Posts tagged: exhibits

Harvard Chan School Archivist Collaborates to Create First Historical Timeline of the Department of Environmental Health

By , August 9, 2016

A brief history of the Department of Environmental Health, displayed as a timeline. Please click the image to enlarge.

Working collaboratively with faculty and staff within the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, public health archivist Heather Mumford created a comprehensive timeline detailing historic names and department chairs. The resulting visual helped convey the complex narrative of the department’s evolution over a 100+ year history.

To complete this research, Heather relied on digitized historic Harvard Chan School catalogs available online and, with the assistance of Reference Archivist Jessica Murphy, consulted other historic administrative records available at the Center for the History of Medicine to confirm their results. Departmental faculty were given the opportunity to weigh in on the timeline, and to give feedback about what types of information (departmental name changes, chairs, etc.) were most interesting or informative to include.


Explore the Harvard Chan School’s first catalog (1913).

The history of the department is somewhat difficult to track, as a singular “Department of Environmental Health” was not present in the early school, known as the Harvard-MIT School for Health Officers (1913-1922). In fact, formal departments did not exist at this time. Instead, courses were placed in “groups” with titles such as “Sanitary Biology and Sanitary Chemistry” or “Sanitary Engineering”.

In 1922, after the school received a Rockefeller grant and became the Harvard School of Public Health, the course catalogs began grouping courses by “divisions”. This included the founding of the departments of Physiology, under the leadership of Cecil Drinker (succeeded in 1948 by James Whittenberger), and Industrial Hygiene, which in 1932 came under the leadership of Philip Drinker, followed by Leslie Silverman in 1961. Over time these divisions become known as departments, and at certain points they merged and/or changed names. In 1991, a single “Department of Environmental Health” emerged.

This timeline was created to complement an exhibit on plethysmograph research, located on floor L-1 of the Countway Library and set to open later this summer. It was also used as part of a departmental retreat in May 2016, and has since been professionally printed by the department so that it can be placed on permanent display within their offices.

For more information about the Harvard Chan School Archives at the Center for the History of Medicine, contact Heather Mumford.

New online exhibits from the Archives for Women in Medicine

By , December 23, 2013

Two legacy online exhibits, The Stethoscope Sorority and Grete L. Bibring: The Modern Woman, are now available through the Center’s new online collections site, OnView.

The Stethoscope Sorority

Over the years, women have faced, and continue to face, many struggles in the field of medicine. Despite this ongoing adversity, they have emerged as strong leaders and helped revolutionize the profession. The Archives for Women in Medicine (AWM) at the Countway Library was created in 2000 to capture and preserve the untold history of the many women who have helped change the face of medicine in the United States. This exhibition highlights materials from the AWM that illustrate women’s experiences as mentors, pioneering researchers, healers, and strong voices speaking out for their beliefs. Using their own words, the exhibition presents stories from some of the women of the AWM and the people who have helped contribute to their successes.


Grete L. Bibring: The Modern Woman

In the 1970’s, Dr. Grete L. Bibring created a seminar for Radcliffe College called ‘The Educated Woman’. A small group of students would gather to discuss the issues surrounding educated women and their lives. The concept of the ‘modern woman’ came to portray the dual roles of family and career that women had one point been forced to choose between. Dr. Bibring was a mentor for the emerging modern woman, understanding the demands and rewards of maintaining both a career and family.

Born in Vienna just before the 20th century, Grete L. Bibring would earn the honor of being the first female full clinical professor at Harvard Medical School in 1961. As a part of the “second generation” of Freudian scholars, her achievements include her appointment as Psychiatrist-in-Chief at Beth Israel Hospital in 1955, professional activities in numerous psychiatric organizations, such as the psychoanalytic societies of Vienna, London, and Boston and psychiatric consultant of the Children’s Bureau in Washington D.C. She was highly influential in integrating psychiatric principles into general patient care. Her passion permeated her other roles working with students, residents, physicians, social workers, and nurses across the globe. Dr. Bibring’s work continued well after retirement with a thought provoking seminar at Radcliffe, publication of multiple articles, and her dedication to patient care. This exhibit celebrates her life and her influence on the generations of medical, psychiatric, and social services professions.

Browse all of the Center’s online exhibits at Onview.

New Online Exhibit: Joseph Murray, Reconstructing Lives

By , December 20, 2013

MurrayCollageA new Center for the History of Medicine exhibit, Reconstructing Lives, is now available through the Center’s online collections site, OnView. The exhibit features items from the Joseph Murray papers and traces Murray’s life from his time as a student at Harvard Medical School and an Army surgeon during World War II, through his groundbreaking work in organ transplantation and plastic surgery. He received the 1990 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work on organ transplantation, served as Director of the Surgical Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School and at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital, was head of the plastic surgery departments at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and Children’s Hospital Boston, and was a Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School.

