The Archives and Rare Books division serves as the historical repository for the Washington University School of Medicine and its affiliated hospitals at the Washington University Medical Center.
The archival collections document the history of the School of Medicine, its faculty and students, as well as the institutional histories of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital.
The division also maintains a collection of rare medical texts devoted to scholarship and teaching featuring over 23,000 volumes illuminating the history of medicine, with particular collection strengths in ophthalmology, neurology, anatomy, otolaryngology, dentistry, and obstetrics.
In addition to serving students, scholars, and researchers through its collections, the division hosts a variety of outreach events to foster interest in the history of medicine, including monthly open houses, quarterly exhibitions, and a lecture series.
COLLECTING THE HISTORY OF MEDICINE
The division acquired an exceptional new collection of rare medical texts, generously donated by Patricia Croughan. The collection was assembled by her late husband, Jack Croughan, MD, a former chief resident and assistant professor in the School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry.
It is an outstanding addition to the library’s existing holdings. The collection focuses primarily on the history of psychiatry and includes more than five hundred monographs dating from the 1500s to the 20th century.
FACILITATING DISCOVERY OF ARCHIVAL MATERIALS
In December 2019, Becker Library released a new Becker Archives Database to help users explore and discover the archival collections, including a growing collection of over 18,000 digital images. Migrating to the Access to Memory (AtoM) platform was a massive undertaking that required extensive effort from multiple staff members for more than a year.
Major improvements include:
- Integrating digital images into the main archival records.
- Conforming to international archival description standards, thus allowing users to fine-tune search results.
- Making database records discoverable via Google search, including 18,000+ digital images.
The new database was made possible through the generosity of Dr. Paul Anderson, a former archivist at Washington University School of Medicine.
BRINGING HISTORY OF MEDICINE TO YOUR MODERN CONTEXT
The 2019-20 “Historia Medica” lecture series featured four well-attended presentations. Lecturers included Anita Guerrini of Oregon State University, Christina Ramos and Elisabeth Brander of Washington University, and local St. Louis author Candace O’Connor.
The division also continued to open its doors on the first Friday afternoon of each month for themed exhibitions of items from the archives and rare book collections, and host the popular Annual Display of Rare Anatomical Texts in December.
MAKING THE COLLECTIONS ACCESSIBLE TO SCHOLARS
The Fall 2019 Becker Library Travel Scholarship went to Gina Surita, a doctoral student in the history of science program at Princeton University. She spent five days in October researching the Carl Cori and Gerty Cori archival collections in preparation for her dissertation, “The Currency of the Cell: Energy, Metabolism, and Life in Twentieth-Century Biochemistry.”
IMPROVING DIGITAL ASSET STORAGE
To provide more robust and cost-effective storage of the library’s digital content, the division worked with the library’s technology team to migrate all of Becker Library’s digital archives to the university’s new Research Infrastructure Services (RIS) platform. Key improvements include vastly increased storage space, low cost and secure access, which will all help the library preserve the university’s ever-growing digital assets of enduring historical value.
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