Nitty Gritty

I spoke about what I'm doing at my internship in general terms before, but I wanted to go into it with some specific examples.

Lately, I've been going through a lot of medical supplies.  Three or four donations were made that consisted entirely of equipment, medications, etc. and fortunately just about everything in them was numbered.  Unfortunately:

  1. One donation doesn't have a list of items, just a gift agreement form that says, "1988.26.1-80: mostly medical equipment".
  2. One donation has some items labeled on the gift agreement, but with stretches of objects marked "unidentified medical tool".
  3. There are many boxes that are just full of stuff and took quite a while to go through.  On Tuesday I managed to get through roughly two shelves, when my usual rate is a whole shelving unit.
I documented my process with one of the more tightly packed boxes to give you an idea of what I'm dealing with.

  The box after I unpacked a small section of it.

Everything that was in that section.  There's a lot!

I took everything out and began cataloguing and putting the larger items in first - the boxes and that bottle of asafetida in a clear case.  The little box had assorted glass ampules*, but the others contained what was written on the label.

All of the loose bottles, some boxes, and some narrow pill tubes.

And here it is, all packed up!  My goal isn't exactly to make it look neater, but to try to get everything into such a position that the objects (especially the small glass ones) won't shift and possibly be crushed.  When you have little 1cc ampules and heavy brass trephines right next to each other, that's an important consideration.

* Ampules (or ampuls, or ampoules) are sealed containers, in this case, of medication.  Medicine ampules tend to be single dosages in glass capsules; most of these came in boxes with little files, so that the narrow neck could be safely broken and the medicine syringed up.

Here's another set:

There's a thin space on the left that could be filled in with a bit of archival paper, but because the boxes and tins fit together well there really isn't that much movement.


  1. Love going through boxes of stuff like this. I'd love your job! It'd be fascinating!

    1. It is really great. I love getting to see everything and investigate all the boxes! And I'm almost done with the small objects, which means I'm another step closer to clothing.


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