will recognize the personal information contained within the handwritten documents.
Unfortunately the status of the project has been reported as “at a standstill” due to funding problems. In the meantime, a prototype of the website design can be found here.
The announcement making its rounds on listservs describes the scope of the new journal:
The European Yearbook of the History of Psychology will be a peer-reviewed international journal devoted to the history of psychology, and especially to the interconnections between historiographic survey and problems of epistemology. The Journal will welcome contributions that offer precise reconstructions of specific moments, topics, and people in the history of psychology via the recovery and critical analysis of archival as well as published sources. Critical editions of relevant primary texts or archival sources will be welcome. Research papers should be preferably in English, while the critical edition of texts may also be in French, German, and Italian. The national traditions in Europe will be respected not only in their own right and in their interrelations, but also in their further connection to and confrontation with non-European research traditions. With this focus, the Journal aims at uncovering paths to aid the understanding of the common and of the specific roots of European scientific thought, and its building connections with non-European traditions.
With an eye on the interdisciplinary nature of cultural studies, the Journal will pay special attention to those common areas between psychological research and its adjacent disciplines, in particular the human and the life sciences (philosophy, sociology, anthropology, psychiatry, physiology, neurology, biology, zoology, etc.).
Aimed primarily at historians and philosophers of psychology, epistemologists, historians of philosophy, and historians of human sciences, the Journal will also be open to contributions from all areas of psychology that address a phenomenon or topic of interest in psychology from a historical perspective and/or with an epistemological approach.
Besides original essays, the Journal will encompass the following sections: Unpublished and archival material; Discussions (a space where authors can confront one another and discuss specific topics); Interviews; Book reviews and reading recommendations.