Monday, November 9, 2009

The MacKinney Collection of Medieval Medical Illustrations

Dr. Loren C. MacKinney [1891-1963] was a professor of medieval history who specialized in medieval medical history. He earned his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1925, and joined the UNC-Chapel Hill faculty in 1930. "Recognized internationally as an outstanding authority in the history of medicine, particularly for his studies of pre-Renaissance illuminated medical manuscripts, it has been said Dr. MacKinney has set medical history forward at least 150 years," observed The Bulletin of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in 1957.

MacKinney authored several books, including Early Medieval Medicine (1937), The Medieval World (1938), Bishop Fulbert and Education at the School of Chartres (1957), Medical Illustrations in Medieval Manuscripts (1965), and numerous articles on medical themes. A key part of his research was the photographic documentation of medieval medical illustrations that he studied during research trips to libraries and archives around the world. MacKinney predominantly used Ektachrome slide film, which is significantly more prone to deterioration than Kodachrome, and during his life MacKinney expressed concerns about the preservation of his unique collection.

Professor Michael McVaugh, a medievalist who joined the UNC History Department in 1964, was instrumental in the safekeeping and eventual digitization of MacKinney's collection. A master set of slides was transferred to the National Library of Medicine, and a duplicate set was maintained at UNC. In 2007, the slides at UNC--which number over 1000--were digitized and now form the MacKinney Collection of Medieval Medical Illustrations.

Further information about MacKinney himself and the processing of the collection is also available online. The collection is keyword searchable and can be browsed in its entirety. A finding aid for the collection is also available online, which describes MacKinney's archives of microfilm and photostats; subject files and research notes; and glass negatives.

Note: The image above is from the MacKinney Collection; it depicts a cesarian delivery and dates from the 14th century, with text in Arabic.

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