Summer Centered: Anita Zhu ’22 and Kate Scully ’22 Research Mental Health History
The history and psychology majors are Scattergood Behavioral Health Reading and Writing Interns in Quaker and Special Collections this summer.
Anita Zhu ’22 and Kate Scully ’22 are exploring connections between Quakerism, mental health, and race through documents and records on Friends Hospital, a Quaker mental institution that has operated in Pennsylvania since 1817. These records are a part of Quaker and Special Collections that the two Scattergood Behavioral Health Reading and Writing Interns are working with this summer.
Zhu has researched Friends Hospital’s negotiation of race and slavery in the pre-Civil War era as compared to other asylums during that time.
“My favorite part of this project is connecting the dots between the archival research and secondary-source materials,” said Zhu. “I found certain patterns when reading certain secondary-source books and articles about American mental asylums in the early 1800s. When looking at the archives for Friends Hospital, I discovered things that were consistent with what I found in those secondary sources.”
In addition to doing research with the archive, the interns have been working to make information from the collection available to the public in an engaging and accessible way.
“One of the things I’m working on right now is collaborating with another intern to choose items for a small exhibit on the use of electrical machines for mental illness at Friends Hospital,” said Scully. “Once we’ve chosen our items and documents, we’ll write short labels for them explaining what they are and their connections to each other as well as the history of psychiatry more broadly.”
Scully and Zhu bring different perspectives to the project. As a history major and health studies minor, Scully had worked with archives and learned about the history of medicine, psychiatry, and gender and sexuality. This summer was an opportunity to deepen that historical knowledge and learn how to communicate historical and archival information to the public. Among the historical information in the archive, Scully learned that malaria was used as a treatment for syphilis!
“My research has a lot to do with the history of medical racism in the U.S., which could potentially relate to future thesis work,” she said. “I am hoping to use what I have learned in some capacity in the future to frame my work in the field of psychology.”
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ campus-supported summer work.