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Health Center to house Hartford Medical Society’s historical collection

by Chris DeFrancesco - December 3, 2007

The Hartford Medical Society will move its historical medical library and many of its artifacts to the UConn Health Center next spring.

The two parties have finalized an agreement under which the Health Center will provide about 2,500 square feet of space adjacent to the Lyman Maynard Stowe Library.

The Society is relocating from Scarborough Street in Hartford’s West End, its location since 1956.

“The Lyman Maynard Stowe Library welcomes the addition of this historic collection of medical books, journals, and artifacts to our campus,” says library director Evelyn Morgen.

“Because we are a relatively young medical school, the Hartford Medical Society will add depth and gravitas to the resources available to our faculty, to our students, and to scholars who visit our campus.”

The Society will retain ownership of its collection. When they’re cataloged, the assets will retain their Society identification.

The materials include manuscripts dating to the 17th century, account books of 19th-century physicians, journals from their first volumes, and records of the experiments of 19th-century Hartford dentist Horace Wells, who is credited with the discovery of surgical anesthesia.

“For some time, the Hartford Medical Society has felt the need for a greater exposure of its invaluable library and museum collection to both the academic community and the general public,” says Dr. Bradford Blanchard, president of the Society.

“Fortunately, the historical thrust of our collections is very compatible with UConn’s commitment to the history of medicine and to the humanities in medicine. Therefore, housing our collections at the UConn Health Center, with its academic environment and sophisticated information technology, is a natural fit.”

Among the medical artifacts moving to the UConn Health Center is this saddlebag, used by a physician who practiced in Tolland in the early and mid-1800s.
Among the medical artifacts moving to the UConn Health Center is this saddlebag, used by a physician who practiced in Tolland in the early and mid-1800s. Physicians used saddlebags to carry medicine and other supplies as they traveled on horseback to make house calls.
Photo by Janine Gelineau

Dr. Bruce Koeppen, dean of academic affairs and education at the Health Center, says, “These one-of-a-kind articles, books and journals are really Connecticut treasures. It’s great that we’ll be able to preserve this valuable collection.”

The Health Center also will provide space for the Society’s continuing education programs for physicians.

The Society is bearing the cost of renovation, relocation, and maintenance of its collection, and will reimburse UConn for the salary and benefits paid to the librarian to be added as part of the agreement.

“This is an important collaboration with the Hartford Medical Society on the history of medicine, and bringing the Society’s collection here will make it more available to the public,” says Renee Drabier, assistant vice president of health informatics, adding it was the physician members of the Hartford Medical Society who voted to move the collection to the UConn Health Center.

The Hartford Medical Society, established in 1846, provides educational programs for professionals in the fields of medicine, dentistry, history, and the arts by offering lectures, sponsoring study sessions, and preserving historic treasures of the healing professions.

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