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Edinboro University associate professor, her collaborators win article award


An article by Lenore Barbian, Ph.D., associate professor of anthropology at Edinboro University, and two collaborators received the 2013 best article award from  Archivists and Librarians in the History of the Health Sciences (ALHHS).


 “Remains of War: Walt Whitman, Civil War Soldiers, and the Legacy of Medical Collections,” co-authored by Barbian; Paul Sledzik, M.S.; and Jeffrey S. Reznick, Ph.D., appeared in the January 2012 issue of Museum History Journal.


Through their past work at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, the authors located the anatomical remains of four Civil War soldiers who were among the hundreds of wounded cared for by poet Walt Whitman as a volunteer in the war-era hospitals of Washington, D.C. Their award-winning journal article links the physical remains in the museum’s collections with Whitman’s descriptions of his experiences with the men.

The article is an outgrowth of a museum exhibit created by Barbian and Reznick that was part of the NMHM’s permanent exhibit on Civil War medicine, “To Bind Up the Nation’s Wounds.” Reznick, now chief of the History of Medicine Division at the National Library of Medicine, is the former Senior Curator at the National Museum of Health and Medicine, where Barbian and Sledzik served as curators of the Anatomical Collections. The museum was created during the Civil War as the U.S. Army Medical Museum.


“To me, at its core, ‘Remains of War’ is about the re-contextualization of human remains – as medical data (specimens of morbid anatomy), museum specimens, memento mori, and as testimonies to the costs of war,” Barbian said.


Barbian, a physical anthropologist with a specialty in skeletal biology, has studied human remains from prehistoric, historic, and forensic contexts.  She was part of the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team (DMORT) that was deployed to Somerset, Pa., after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to identify the victims of Flight 93.


Prior to coming to Edinboro, Barbian worked at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City as the physical anthropologist for its Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) compliance activities, then joined the National Museum of Health and Medicine in Washington, D.C., where she worked for 10 years.


Her research interests include forensic anthropology, mortuary behavior, and museology, especially the history of human remains collections.