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What We're Doing: New History of Medicine Area at Harrell Library


 At the Harrell Health Sciences Library: Research and Learning Commons we have just completed a spectacular renovation. Not only did the entire library undergo a wall-to-wall renovation taking the space down to the studs, but we’ve added lots of new technologies including 3D printing, virtual reality, a video wall, and a multimedia recording studio—not to mention all the new software! All of our new technology is wonderfully juxtaposed with our beautiful new seating area and shelving for our history of medicine collection. It is a highlight of the main entrance to the library and is adjacent to our new archival storage room.  As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I am happy to see our history of medicine collection in an area with such prominence.HistoryofMedicineseating2.jpg

The collection includes 1,413 items with the majority from the 19th century, some from the 18th and 20th centuries, and one from the 17th. It also includes historical medical artifacts including many that belonged to our founding dean who greatly esteemed the library. As way of background, the founding Dean George T. Harrell, after whom the library is named, built the hospital and medical school from the ground up in 1966 with the library located directly in the middle of the two. This area of such prominence in the architecture demonstrates the value that Dr. Harrell placed on the library, and we are proud to house his items.

I would like to say we know exactly when our history of medicine collection began but it’s a bit of a mystery to the individuals present today. Institutional memory goes as far back as to when it was housed on shelves in the Dean’s conference room. The room was going to be transformed into a student lounge in 2007 and the question arose about what to do with the books. Our director, Cynthia Robinson, insisted on an appraisal of the collection before any decisions were made, and it didn’t take long for the hired appraisers to look at the collection and realize it was something very special. Some of the books were moved to limited UV protected shelving outside of the entrance to the library, although many remained in storage due to lack of shelving space. Additionally, a staff member catalogued the collection and protected multiple books with acid free paper. The collection remained in those shelves outside the entrance to the library until the renovation began in 2015 and all of the books were moved to storage. Finally, as the end of 2016 is nearing, almost all of the books have made it onto our shelves for patrons to enjoy in the seating area. We welcome any librarians from the area or visiting to come in, have a seat, and enjoy!

-Marie C. Cirelli

Harrell Health Sciences Library: Research and Learning Commons
Penn State College of Medicine

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