Collection Finding Aid

Robert L. Blake Papers

Collection Number: MC.0048

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Duke Medical Center Archives in Durham, N.C. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in our reading room, and not digitally available through the World Wide Web. See the FAQ section for more information.


Collection Overview expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Estimated Extent: 9.00 linear feet
Abstract: Contains the professional papers of Robert L. Blake, Coordinator of the Department of Medical Illustration in the Duke University School of Medicine. Types of materials include sketches, caricatures, and drawings of medical anatomy, Duke University Medical Center people and facilities, clippings, certificates, photographs, slides, and reprints. Major subjects include Duke University School of Medicine, Civilian Public Service Unit No. 61, conscientious objectors during World War II, and medical illustration. Materials range in date from 1943 to 1988.
Creator: Blake, Robert L.
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Information for Users expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Access Restrictions
No restrictions.
Usage Restrictions
Copyright for Official University records is held by Duke University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Preferred Citation
[Identification of item], Robert L. Blake Papers, Duke University Medical Center Archives.
Sensitive Materials Statement
Collections may contain Medical Center Administrative records. These include records of the officers of the University, as defined in the Bylaws, the deans of schools and colleges, and departments, institutes, and other offices as designated by the President. For a period of twenty-five years from the origin of the material, permission in writing from the director of the office of record and the Medical Center Archivist is required for use. After twenty-five years, records that have been processed may be consulted with the permission of the Medical Center Archivist.
Collection may contain Records of the Board of Trustees of the Duke University Medical Center. These include minutes and supporting documentation of the Board, its Executive Committee, and standing and ad hoc committees, and reports, studies, and the like presented solely to the Board. Records which have been existence for at least fifty years are available for scholarly research with the permission of the Medical Center Archivist. Access to records which have been in existence for less than fifty years shall be granted only by special permission, in writing, of the Medical Center Board of Trustees.
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Subject Headings expand/collapseExpand/collapse

The following terms from Library of Congress Subject Headings and Medical Subject Headings suggest topics, persons, geography, etc. interspersed through the entire collection; the terms do not usually represent discrete and easily identifiable portions of the collectionsuch as folders or items.

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Related Collections expand/collapseExpand/collapse

    Sam A. Agnello Papers.: Duke University Medical Center Archives.
    Elon H. Clark Papers.: Duke University Medical Center Archives.
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Biographical Information expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Robert L. Blake was raised in Pennsylvania and was known in his high school as the quasi-official class artist. One of his early jobs, during the 1930s, was as a fashion photographer in the clothing firm of Kraft and Phillips of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Blake photographed, but also began drawing more seriously while working near the firm's fashion artists. In 1942, Blake arrived at Duke University as part of an alternative service program for conscientious objectors, Civilian Public Service Unit #61. At Duke University, Blake was one of many attendants in the hospital operating rooms. It was in the rooms that Blake noticed Elon Clark, then director of the Department of Medical Art and Illustration and coordinator of the Medical Art Facility. After three months in the operating room, Blake moved to Elon Clark's studio to continue drawing, this time paying more attention to anatomy than style. Together with Elon Clark, Blake helped to create a laboratory for the pioneering work of making facial prostheses. The prostheses were used for accident victims, cancer patients, or people with congenital defects. Blake was interested in creating items that were not perfect, but which perfectly complemented the body of the person receiving the prostheses. Instead of a plastic model, Blake learned make a plaster case of a real nose on a real person to preserve the texture of the pores and natural appearance of the skin. In 1949, Blake became part of the Duke faculty, and finally Coordinator of Medical Art (around 1971) and Acting Director of Audiovisual Education, following Elon Clark's retirement. In addition to creating simple teaching drawings and pigments for dying scars, Blake illustrated covers for University publications, created posters and signs for campus events, and lettered citations and certificates for various departments and schools. Blake was responsible for lettering the scrolls presented to the members of the Half-Century Club (Duke Alumni who graduated more than 50 years ago), a job that increased markedly each year. Bob Blake also prepared a Poison Control Center exhibit which was shown around the world during the 1960s. He used his three children as the models for pictures of children venturing into dangerous medicine cabinets or broom closets. In his personal time, Blake continued to paint using watercolors. He showed his own paintings in various areas of the Medical Center, mostly scenes from rural and coastal North Carolina. His work was exhibited annually at the Morehead Planetarium in Chapel Hill, N.C., for more than 20 years. Blake retired in 1983 having illustrated approximately 500 scientific articles for medical journals, drawings for over 50 textbooks. In 1988, he stated that he continued to turn out about 75 watercolor paintings per year. As of 2003, the Department of Medical Illustration is known as the Department of Medical Art, part of Educational Media Services, within the Duke University School of Medicine. Audiovisual Education, continued by Sam Agnello, also became part of Educational Media Services. Robert Blake was married to Hildur Blake, a nurse at Duke University. Together they had three children.

