Information Technology Projects Course

Professor Arthur Goldberg
Computer Science Department
Spring 2005
Project Proposal

New York Academy of Medicine


As their web site states,

"Founded in 1847, The New York Academy of Medicine (NYAM) is dedicated to enhancing the health of the public through research, education, policy analysis and advocacy, with a particular focus on disadvantaged urban populations. ...
The Academy maintains one of the world's largest privately owned medical libraries, which contains over 800,000 volumes, 1,000 current journal subscriptions, and more than 50,000 rare and important books, manuscripts, archives and artifacts dating back to 1700 BC."

Proposal: Produce a Business Plan and Grant Proposal(s) for a Web Site for the Edwin Smith Papyrus

The Edwin Smith Papyrus is one of the oldest medical texts in the world. It was written by an Egyptian surgeon about 1600 BC, but is believed

Edwin Smith Papyrus Plate V and VI

Edwin Smith Papyrus Plate V and VI, Photograph © 2004 The Metropolitan Museum of Art

to be a copy of a much older text, perhaps as old as 3000 BC. It describes 48 cases that an army or 'emergency room' surgeon might encounter. Each case is presented in a logical--and strikingly modern--manner: title, examination, diagnosis and treatment. The cases address the following injuries:

Edwin Smith was an American Egyptologist. In 1862 in Luxor Egypt, Smith bought the surgical papyrus from a dealer named Mustapha Aga. After Smith died, his daughter, Leonora Smith, gave the papyrus to The New York Historical Society. In 1920, James Henry Breasted, founder of the Oriental Institute of Chicago, was asked to translate the papyrus. Finally, in 1930, Dr. Breasted published the English translation for The New York Historical Society. The papyrus was sent to the Brooklyn Museum in 1938. Ten years later, the Museum purchased most of the Egyptian artifacts from the Society. At that time, however, the directors of the Society and of the Museum decided that the papyrus really belonged at The New York Academy of Medicine. The papyrus has been part of NYAM's collection since 1948.

The Papyrus will be exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from Sept. 12, 2005, to Jan. 15, 2006. NYAM wishes to build an exciting web site to accompany the exhibit. We anticipate that the site's audience will include several groups, including, in decreasing order of importance

We want to build a site that will

  1. Be available to anyone on the Web,

  2. intensely engage our audiences,

  3. accurately present the papyrus and its place in surgical and Egyptian history, and

  4. contrast the papyrus' techniques with modern methods.

There are many ways to meet these goals. Currently, we have a few initial ideas about the site's content. One involves a multi-layered translation and interpretation of the papyrus. Another would be an enactment of an Egyptian emergency room, following the guidelines in the papyrus. This might have some game aspects.

This project's goals are to

  1. brainstorm more deeply about the site's content (probably in collaboration with Prof. Perlin's graphics students),

  2. estimate the effort levels for various implementations,

  3. strategize about sources of funding for the site,

  4. help NYAM pursue funding, by selecting and evaluating possible funders, and writing grant proposals or following other avenues

In addition to the managers listed below, we're working with several highly skilled people:

Intern Address

The New York Academy of Medicine, 1216 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street (accessed by the 103rd st. stop on the 6 line).

Authorizing manager

Maxine L. Rockoff, Ph.D., Director, Division of Information Management, New York Academy of Medicine, (212) 822-7373,

Project manager

Christian Warren, Ph.D., Academy Historian, in charge of their Historical Collections, cwarren@NYAM.ORG, 212-822-7314

Meeting hours

Outside regular business hours is fine.

Resources that will be made available to students

An opportunity to look at the papyrus; access to the people listed above, and to people with grant writing expertise; high resolution photographs of the papyrus, etc.