OnView allows the user to view the exhibits as he or she would in the physical space, moving from item to item within the framework of the narrative. Individual items, collections, and exhibits can also be browsed and searched using subject terms and tags. The Center has also been working to migrate legacy exhibits into OnView.

The finding aid for the Joseph Murray papers can be found here. For information regarding access to the collection, please contact the Public Services staff.

Newly opened collections (and exhibit): Elizabeth D. Hay Papers and Lynne M. Reid Papers

By , June 8, 2012
Hay-Reid exhibit poster

Leading by Teaching: Elizabeth Hay and Lynne Reid

The Archives for Women in Medicine recently opened two new collections for research:  The Elizabeth D. Hay Papers and the Lynne M. Reid Papers. Lynne Reid is S. Burt Wolbach Professor of Pathology, emeritus, at Harvard Medical School was Pathologist-in-Chief at Children’s Hospital. Her research focused on thoracic medicine; including chronic bronchitis, emphysema, pulmonary hypertension, and lung growth. Reid developed the Reid Index, which is a method of determining the degree of hypertrophy of the bronchial glands caused by chronic bronchitis. Elizabeth Hay was Louise Foote Pfeiffer Professor of Embryology at Harvard Medical School (the first woman to be made a full professor in a preclinical department at HMS), and served as the Chair of the Department of Anatomy (later the Department of Cell Biology) from 1975 to 1993. An expert in electron microscopy, Hay was known for her breakthrough understanding of the extracellular matrix and its role in determining cell properties.

For more information about these collections, please view the online finding aids:

The Elizabeth D. Hay Papers

The Lynne M. Reid Papers

Selected items from these two collections are currently on display at Countway Library in a new exhibit, Leading by Teaching: Elizabeth D. Hay and Lynne M. Reid.  The exhibit highlights Hay and Reid’s contributions as teachers, mentors, and advocates for women in medicine. Oral history interviews with Elizabeth Hay and Lynne Reid, among other early women leaders at HMS, are also available to view online on the Archives for Women in Medicine website.

Owners and Donors: new rare book exhibit at Countway Library

By , March 20, 2012

Arthur Orton, the Tichborne Claimant, in 1873, Harvard Medical Library in the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Owners and Donors
Building the Rare Book Collection at the Countway Library of Medicine


The Countway Library is built from gifts—gifts large and small, made over many years.  It was the generosity of Sanda Countway in 1958 which provided over three million dollars for a building and allowed Harvard Medical School and the Boston Medical Library to ally their collections, forming the largest academic biomedical library in the country.  But aside from stone and mortar, the collections of the Countway reflect a tradition of generosity spanning nearly two hundred years.  Drs. James Jackson, John Collins Warren, and other members of Harvard’s early faculty began to donate books to form a medical library for the students in 1816.  In 1889, just a few years after the formation of the Boston Medical Library, Oliver Wendell Holmes contributed his personal collection of over 900 rare medical works, laying the cornerstone for a remarkable historical collection.

Such generosity is not just a thing of the past, though, and extraordinary gifts continue to complement the already vast array of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, artwork, artifacts, instruments, and specimens preserved in the collections of the library, archives, and museum here at the Center for the History of Medicine.  Owners and Donors: Building the Rare Book Collection at the Countway Library of Medicine honors just a few of the individual men and women—Drs. Leona Baumgartner, John Warren, Jacob James Longacre, and Richard Van Praagh, and the Kennedy and Ohl families—who have contributed collections or even single items to enhance the rare book collections here at the Countway over the years.   The exhibit also highlights a few of the library’s special collections—some familiar, such as the anatomical library of Friedrich Tiedemann, and some almost unknown, such as the witchcraft books of Christian Deetjen, the Boston Medical Library’s collection of the works of Sir William Osler, and the John Rathbone Oliver Criminological Collection with its remarkable assortment of ephemera concerning the Tichborne Claimant legal case of the 1870s—as well as some of the funds and gifts which continue to allow for new acquisitions, making the rare book holdings of the Countway among the greatest in the world.

Owners and Donors is  on display now through December in the exhibit space on lower level 2 of the Countway, adjoining the Center for the History of Medicine.  For further information, contact the Center at or 617-432-2170.

Center Artifacts On Display in Harvard University’s Tangible Things Exhibition

By , February 4, 2011

Arthritic Hand, Cast by Frank L. Richardson, M.D, 1900 – 1905, 20466, Warren Anatomical Museum, Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine

Seventeen artifacts and specimens from the Center of the History of Medicine have been loaned to Harvard’s Collection of Historic Scientific Instruments for display in the exhibition Tangible Things, on view in Harvard’s Science Center from January 24 through May 29, 2011.

Ten bladder and urinary calculi, three phrenology head casts, a hand cast, a tortoise shell covered thumb lancet, and two half size plaster models of “Normman” and “Norma,” Robert L. Dickinson’s compilations of the average American man and woman, were loaned from the Warren Anatomical Museum. From the Storer Memorial Collection of Medical Medalsof the Boston Medical Library, a 15th century touch piece of English monarch Charles II is on display. More about the Storer collection can be found in the 2003 Center exhibit Gilt by Association.