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Scope and Content expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Anatomical and Medical Illustrations, ca. 1956-1979; Building Illustrations, ca. 1948-1970; Designs and Lettering, ca. 1953-1960; Clippings and Commercially Published Works, 1959-1981; Photographs, ca. 1944-1966, n.d.; Oversized Anatomical and Medical Illustrations, ca. 1948-1976; Oversized Illustrations of People and Hospital Scenes, ca. 1950-1981; Other Oversized Illustrations and Comics; Oversized Illustrations of Buildings, ca. 1948-1952; Civilian Public Service Unit #61, Illustrations and Photographs, 1943-1944, 1988; Photographic Negatives of Photographs and Illustrations.

3 document cases; 1 oversize box; 1 flat file

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Collection Contents

Series Quick Links expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Series: Anatomical and Medical Illustrations, 1956-1980expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Scope and Contents note
Posters contains in Box 1 have been disassembled for preservation purposes. Both posters were originally mounted on posterboard. Captions of items have been transcribed onto item labels, when applicable. Several items listed within this series have been moved to the flat map cabinet, drawer 2.
Box 1
Heart-Lung Circulation, undated
7 of 200 drawings for McGraw Hill and Dr. Montgomery's "Head and Neck Anatomy" atlas, undated
2 plates of 50 prepared for Dr. Wadsworth's Atlas of Ophthalmic Surgery, undated
Brain section, pencil, undated
Lower leg, pencil, 1965
Eye, colored pencil, (1), 1956
Eye, colored pencil, (2), 1956
Eye, pencil, (1), undated
Eye, pencil (2), undated
Eye, pencil (3), undated
MAP-CASE FF1-2
Eye, pencil, 1969
Eye, pencil, 1972
Eye, pencil, 1979
Eyelid, pencil, no date, undated
Heart, pencil (1), undated
Heart, pencil (2), undated
Heart, pencil, 1974
Heart, Prolapse of non-coronary aortic cusp with aortic insufficiency, pencil, 1979
Heart, aneurysm, pencil, 1979
Heart, pencil, 1979
Breast, pencil (1), undated
Breast, pencil (2), undated
Breast (artery and vein detail), undated
Liver and kidneys (with George Lynch), undated
Sacrum and rectum, undated
Rectum and rectourethralis M., undated
Urinary tract, color glossy, undated
Urology (for Dr. Dees), pencil, 3 items, undated
Unidentified [suture, kidney?], pencil, no date, undated
Unidentified [heart?], undated
Unidentified, pencil, 1980
Untitled poster: photographs of sketches of eye, foot/ankle, esophagus, heart, upper leg dissection, 1965-1968
Poster: Growth of a Surgical Halftone, no date, undated

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Series: Building Illustrations, 1948-1970expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 1
Duke University, West Campus, 1962
F.G. Hall laboratory, undated
Perkins Library, 1948
Clock tower, 1948
Woman's College Auditorium, 1948
Unidentified west campus building, 3 views, 1968-1970

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Series: Designs and Lettering, 1953-1970expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 1
News Bulletin lettering, 1953
Davison Club, certificate, 1969-1970
Davison Club, charter members plaque, 1970
Poison Control Center, exhibit, 1960

