Dittrick Medical History Center

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Jennifer Kane Nieves, MA.

Archivist and Museum Registrar

With a fresh masters in museums studies/archival administration from Wright State University, I joined the staff of the Dittrick Museum in 1989, bringing with me little knowledge of medical history and plenty of curiosity. I was not disappointed. The medical history collections at the Dittrick, including rare books, artifacts and archives, are known to be the most extensive and comprehensive in the United States. While assisting visiting researchers from around the world, I enjoy their amazement at the gems they find. The staff at the Dittrick has always believed that accessibility is the key. Why have things, if you hide them? As early as the mid-1980s, the Dittrick was venturing into the world of online cataloging by including museum artifact catalog records on the national library database, OCLC (now WorldCat). As registrar, I developed standard descriptions of medical instruments and co-wrote a cataloging manual for the benefit of other medical museums. This also brought about opportunities to serve as consultant to several museums interested in online cataloging. Cataloging the Dittrick’s collections continues using software now designed especially for museums, providing links on the Dittrick website enabling web visitors to search the collections.

 

Being surrounded by marvelous collections for the past 28 years has afforded me the opportunity to curate exhibits on topics such as the history of corsetry, 19th century dress reform and medical illustration. Currently, my interest lies in the history of the Lakeside Unit, a Cleveland based medical unit mobilized as the US entered World War I.  Using materials in the Dittrick Museum, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals collections related to the Lakeside Unit, such as personal diaries, photographs and glass lantern slides, I’ve designed and installed three large exhibits about the Unit’s service in the World War from 1915-1918.

 

I am an active member of the Medical Museums Association and served as Secretary/Treasurer, a member of the Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences (Local Arrangements Committee Chair (2009), Member at Large 2010-2012), the Cleveland Archival Roundtable, the Ohio Academy of Medical History (Membership Coordinator and Secretary/Treasurer) and the Society of Ohio Archivists.

Page last modified: December 7, 2017