Friday, May 25, 2007

Special Collections and Historical Collections: Renewed appreciation for rare materials / They’ll All be rare books one day

Building a digital library is not just about leasing online access to content from publishers. In many medical libraries it’s also about discovering, and in some cases rediscovering, and then exposing our long-held assets (and in some cases acquiring someone else’s long-held assets). These assets generally reside in out Special Collections and Archives. This was the topic at MLA at the History of the Health Sciences Section (HHSS) entitled “They’ll all be rare books one day: collection development in Special Collections.” But there was more than just book talk.

John Schleicher from the McGoogan Library of Medicine, University of Nebraska described their treasured artifacts as “anything smaller than a bread box”. After not having any staff to manage the rare book collections for 10 years, John has been brought in and had the task of rediscovering Nebraska’s McGoogan Library treasures. They include works from the pre-IRB era like Edward Jenner’s famous work on small pox vaccination, artwork, and other classics such as Ketham's " Fasciculus medicinae" and Michael Scot's " Liber phisionomie", both published in 1495. For more details, see

Dr. Cheryl Rae Dee, Assistant Professor, School of Library and Information Science, Universit of South Florida-Tampa shared her experience in bringing the personal papers of NLM’s Martin M. Cummings to life. Many fishing trips later, the papers are being digitized and described for future scholars.

Michael Flannery, Associate Director, Historical Collections, Lister Hill Library of the Health Sciences, University of Alabama-Birmingham took us on a quick tour of the “keepers” and “throwaways” of pharmacy-related materials or material medica. For more details on the significance of early works that eventually became the USP Pharmacopoeia, the USD and National Formulary, see his paper in BMLA.

Diane McKenzie, Collection Development Librarian, Health Sciences Library, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill revitalized UNC’s Special Collections when she accepted a gift of foreign medical theses from the New York Academy of Medicine, measuring 3,500 linear feet. As a result of this acquisition, the library has new partners and champions for their historical collections.

Posted for Heidi Heilemann

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