NEW YORK NURSE: October/November 2008
by Joely Johnson
Anastasia Trehubenko Berdy wanted to know all she could about the history of nursing and patient care, and she pursued her passion through everyday objects.
From 1947, when she graduated from St. Luke’s Hospital School of Nursing, until the end of her life in 2003, Berdy was an avid collector of the many tools and devices commonly used in sick rooms, as well as those odd “instruments of quackery” usually less helpful to patients.
Her cache of items includes hundreds of invalid feeders, spoons, bedpans, and hot water bottles, as well as nursing uniforms, caps, medical bags, and hypodermic kits. Many of the things she gathered are beautifully handmade. Berdy also amassed a small library of books on nursing interests and a personal pile of memorabilia from her years at St. Luke’s, including her nursing cap.
Upon Berdy’s death, more than 4,000 individual items were donated to the Foundation of New York State Nurses and the Bellevue Alumnae Center for Nursing History in Guilderland, N.Y. It was her wish that the Foundation use the collection to support its mission to preserve nursing history and to provide public and professional education about nursing.
“This collection is of such scale that it could occupy an entire wing of a museum,” said Gertrude Hutchinson, archivist for the Foundation of New York State Nurses. Hutchinson will need to be able to accurately date and categorize unusual objects made of a variety of materials and originating from a number of countries. “It’s a time-consuming process and we’ll be reaching out to experts for help,” she said Hutchinson. If you have special knowledge in nursing history or antiques, the Foundation may be able to use your help. To volunteer your services, contact Hutchinson at (518) 456-7858, ext. 24.