Medical Innovators of the 19th C.: Culture in Transit's second digitized collection now available on Digital Culture

by Caroline Catchpole, Culture In Transit Mobile Digitization Specialist


A new collection from New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) has been added to Digital Culture of Metropolitan New York (DCMNY). The new collection, scanned as part of METRO's Culture in Transit project, features 19th century carte-de-visites from some of the brightest medical minds of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

NYAM_CV_Darwin_1r.jpgThe collection is made up of 223 carte-de-visites, or small photographs mounted on card that became popular the second part of the 19th century. Individuals would sit for their portrait and then send the cards to family members, friends, and associates. Photographs of well-known people became popular as souvenirs as well.

The men and women represented in NYAM's collection are physicians and scientists, both American and European. Many were leading figures in their respective fields. These carte-de-visites are a fascinating representation of some of the nineteenth century’s greatest medical minds, at a time when the field of medicine was undergoing rapid transformations.

NYAM's collection truly offers a step back in time to a period in history defined by innovation, discovery, and enterprise. The collection is particularly relevant at the moment, too, as the hit historical medical drama The Knick hits screens for season two. Set in New York City at the turn of the twentieth century, the drama gives context to the conditions and situations many of those represented in the carte-de-visite collection would have been working in.

The collection adds another interesting layer of history to DCMNY and serves as an excellent source for exploring subjects from Victorian portraiture -- those in front of the camera as well as nineteenth century photographers and photographic studios. This collection of photos were taken by some of the most talented and famous photographers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.