What to do with old medical photographs?
February 25, 2014 2:26 PM   Subscribe

My great-grandfather was a medical photographer for the US Navy. While cleaning out his attic, I found a large, weathered portfolio with a great many black and white photographs--some of them very boring (buildings, laboratories) some of them very shocking (medical experiments, deformed humans, both alive and-probably-dead). What should I do with them?

I don't think they have any important historical value. This was his "portfolio" of previous work. Most of the photographs seem to have been taken in the 1930's and 1940's. I'm not likely to keep these pictures, but I'd rather not throw them away. Nearby universities have no interest in them, as they are mostly unlabeled and gory. Any ideas? Could I sell these pictures or is that a legal issue? I'm not trying to make money off of them, but they are kind of amazing and bizarre and disturbing.
posted by anonymous to Media & Arts (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Wow! What a neat find! I was going to suggest that you scan the photos first, but since you don't really want them, what about contacting the Navy? Maybe they would want them for a museum? Or try the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. They have all sorts of medical oddities and might be interested.
posted by msbadcrumble at 2:35 PM on February 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

How many images are there? They may not be important but they sound interesting as hell. It shouldn't be too hard to find someone who'd be willing to scan and upload them somewhere.
posted by Venadium at 2:37 PM on February 25, 2014

The Naval Historical Foundation coordinates donations of materials including to the photo archives of the Naval History and Heritage Command.
posted by Jahaza at 2:45 PM on February 25, 2014

The National Museum of Health and Medicine is an organization within the military with vast holdings of this kind. I'd be surprised if they weren't interested.
posted by AwkwardPause at 2:47 PM on February 25, 2014

Scan them and start a Tumblr to share them with the world!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:23 PM on February 25, 2014

I'll take 'em.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:48 PM on February 25, 2014 [5 favorites]

The US Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) has its own history office that accepts materials. They should be asked first, before Naval History and Heritage Command, if you go that route. Please let me know if you would like contact details.
posted by jetlagaddict at 3:50 PM on February 25, 2014

: "I don't think they have any important historical value."

Maybe not much intrinsic value in and of themselves, but it's amazing how much unexpected historical value can be gleaned from compiling larger collections of photos. Case in point, the City of Philadelphia digitized and mapped its vast photography archives, which include a zillion "boring" surveying photos from various city utilities, streets repair, etc...which gets a lot more fascinating when you can view your street corner over the last 80 years.
posted by desuetude at 4:28 PM on February 25, 2014

I went to Case Western in Cleveland, and the med school has a Medical History Center that includes a museum. If they're not interested, I imagine there may be other similar medical museums.
posted by jhs at 6:14 PM on February 25, 2014

Contact Countway Library at Harvard University. They have an archives that may accept them.
posted by Jewel98 at 8:08 PM on February 25, 2014

Donate it to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia? It seems right up their alley.
posted by molasses at 5:10 AM on February 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

« Older Biking in Dallas in December: Is it feasible?   |   silver heirloom jewelry -er- thing... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.