From the Deputy Director, Melissa Rethlefsen: History of the Health Sciences: Online and in the Library

rethlefsenYou may know the Spencer S. Eccles Health Sciences Library (EHSL) best as the digital library—or the library without books. Though it’s true that we emphasize digital information to be able to provide the easiest access to up to date information for the students, staff, faculty, and health care professionals in our clinics and hospitals, we also have a well-kept secret: the only history of medicine collection in Utah.

We’ve recently been approved for registration in the National Library of Medicine’s Directory of History of Medicine Collections, and we’re excited to publicly join the other three libraries in the Intermountain West states with special collections in this area.

Our physical collections cover a range of topics in the history of the health sciences. Major donations came to the collection from Dr. Clifford C. Snyder (surgery, plastic surgery, anatomy) and Dr. Marcus Jacobson (developmental neurobiology, anatomy, neurology). We also house a collection of historical pharmaceutical manufacturing devices, a set of hemoglobinometers, historical medical devices and surgical kits, and therapeutics. In addition, EHSL houses several historical neuro-ophthalmology collections, including a collection of Dr. Irene Loewenfeld’s annotated index of all the literature written on the pupil.A_Record_of_Experiments_upon_the_Functions_of_the_Cerebral_Cortex_by_Horsley_and_Schaefer__AnnotationsThough the physical collections have not grown significantly in many years, we are now actively seeking donors to grow this collection into an even better resource for Utah.

The historical collections at EHSL are not limited to documents and devices. A massive collection of photos from the 1940’s to present day are slowly being digitized by our staff, and made publicly available through the History of the Health Sciences digital collection.

We also have a fantastic collection of publications from the Health Sciences Campus that makes finding historical information easy. These include:

Recently, EHSL faculty and staff have been helping our Health Sciences Campus colleagues celebrate their milestones. For the 50th Anniversary of the Biomedical Informatics Department, EHSL produced an historical timeline for the Department, video memories, and article about the event. In celebration of the School of Medicine’s 50th Anniversary of the 521 Building, EHSL faculty and staff put together an exhibit for the Alumni Association banquet, contributed to the creation of the How the West Won Medicine commemorative book, and found unique images to highlight and feature on videos and banners for the event. We’ve also help dig up treasures, facts, and stories for and from other areas on campus. One treasure? A film, “The Making of a Doctor,” from the School of Medicine circa 1958 was donated to the library by Dr. Hilmon Castle. Watch it on the EHSL YouTube channel!

If you are interested in learning more about our historical collections, please contact me at or Heidi Greenberg, Research Associate, at

If you are interested in exploring more about the history of the health sciences, here are some great resources for you:

by: Melissa Rethlefsen, Deputy Director