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From the Cataloger’s Desk: Methodist Hospital Patient Accommodations

July 10, 2018

I recently returned to work after surgery, a brief hospital stay and many weeks’ worth of recovery. When I resumed cataloging duties at the end of June, I came across a brochure given to patients staying at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis during the late 1940s. Coincidence? Perhaps. Regardless, it offers a fascinating glimpse into patient care and hospital amenities from days gone by. It also allows me to reflect upon my own experience and make some interesting comparisons.

This brochure is one of three held by the IHS library. All are identical, except for the patient name, room number and rate typed on the front cover. Inside, there is a welcome note from the hospital’s superintendent followed by rules for visitors, visiting hours, registration and dismissal guidelines, and descriptions of hospital facilities. Images of the hospital lounge, pharmacy, gift shop, library, barber shop and beauty shop accompany the text, and there is a wonderful photograph of the building on the back cover. The Lighthouse of Health Beacon is clearly visible, and for Indianapolis residents, it remains a familiar sight today.

There are two tidbits that stood out to me as I cataloged this item. First, as a librarian, I enjoyed reading about the White Cross Library. As the brochure states, “The Librarian will come to the patient’s room by request. The convalescent (by permission of the floor nurse) is welcome to make use of the attractive reading rooms in connection, without cost to the patient. Visitors are invited to enjoy the quiet comfort of the Library.” At a time when televisions weren’t available in hospital rooms, I’m sure reading books and magazines provided much-needed distraction and entertainment.

Second, as I was comparing the three brochures in our collection and reviewing the existing catalog record, I noticed the accompanying material in the second copy. There is a small receipt for supper dated Oct. 10, 1948, which includes the patient’s last name and room number followed by a detailed list of food and drink items ordered. Meals were included in the daily room rate, which for this particular patient was $9.50. Unfortunately for me, hospital room rates have increased quite a bit over the past 70 years!

If you’re like me and enjoy comparing the past with the present, please visit the IHS Library and take a look! The catalog record for this item can be found here.

Lindsay Borman is the cataloger of Printed Collections at the Indiana Historical Society. Her claim to fame: She can name all of the U.S. presidents ... in order!

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