Most of the Center’s artifacts in Tangible Things can be found in the gallery space at the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. However, the exhibition aims to challenge traditional museum categorization and certain “guest objects” have been placed in other Harvard collections. This includes a Warren Museum bladder calculus from 1809, which can be found in the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

February 9: Deadly medicine in the Nazi era: What turned physician healers into killers?

By , February 2, 2011

In Nazi Germany, the medical profession justified the killing of millions of “undesirable” individuals through appeals to racist ideology and eugenics. Healers and caretakers became killers, and medical research devolved into inhumane and unethical experimentation.

Please join us for an engaging discussion as we explore how German physicians became involved in the criminal actions of the Nazi regime and how international reaction to their involvement has profoundly affected medical ethics today.

Featured Speakers:

Patricia Heberer, Historian
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Matthew Wynia, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Institute for Ethics
American Medical Association

A cooperative effort between the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Medical Association, this program is free and open to the public, and you are encouraged to bring guests.

Reservations are requested; register online at

Visit the travelling exhibit, “Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race,” at the Countway Library, April 14 – July 17, 2011. A traveling exhibit of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “Deadly Medicine” provokes reflection on the continuing attraction of biological utopias that promote the possibility of human perfection. From the early twentieth-century international eugenics movements to present-day dreams of eliminating inherited disabilities through genetic manipulation, the issues remain timely.To make reservations for group visits, contact

“Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race” at the Countway, April 14 – July 17

By , January 2, 2011

Nazi officials at the “The Miracle of Life” exhibition, German Hygiene Museum, Dresden, 1935. The new Nazi museum leadership asserted that societies resembled organisms that followed the lead of their brains. The most logical social structure was one that saw society as a collective unit, literally a body guided by a strong leader. Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration.

The Center for the History of Medicine is pleased to announce that the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race travelling exhibition will visit the Countway Library April 14 through July 17, 2011.

From 1933 to 1945, Nazi Germany carried out a campaign to “cleanse” German society of individuals viewed as biological threats to the nation’s “health.” Enlisting the help of physicians and medically trained geneticists, psychiatrists, and anthropologists, the Nazis developed racial health policies that began with the mass sterilization of “genetically diseased” persons and ended with the near annihilation of European Jewry.

Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race inspires reflection on the continuing attraction of biological utopias that promote the possibility of human perfection. From the early twentieth-century international eugenics movements to present-day dreams of eliminating inherited disabilities through genetic manipulation, the issues remain timely. (For more information about the exhibit, see the Museum’s website.) Deadly Medicine has been made possible by The Lerner Foundation and Eric F. and Lore Ross.

The Center for the History of Medicine’s companion exhibit, Galton’s Children: the Rise and Fall of the Eugenics Movement, examines the social phenomenon of eugenics from its origins and period of greatest influence in the early twentieth century, to discredit in the 1930s and its associations with the racial hygiene policies of Nazi Germany, and the persistence of eugenic ideas today.

Visitors are welcome to tour the exhibits Monday through Friday from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. and on Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon to 5 P.M.

Groups larger than 12 people must make a reservation. Group visit information and and registration forms are available here: Planning_a_Visit and Group Visit Form. Questions about group visits can be directed to Francesca Holinko (

Public lectures relating to the exhibit will be held on on the Harvard Medical School campus:

Thursday, April 14, 7 pm: Why Deadly Medicine Matters Today: Medical Ethics in the Shadow of the Holocaust

Wednesday, April 27, 4 pm: Genetic Determinism Then and Now: Confronting the Legacy of Eugenics

Thursday, May 12, 7 pm: When the State Makes Demands: Medical Professionalism, Dual Loyalty, and Human Rights

Directions to the Countway Library and the Harvard Medical School campus can be found on the school website.

Mary Ellen Avery Exhibit at Children’s Hospital through November

By , September 29, 2010

Avery exhibit case at Children’s Hospital Boston

Two organizations are celebrating Mary Ellen Avery through a collaborative exhibit featuring items from the extensive archival collections generated from her pioneering career and contributions to pediatrics.  The Children’s Hospital Boston Archives and the Harvard Medical School’s Archives for Women in Medicine and Warren Anatomical Museum have placed on display original and reproduced items from Avery’s archives, including her childhood diary, vials of sheep lung surfactant, photographs, correspondence, and other documents.

The exhibit can be viewed in the main lobby of the Enders Building at 300 Longwood Avenue in Boston, Mass.  If you get a chance to stop by and see it, please comment and let us know what you think!

Related post: Mary Ellen Avery papers now open for research

More on Avery: Finding aid to the Mary Ellen Avery Papers, 1929-2002

Panorama Theme by Themocracy