Medical Minutes Survive the Years with Digitization

Last October, in recognition of American Archives Month, Crowley Imaging collaborated with the Delaware Historical Society (DHS) to digitize “Minutes of the Medical Society of Delaware from May 12, 1789 to December 15, 1847.” Now 227 years old, this medical book was donated to DHS in 1888 by Dr. John P. Wales, a Delaware doctor who, according to DHS Chief Curator Dr. Constance Cooper, “practiced medicine in the Wilmington area for 60 years.” The son of a Senator, he was also a civic leader and served as mayor of Wilmington from 1882 to 1885.

As part of the digitization project, DHS shared the 300 dpi color uncompressed TIFF images with the Medical Society of Delaware (MSD), which had a keen interest in the minutes.

Historical digitization
A sample page from “Minutes of the Medical Society of Delaware from May 12, 1789 to December 15, 1847.”

The 9″ x 14″ bound book contains 58 years of corporate minutes. More than two centuries old, the pages and book binding are extremely fragile. Crowley Imaging specialist Victoria Gottlieb worked carefully to avoid additional wear and tear on the material. “We paid close attention to the integrity of the spine, especially during page turning,” said senior project manager Andrew Fertig. “An adjustable book cradle was used, which is a special feature of our Zeutschel book scanners.* The combination of a book cradle which offers give to the spine and the very light pressure of an overhead glass plate to gently flatten the delicate pages helped to ensure clean and clear images.”

MSD Executive Director Mark Meister first discovered the tome when he visited DHS to ask about documents related to the history of the state’s medical society. Inside the book, says Meister, “the nature of the agenda items and discussion of our organization in colonial times [were] most fascinating” He goes on to note that the minutes give the MSD a greater understanding to the beginnings of their organization, which was founded in 1789 just after the American Revolution. It is one of the oldest such organizations in the nation. According to Dr. Cooper, “By founding the Delaware Medical Society, Delaware’s doctors joined together to be an organized profession rather than isolated individual practitioners…they were part of the energy of getting the United States going as a nation after the turmoil of the war and post-war period.”

Today, the DHS maintains both the original book and the digitized images and hopes to one day make the electronic version available online for public access. Using the shared images, the MSD enlisted the help of a local book binding company to re-create the book for their own archives. For both societies, the Minutes book is important, preserving state and medical history in a useable format that can be appreciated by historians, professionals and – hopefully soon – the general public.

*Zeutschel book scanners are utilized in Crowley’s scanning bureau and also sold by the company’s hardware division

This was a pro bono project. If you have a small project to be considered for American Archives Month 2016, please contact [email protected].

Questions about digitizing for preservation?

If you have any questions about preserving historic records through digitization, please contact The Crowley Company by calling (240) 215-0224. General inquiries can be emailed to [email protected]. You can also follow The Crowley Company on FacebookTwitterGoogle+LinkedInPinterest, and YouTube.

Erin McGuire, The Crowley Company’s marketing intern, is a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Md. She is a proud enthusiast of the color pink and enjoys listening to country music, writing and being outside in the sunshine.


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