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Series: Clippings and Commercially Published Works, 1959-1981expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 1
General clippings, 1959-1981
Science, 1976
Archives of Internal Medicine, 1972
Dermatology Clinic, 1978
Pamphlets, brochures, and cards, undated

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Series: Photographs, 1944-1966expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 1
Robert Blake, undated
Personal, 1944, 1945, 1966

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Series: Oversized Anatomical and Medical Illustrations, 1948-1976expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 2
Aneurysm bypass, pencil and watercolor, 1976
Maxillary artery surgery, pen and ink/watercolor, folder 1, undated
Maxillary artery surgery, pen and ink/watercolor, folder 2, undated
Maxillary artery surgery, pen and ink/watercolor, folder 3, undated
Maxillary artery surgery, pen and ink/watercolor, folder 4, undated
Maxillary artery surgery, pen and ink/watercolor, folder 5, undated
Maxillary artery surgery, pen and ink/watercolor, folder 6, undated
Maxillary artery surgery, pen and ink/watercolor, folder 7, undated
Larynx, pen and ink/pencil, 1948
Toe and nail, 1972
MAP-CASE FF1-2
Liver and kidneys, by Blake and George Lynch, undated

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Series: Oversized Illustrations of People and Hospital Scenes, 1950-1981expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 2
Nurses, undated
Maternity scene with mother and child, undated
Maternity ward with infants, undated
Parents and newborn leaving hospital, undated
Woman's Auxiliary of Duke Hospital, undated
Pediatric patient getting a shot, undated
Nurse checking on a patient laying in bed, undated
A Day at Duke Hospital, undated
Surgery using ultraviolet light, undated
Surgery preparation, undated
X-ray equipment, microscope, and breathing machine in use, undated
Chest x-ray area, undated
Hospital functions composite, undated
Chief Residents, Ob-Gyn, pen and ink, undated
Box 2
Chief Residents, Ob-Gyn, pen and ink, 1974-1975
Chief Residents, Ob-Gyn, pen and ink, 1975-1976
Chief Residents, Ob-Gyn, pen and ink, 1976-1977
Chief Residents, Ob-Gyn, pen and ink, 1977-1978
Chief Residents, Ob-Gyn, pen and ink, 1978-1979
Chief Residents, Ob-Gyn, pen and ink, 1979-1980
Chief Residents, Ob-Gyn, pen and ink, 1980-1981

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Series: Other Oversized Illustrations and Comics, undatedexpand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 2
Comic, Bob Blake after Serre [anatomical man picking up skin suit no. 1374], pencil, undated
Comic, Medical artist, Bell Building, and Hospital, 1977
Medical students in lecture, pen and ink, 1960
Book jacket label, From the Library of Hildur and Bob Blake, undated
Duke Poison Control Center exhibit, layout for 5 panels, 1955

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Series: Oversized Illustrations of Buildings, 1940-1952expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 2
Duke Chapel, 1944
Chapel, 1948-1949
Entrance to the Duke University School of Medicine (Davison Building), undated
Hospital entrance, 1940s
Duke University Medical Center, 1952
Unnamed hospital department, undated

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Series: Civilian Public Service Unit #61, Illustrations and Photographs, 1943-1944, 1988expand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 3
Service, 1943-1944
Photographs, 1943-1944
Reunion program, 1988
Reunion photographs, 1988
Slides of CPS workers in typical work scenes, with accompanying descriptions, 1944

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Series: Photographic Negatives of Photographs and Illustrations, undatedexpand/collapseExpand/collapse

Box 4
Female pelvis, pen and ink, undated
Male pelvis, pen and ink, undated
Duke Hospital, 1950
CPS workers, folder 1, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 2, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 3, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 4, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 5, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 6, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 7, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 8, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 9, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 10, 1943-1944
CPS workers, folder 11, 1943-1944
Two people and old car [west campus?], undated
Robert L. Blake, frontal view, undated
Robert L. Blake, profile (1), undated
Robert L. Blake, profile (2), undated

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Series: Accession A2007.008, undatedexpand/collapseExpand/collapse

Oversized Illustrations of People, undated
Oversized Illustrations of Buildings, undated

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