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Indiana Commission on Public Records

ICPR > State Archives > Collections > The History of the Regulation of Medical Practice in Indiana: 1850-1900 > Project Summary Project Summary

The Indiana State Archives has a rich and extensive collection of county and state government records relating to the regulation of medical practice and education in nineteenth-century Indiana. A cursory assessment of the Archives' medical records elucidates the historical importance of the collections: these records not only document the history of medical licensing in Indiana, but also chronicle the history of medical education in the state; the tensions between traditional healers and "irregulars" such as homeopaths and eclectics; and the practice of midwifery in Indiana.

While many of the Archives' patrons have shown interest in Hoosier physicians and the practice of medicine in Indiana, the Archives has little intellectual control over its medical regulation, education and licensing records, which are buried in several disparate collections, including the Archives' voluminous county collections and the State Board on Medical Registration and Examination files. No comprehensive finding aid exists to make these records more accessible, and many documents involving physicians in the Archives' county collections are in need of processing for access and preservation reasons.

Recent scholarship on the professionalization of medicine, such as Kenneth Starr's The Transformation of American Medicine, illustrates the importance of studying nineteenth-century medicine. As Starr, and other medical historians have noted, the nineteenth century marked a critical turning point in the history of American medicine. It was during this period that physicians began to view themselves as elite professionals requiring specific knowledge and experience. By making the Indiana State Archives' medical regulation records accessible, scholars will have an additional resource to strengthen this body of scholarship.

This project will produce the following tangible products:

  1. A finding aid to the Archives' nineteenth-century medical collections in both paper and electronic formats.
  2. A database that will index the names of physicians found in these records.
  3. A virtual exhibit on the Archives' Internet site, including an electronic version of the finding aid.
  4. A bibliography of monographs and serial publications relating to the history of nineteenth-century Indiana medicine.
  5. A guide to other collections concerning nineteenth-century Indiana medicine, including other Indiana libraries and historical societies.

Public outreach will promote the collection and educate Hoosiers about the history of medicine in Indiana. These promotional efforts will be in the form of the virtual exhibit on the World Wide Web, and by public presentations to various Hoosier historical organizations. The dates, times and locations of these presentations are to be announced.

The best measure of the project's success will be increased use of the Archives' collections. The finding aid and virtual exhibit should provide better access and make the collection more inviting. In the years to come, the Indiana State Archives will gather statistics documenting the use of these collections.

The history of medicine in Indiana is a vast topic, and extends far beyond the limited scope of this project. We hope that our efforts here will inspire more research into the medical heritage of Indiana.

This project is supported by the Indiana Heritage Research Grants program and is being sponsored by the Friends of the Indiana State Archives.