Images, Expectations, and Experience
Documenting American Medicine, 1930 - 1960
In this section of "American Medicines Golden Age?" we present you with a variety of primary sources that document Americans expectations of and encounters with health care in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. As you examine the images, statistical data, and narrative accounts provided here, we ask you to interpret them and determine what they tell you about Americans image and experience of medicine at mid-century.
Two central questions should guide your thinking as you work through Image, Expectations, and Experience:
This section will give you information that you can use to begin answering these questions, but it will also challenge you to think about how historians can use sources to understand the past.
For instance, what can a photograph tell viewers six decades later about the health experience of the people pictured, or the importance and representativeness of the subject depicted?
How can statistical data, which presents the aggregate experience of a population, be used to understand an individuals record of health and illness?
How can historians determine what fiction and advice literature tell us about the actual ideas, experiences, and events of the past? Should such evidence carry the same weight as first-hand narratives of past events?
Finally, how much do historians need to know about the creators and gatherers
of these sourcesvisual images, statistical data, prescriptive literature,
and narrativesto determine what they tell about the past?
Structure & Strategy
Image, Expectations, and Experience has three parts.
Part 1, Interpreting Evidence of the Past, introduces you to a typical historical sourcein this case, a photographfrom this period. This interactive demonstration of how to "read" a source will prepare you to analyze such sources later in the unit and will help you begin answering the broader questions about American medicines "Golden Age" that we have posed.
In Part 2, Exhibit, you will encounter texts, narratives, images, and statistics that together document Americans image, expectations, and experience of medicine at mid-century. At the end of this subsection, you will respond on-line to short questions about these source materials.
In the final part, Part 3, Essay, we provide a set of source materials relating to Americans' experience of medicine at mid-century. You will write a short essay (to be submitted to your instructor off-line) that analyzes these documents, images, and data and uses them to support a more substantial argument about American medicines "golden age."
BEFORE YOU BEGIN:
To move through the site, click the buttons at the bottom of each page.
The Up button takes you up a level in the site, and the Back and Next
buttons allow you to move backward and forward through the pages that
comprise this section of the site. You can also move around within Image,
Expectations, and Experience by following the links in the column on the
left of your screen, which map the overall structure of this section.
Please feel free to return to these opening pages at any time to review
the main questions for this section; in fact, you will want to print out
a copy and keep it on hand to guide your thinking as you work.
We suggest that you allot about three hours to work through Image,
Expectations, and Experience, approximately one hour per part. Of
course, preparing your responses to the questions at the end of Parts
1, 2, and 3 will take additional time beyond that. When you begin writing
your responses to these questions, we suggest that you print out copies
of the photos and documents you plan to discuss; this way you will have
them on hand and be able to work on your assignments even if technical
difficulties prevent you from accessing the materials on-line.
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