Two-year initiative headquartered at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). 

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) announced the 2018 awards in its Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives program. One of the seventeen funded projects, organized by the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries (PACSCL) is “For the Health of the New Nation: Philadelphia as the Center of American Medical Education, 1746-1868.”

“We are delighted that CLIR is making it possible for Philadelphia institutions to showcase the rich medical heritage of our region, particularly as it related to medical education,” said board chair Ronald Brashear (Science History Institute). By engaging all the leading repositories, the project will provide the most comprehensive view of the history of medical education in Philadelphia. “This project fits within PACSCL’s mission to help its members to collect, care for, and share with the broadest possible audience a nationally and internationally significant set of collections. We are grateful to CLIR for supporting this work.”

Project partners for this initiative are The College of Physicians of Philadelphia; The Legacy Center, Drexel University College of Medicine; University of Pennsylvania Libraries; Pennsylvania Hospital Historic Collections; The Library Company of Philadelphia; American Philosophical Society; Thomas Jefferson University Archives and Special Collections, and PACSCL. The College of Physicians serves as the fiscal agent, with librarian Beth Lander serving as principal investigator. Kelsey Duinkerken, Jefferson, is the co-principal investigator.

Explained Lander, “Philadelphia is a city of ‘firsts’ in the history of American medicine. Through these ‘firsts,’ the history of Philadelphia medicine is synonymous with the history of American medicine.” The selected time period (1746-1868) documents the development of American medicine from its roots in European traditions to what became a uniquely American system of education.

The initiative will digitize, describe, and provide access to 140,000 pages of lecture tickets, course schedules, theses, dissertations, student notes, faculty lectures notes, commencement addresses, opening addresses, and matriculation records, sharing not only the voices of the medical greats, but also the often unheard voices of students. “Because of physicians’ flow between institutions across the city, this project will allow physically siloed material to be viewed and analyzed in one place for the first time,” noted Duinkerken.

University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Ms. Coll. 225, item 14. No copyright. Manuscript notebook kept by Robert Maxwell, a student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. This particular volume contains Maxwell’s notes on lectures delivered by Benjamin Rush during 1807 and 1808. The front of the volume, pictured here, contains a sketch by Maxwell depicting Rush’s views on the nature of fever.

University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Ms. Coll. 225, item 14. No copyright.
Manuscript notebook kept by Robert Maxwell, a student at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. This particular volume contains Maxwell’s notes on lectures delivered by Benjamin Rush during 1807 and 1808. The front of the volume, pictured here, contains a sketch by Maxwell depicting Rush’s views on the nature of fever.

“Here at Penn we’ll be scanning over 800 handwritten medical dissertations done at the medical school before 1828 as well as more than three dozen manuscript student notebooks recording classes with Benjamin Rush and other university medical faculty,” adds Mitch Fraas, Curator of Special Collections at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ Kislak Center for Special Collections, Manuscripts and Rare Books. The Penn Libraries’ Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image will conduct the imaging for some partners, as well as for its own collections.

The primary sources in the project document the evolving pedagogy of medicine, from its basis in institutional and independent lectures, through tentative standardization of medical curricula in the mid-19th century. This collection will also allow researchers to read beyond dominant structures in the history of medicine, moving beyond the often hagiographic sources available on medical pioneers such as Benjamin Rush, Benjamin S. Barton, Samuel D. Gross, Thomas D. Mütter, Joseph Pancoast, and Edward Squibb.

“Researchers will be able to tell stories across communities of gender and race, and through topics such as pharmaceuticals and American botany (including homeopathy), pedagogical methods, and the evolution of medical treatment,” says Margaret Graham, Managing Archivist at the Drexel University College of Medicine Legacy Center, whose records include those of the first degree-granting women’s medical college and the first homeopathic medical school. “For the Health of the New Nation…” will be a new ‘first,’ providing access to a deep corpus of content that will support research against the grain, and across the humanities.

Digitized materials and metadata will be freely available via the participants’ own websites and also via the Internet Archive and/or the Digital Public Library of America.

View documents currently uploaded to the Internet Archive here:
(Check back regularly for updates)

The Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) is an independent, nonprofit organization that forges strategies to enhance research, teaching, and learning environments in collaboration with libraries, cultural institutions, and communities of high learning. To learn more, visit and follow CLIR on Facebook and Twitter.

“In Her Own Right” is one of two projects funded by CLIR in this round that involve PACSCL member libraries. The Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. For the full list of awards, see

View of Wolfgram Memorial Library at night

View of Wolfgram Memorial Library at night

The PACSCL Board of Directors recently accepted the membership application of the Wolfgram Memorial Library of Widener University, welcoming the organization as its fortieth member.

“The Philadelphia area enjoys the intellectual and economic contributions of a robust higher-education sector, and the records held at Widener University’s library will add an important new dimension to the history of education in our region,” said Ronald Brashear, chair of the PACSCL board.

“Widener University’s Wolfgram Memorial Library is eager to be part of a regional, professional community that focuses on expanding access to unique materials in special collections and building cooperative programs amongst members,” noted Deb Morley, director of the Wolfgram Memorial Library. “We look forward to working with PACSCL as we further develop and expose our collections, contribute our special knowledge to and learn from this network of regional archives and special collections.”

Double exposure of a funeral procession, described in the caption

Charles Hyatt’s Funeral Procession, 1930. Legend tells us that college photographer Arthur V. Knott takes a picture of cadets training with cannons and fixed bayonets but fails to develop the film. Later, when Gen. Hyatt dies, Knott photographs the caisson bearing the general’s body using the same film. The resulting double exposure creates the effect of cadets guarding the casket of their former president. Widener University Archives.

Adds Jill Borin, University Archivist and PACSCL member representative, “Our archives collect, preserve and share print and digital materials — papers, photographs, scrapbooks, student newspapers, audiovisual items, and memorabilia. These materials relate both to Widener University and its predecessor institutions. Our digital collections, now with nearly 10,000 items, include the history of Widener and its predecessors, as well as the history of Chester, Pennsylvania.” These digital items can be found at . The library utilizes OCLC’s CONTENTdm for digital collections and ANDORNOT’s InMagic database. It collaborates with Widener’s Pennsylvania Military College (PMC) Museum on campus on library-museum projects and initiatives.

The Wolfgram Memorial Library also houses Widener’s Sexuality Archives, including books; journals, magazines, and newsletters; pamphlets; audiovisual materials;  personal papers, and ephemera. The Sexuality Archives are managed by Molly Wolf. For further information, see

The archives are open to all by appointment Monday through Friday, 9-5. The library’s website can be found at