by Hannah Towbin, Student, Medical Humanities, Rice University
I had the great opportunity to listen to recordings by Hilde Bruch and Harry Stack Sullivan as part of my Medical Humanities Practicum at Rice University. I had next to no experience dealing with the archival process, but I was interested in the ways in which archivists set out to select what is worthy or archiving, how to organize what is archived, and how to disseminate the information to the public. Though my studies are focused more towards science and medicine, I have acknowledged and appreciated the importance of history and being aware of past events and persons. Thanks to my phenomenal mentor, Phil Montgomery, I was able to interact closely with the materials I studied and garner new appreciation for the work of archivists.
One of my very first assignments under the guidance of Phil Montgomery was to listen and describe recordings from Hilde Bruch and Harry Stack Sullivan, two renowned psychiatrists during the early 20th century. My job was to listen to the recordings, describe the contents of the recordings, and process them by listing important features of the recordings, such as the date, the medium on which they were recorded, the language, keywords, and other important elements. Upon my first run-through of the recordings, I realized that a working knowledge of who these psychiatrists were and what they were passionate about would make the descriptions easier to elucidate. As such, I spent a good deal of time researching both Hilde Bruch and Harry Stack Sullivan, reading about their areas of interest, finding out about their backgrounds and motivations, and even reading through some of their written works. With those elements of their persons in mind, I was able to appreciate what each had to say in their respective recordings much more than I would have without that research.
Harry Stack Sullivan was an influential American psychiatrist in the early 20th Century. He developed the foundations of interpersonal psychoanalysis in which the basis of psychiatric treatment should connect an individual’s personality to the larger context of interpersonal relationships within their life. Hilde Bruch was a German-born American psychiatrist who studied under Sullivan among other leaders in social psychiatry and expanded research into eating disorders.
The Hilde Bruch, MD papers at the McGovern Historical Center contain correspondence, research, published works, and patient records. Perhaps, most interesting, the collection contains wire recordings of Harry Stack Sullivan talking to Hilde Bruch about child anxiety, social behaviors, interpersonal experience and the “self system,” and personality. During his lifetime, Sullivan did not publish many books, so these recordings are very unique, providing lectures on his studies in his own words. Other recordings feature more personal content, like Hilde Bruch dictating letters to various colleagues and family, or what might be Sullivan and Bruch discussing different people as well as directions to certain locations and scheduling for future meetings.
The entire collection of Hilde Bruch, MD papers is searchable to the folder-level on our collection, https://archives.library.tmc.edu/ms-007
Materials related to Harry Stack Sullivan including wire recordings: https://archives.library.tmc.edu/ms007-s10