Serendipity is always a welcome feeling when working with archival materials, although it highlights the enormity of information available and the reality that one can never know everything they have.

Take this example that happened to me this week.

The photograph below is of a house on Washington Ave that was used as the University Hospital prior to the opening of Elliot Memorial Hospital in 1911. This is the only known photograph of the building in the archives. The photograph was taken shortly before the building was demolished in 1929.


The second item is a photograph scrapbook created by Mercedes Grace Berrisford, a 1910 graduate of the College of Science, Literature, and the Arts.


Little is known about Ms. Berrisford. She was married to Paul Berrisford, a 1912 graduate of the Medical School, and is believed to be the photographer of the pictures taken in the scrapbook. The first part of the scrapbook has pictures taken in 1910 around the time of her graduation. They are mostly campus scenes with occasional self-portraits. While looking through the photos I discovered this picture of the then still open University Hospital at 303 Washington Ave. The sign is still hanging over the entrance.


It is difficult to know whether anyone else had ever come across this photograph and recognized it as the house on Washington Ave. It is also difficult to imagine a world where all of these millions of pages of material might one day be so interconnected that serendipity will no longer play a part. Until then, enjoy the feeling.

3 Comments on "Serendipity"

  1. Jenny Meslow | August 19, 2011 at 7:57 am |

    We are fortunate to have you attending to the preservation of our history, Erik! Kudos to you for your meticulous work in ensuring that generations to come will have valuable records of the history of our great institution.

  2. Sarah Potter | August 19, 2011 at 9:20 am |

    I had no idea a house was used as the hospital before Elliot Memorial opened, that is fascinating! It’s too bad there aren’t more pictures but wonderful you’ve found this one. I would love to see photos of the inside and/or hear stories of this hospital.

  3. Mary Koppel | August 20, 2011 at 3:02 pm |

    This is an excellent serendipitous story, Erik! And how fascinating to think of the difference in how care was delivered in this house on Washington Ave., versus today’s UMMC – with its advances in what we know about how to improve outcomes for patients…yet the compassion was probably pretty similar.

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