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‘Virtue, Vice, and Contraband: A History of Contraception in America’

Posted Sep 16 2009 10:13pm

Some of you may remember Jim Edmonson’s talk here in Copenhagen three years ago about the plans for a new exhibition at the Dittrick Medical History Center and Museum, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio, on the history of contraception.

Jim/Dittrick eventually secured funding for it. So tomorrow the new exhibit — ‘Virtue, Vice, and Contraband: A History of Contraception in America’ — opens, at last. Examining 200 years of the history of contraception in the US, it depicts the social and cultural climate that influenced birth control decisions.

The major strength of the exhibition is  the vast collection of contraception devices, like the cervical caps above and many others, donated to Case in 2005 by Percy Skuy. Over the course of forty years, Mr. Skuy had amassed the world’s largest collections of such devices.

Judged from the pics I’ve seen, the exhibit design seems pretty traditional. But that is more than compensated for by the richness of the material and the historical and political importance of displaying such artefacts. Hopefully, Case will not become nervous if the anti-abortionist religious right begins to make noises. It would be absurd, but so much in US university politics today is absurd, like Yale University Press’ recent decision to censor a book about the Danish Muhammed drawings.

By the way, here are some devices for vaginal douching (courtesy Jim Edmonson and Laura Travis):

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