Health Magazine

An Archival Scavenger Hunt

By Chp

contributed by CCHP student assistant Wesley Martin with an introduction by CCHP reference archivist Lizette R. Barton


I’m excited to have Wesley working here in the archives as our newest student assistant. One of my favorite things about him? He’s never taken a psychology class. Not one. I think this will make his work here at the CCHP even more fun. He’s going to learn about reference work and all things archives AND the history of psychology. Woohoo!


Hello readers! My name is Wesley Martin, and I am a new reference student assistant here at CCHP. As a senior studying anthropology, I felt it was only fitting to enroll in UA’s Museums and Archives Studies Certificate, which is taught at the Cummings Center. It was not long before I realized I want to dive further into learning about archives work—which is exactly why I am here!

My first assignment on the job was to go on a scavenger hunt in the archives. The objective was for me to figure out how our collections are organized so that I am better equipped to find things during my time here. I caught on pretty quickly. Right away, I figured out what letters belong to book/periodical call numbers–and I learned how easy it is to skip past what you are looking for if you do not look carefully! Looking for Calkins’ An Introduction to Psychology was hard: I quickly realized books are housed in the reading room and in the basement (I later learned that there are often copies in both). Another item had me stumped. I decided to search the archives for a Soviet war songbook I found in the online repository. I could not figure out why I could not find it in the basement or in the reading room only to learn there is additional storage in the postcard room on the fourth floor!

There was a lot of content I very much enjoyed looking through. One asylum report I found, “Annual Report of the State Lunatic Hospital at Harrisburg, PA” from 1886 made me realize just how much medicine has changed in the last 137 years. I was particularly surprised at the tables reporting the supposed “causes” for illness which included innocent activities like masturbation, “novel reading,” exposure to the sun, and excessive studying. Even more surprising was the level that was unknown with 933 cases assigned no known cause. It really emphasized how much was still not understood about our mental health.

An Archival Scavenger HuntAsylum Reports, Box 62 (RC445 .P4 H31)

My search also brought me to a book recalling interviews with English sociologist Herbert Spencer, including some in which he reflects on his feelings about America. Spencer is famous for his theory of Social Darwinism and for having coined the term “survival of the fittest.” Despite having strongly opposed public relief systems, like those that gave assistance to the poor and unhoused, his interviews demonstrate a strong view of Americans’ dwindling freedom. He argued that America has to get worse before it gets better. Criticizing the illusion of freedom using voting ballots as an example, he said, “but his hand is guided by a power behind, which leaves him scarcely any choice.” Although I don’t necessarily agree with his worldview, I was intrigued by his criticisms.

An Archival Scavenger HuntHerbert Spencer on the Americans and the Americans on Herbert Spencer : being a full report of his interview, and of the proceedings of the farewell banquet of Nov. 11, 1882 – E168 .S746 1883

One last cool item I found is the “Children’s Apperception Test (Human Figures).” This was developed by Leopold and Sonya Sorel Bellak as an analysis of children’s’ mental states. It worked by having a child respond to pictures and then analyzing their responses by using a score-based guide to what certain responses meant. For example, when measuring a child’s level of “isolation,” the child would be given a score of 1 (detached attitude) if they responded with something like, “that couldn’t happen. It’s a cartoon.”

An Archival Scavenger HuntCummings Center Tests, Cabinet 2, Folder title: Children’s Apperception Test

I have found pleasure in walking through the stacks on special missions, and I am excited to do more of it.

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