On the specifics of the Cobb Collection: New Role

Over Fall Break (2018), I traveled up to Washington D.C. to visit the Cobb Collection in person. I had made arrangements with Dr. Fatimah Jackson, the director of the Cobb collection at Howard University, to visit the off-site location where the remains were located.

Over the summer I had identified my sample of skeletal remains I intended to use for my research. Prior to my arrival over the summer break, the remains had been damaged in a flood and were undergoing a cleaning and preservation process. Over Fall break, I was notified that the remains were available to analysis.

The initial part of my visit to view the Cobb Collection was to check for Pott’s disease, which is tuberculosis of the spine. On doing background research for my trip, I knew that it was an extremely rare phenomena to occur but the conditions which were recorded as critical markers were present in the Cobb Collection records and tuberculosis research. For example, many of the people with Pott’s disease were male and the disease was usually contracted during childhood, which would have been an expected condition for many of the African Americans in D.C.

When I arrived at the off-site facility, I was able to locate all of my selected samples and was able to analyze five full sets of remains – focusing on the vertebrae and the ribs. But due to time restriction I was unable to view more and came to the decision that incorporating this specific skeletal data was not feasible due to time required to travel up to D.C. and to get to the site. Also, the physical “reward” of finding something is extremely implausible and I figured that my time would be better devoted to other efforts relating to my project.

While I am not using the Cobb Collection in direct way – i.e. using physical skeletal data as part of my research – it is still a foundational element for my project. I am using as a lens to gain insight to the African American experience of health and race. I am also using it to provide a general periodization to help me refine and limit my scope of the paper and the phenomena of tuberculosis.