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Magazine On-line [fall 2007]
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Smithsonian curator impressed with Transylvania's collections

Judy ChelnickWorking at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., Judy Chelnick had heard about Transylvania’s collections of historic scientific and medical apparatus from her colleagues. So when an invitation arrived to attend Transy’s August symposium on medical history, she decided to take advantage of the opportunity to see the collections for herself. It’s a decision she’s glad she made.

“I got to examine a lot of the collections up close, and that was really thrilling,” said Chelnick, associate curator in the Division of Medicine and Science at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Chelnick’s specialty is surgical and dental instruments from the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. Transylvania physics professor Jamie Day, curator of the University’s Moosnick Medical and Science Museum, made sure she got a hands-on experience with Transylvania’s collection of instruments used by faculty and students in the medical school.

“The instruments that Transylvania has are very nice and very important, but the documentation you have makes them special,” Chelnick said. “To have an invoice showing the items that were purchased for the students to use and learn by is unusual and fabulous.

“As a historian, to see an object that helped make history is very, very exciting. I see a lot of things at the Smithsonian, and every once in a while I come across something that’s startling. And you’ve got some of that here at Transylvania.”

Chelnick arrived for the symposium a day early and stayed over the next day to have a personalized look at the collections, including items in storage. In between, she attended the symposium and was impressed with what she learned.

“Transylvania is an institution I’ve always been aware of, and I learned a tremendous amount about the history of the area in a very short time,” she said. “Transylvania’s medical history is a great story, and the University should be very proud of it.”

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