What better way to celebrate all those members of the House of Representatives in white at last night’s State of the Union address than to celebrate the new collections added to our In Her Own Right Database.

More than 600 new records, representing photos, letters, diaries, school records, and much more, cover women’s activism in medicine, abolition, suffrage, education, and poor relief.

Read more about these new collections at the project blog, and then search the database for individual items.


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.


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 www.clir.org 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 https://www.clir.org/2019/01/clir-announces-2018-digitizing-hidden-special-collections-and-archives-awards/


New BiblioPhilly interface, powered by the Penn Libraries -- click to reach the site

The new interface to PACSCL’s online archive of manuscripts. Click the image to reach the site.

NOTICE: THE UNDERLYING INTERFACE WILL BE OFFLINE DECEMBER 26-JANUARY 1. Some metadata on the interface may be searchable, but the images will not be available. Researchers are recommended to download manuscript images prior to December 26. Instructions for downloading bulk images are here.

Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis is proud to announce the new interface to the hundreds of manuscripts now online. Click the image to the right to reach the site.

Launched during the Penn Libraries’ eleventh annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age (November 15-17, 2018), the new interface offers faceted searching (by book type, century, holding institution, and more), a page-turning interface, collation diagrams, download capabilities, and more.

New manuscripts are being added regularly. When the project is completed, in spring 2019, it will include approximately 475 manuscripts and 1,000 leaves. The project was organized by the Free Library of Philadelphia, Lehigh University, and the Penn Libraries and involves a total of sixteen institutions.

The interface is powered by OPenn, the Penn Libraries’ open access digital repository. Users who want to download images and metadata for an entire manuscript, or group of manuscripts, can do so at OPenn via ftp or rsynch. As Dot Porter, one of the drivers of this interface, noted on Twitter recently, “This is just one possible interface. The data is in the public domain and anyone can access it (yes, this means you!) on OPenn.”

Browse and enjoy the new interface and to download entire collections on OPenn from these links:


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The Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project, which involves sixteen PACSCL partners, has been funded by a generous grant from the Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives initiative of the Council for Library and Information Resources.