Held at: Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia [Contact Us]19 S. 22nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Established in 1791, the Library of the College of Physicians was Philadelphia's central medical library for over 150 years, serving medical schools, hospitals, physicians and other health professionals. Today, it is an independent research library devoted to the history of medicine and serves hundreds of scholars, health professionals, students and popular writers each year.
In addition to its historical research resources, over the last half century the library has been involved in several medical library consortiums, providing both resources and administrative support to these projects. Some of these include: Mid Eastern Medical Regional Library Service (MERMLS), Medical Document Service (MDS), Health Science Library Consortium (HSLC), and Consumer Health Information Network (CHINET). These organizations aim to spread knowledge for the benefit of medical research and public health. The Library has also played a key role in providing material for exhibitions and publications by the College of Physicians. Rare books from the library stacks are regularly put on display for visitors, and images from their collections are reproduced for publications. The Library has kept consistent records of its functions from the 1960s until the early 2000s. These records not only include user requests, correspondence, and grant applications, but also the papers of several library directors throughout this period. In the Library Collection are the papers of the following directors: Anthony Aguirre, Ellen Gartrell, Charles Greifenstein, Lisabeth M. Holloway, Thomas A. Horrocks, Andrea Kenyon, Edward Morman, Christine Ruggere, and Marjorie Smink.
The College Library is also notable for its manuscripts and archives. Within its collection are the College's own archives; the archives of other Philadelphia medical institutions; and letters, case books, and student notebooks that document the personal life and professional practice of doctors in the Philadelphia region and around the world. Among the most important manuscript collections are the bulk of extant letters written by S. Weir Mitchell, a Civil War surgeon, neurologist, physiologist, novelist, and leading member of the College for more than fifty years.
The College Library also owns several collections of printed books associated with individual Fellows. The College offers research fellowships to candidates studying the history and culture of medicine. The Lewis collections, donated by College President Samuel Lewis over several decades in the nineteenth century, consist of several thousand books, many of them rare, whose acquisition clearly established the singular importance of the College Library. Most recently, forensic psychiatrist Robert L. Sadoff donated the Sadoff Library of Legal Medicine and Forensic Psychiatry to the College. Before arriving at the College in 2002, Dr. Sadoff's four thousand volumes comprised the world's largest private collection of books and pamphlets on these topics.
Care of the collections has always been of great concern to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The College recently installed a state-of-the-art climate control system in the library stacks, and several recent grants and gifts have been applied to an extensive preservation and restoration program.
Large portions of this historical note were taken directly from The College of Physicians of Philadelphia website: http://www.collphyphil.org/ERICS/Libhist.htm (accessed July 27, 2010).
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Library records (1807 to 2007) extensively documents the administration of the College Library and its public services and functions, such as reference requests and collection policies. The collection contains the papers of several librarians, curators, and other library staff, including Andrea Kenyon, Marjorie Smink, Elliott Morse, and Anthony Aguirre. Researchers will also find numerous files throughout the collection on College of Physicians of Philadelphia exhibits curated by the library and museum staff. Material within the collection is largely comprised of printed documents such as typed correspondence, reports, and records, but also includes photographs and bound volumes.
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Library records is an excellent collection for those studying the history and growth of information technology in libraries, as well as advocacy and outreach in a medical library. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1950s to the 2000s, thereby providing researchers with extensive documentation on library administration and operations. The collection also includes detailed documentation of library usage, and materials include reference requests and circulation statistics. Documentation of specific programs involving the Library's Public Services division includes records of Consumer Health Information Network (CHINET), Mid-Eastern Regional Medical Library Service (MERMLS), and Medical Documentation Service (MDS). Records regarding CHINET, MERMLS, and MDS may be found throughout much of the collection. The records of the "Katherine A. Shaw Division of Public Services" include material documenting health workshops and resources sponsored by the College's Section on Public Health.
Researchers should note that both the library and the medical communities use many acronyms and they are prevalent in this collection. Organizations such as the National Library of Medicine (NLM), Medical Documentation Service (MDS), Mid-Eastern Regional Medical Library Service (MERMLS), and the Regional Medical Library (RML), as well as other organizations, should be searched for by both name and acronym.
The collection is divided into the following 17 series, arranged alphabetically: "Administrative and operating records," "Anthony Aguirre," "Correspondence," "Curator of Archives and Manuscripts," "Exhibits," "Ellen Gartrell," "Charles Greifenstein," "Lisabeth M. Holloway," "Katherine A. Shaw Public Services Division," "Andrea Kenyon," "Medical Documentation Service (MDS)," "Mid-Eastern Regional Medical Library Service (MERMLS)," "Office of the Director," "Photographs," "Christine Ruggere," "Marjorie Smink," and "Reference enquiries."
Series I. Administrative and operating records, (Bulk, 1960-2004), 1807-2006 The "Administrative and operating records" series ranges in date from 1807 to 2006, although the majority of the material is from 1960 through the early 2000s. Material found within the series is related to the daily and ongoing operations of the library. Within "Administrative and Operating records," researchers will find a wide array of topics and subjects such as collection development policies; library rules for readers; library staff handbooks, documenting cataloguing rules and workflows; documentation of monograph shifting; the rearrangement of the Wood Room and Packard-Krumbhaar Alcove; and reference statistics for the years 1964 to 1996. Series I also holds meeting minutes, 1979 to 1985, of the Committee on the Library, as well as Library staff meeting minutes dating from 1977 to 1984.. Researchers should note that printed emails (2205 to 2006) from Richard Fraser, Archivist, are also contained in this series, rather than in Series XVII: Reference enquiries.
Series II. Anthony Aguirre records, 1981-1989 Anthony Aguirre served as Director of the Library in the 1980s. Within this series are Aguirre's appointment books for the years 1988 and 1989, strategic planning files, and annual library reports from 1982 to 1989. Many of the files are arranged chronologically, which reflect Aguirre's filing structure. Also within the series are the Committee on the Library and Library staff meeting minutes, which may be duplicates of those found in Series I. Series II also contains Aguirre's records relating to the Consumer Health Information Network (CHINET), Health Sciences Libraries Consortium (HSLC) and the Regional Medical Library (RML).
Series III. Correspondence, 1887-2004 The "Correspondence" series is divided into the following subseries: "Charles Perry Fisher," "Bound Correspondence" which dates from 1887 to 1932, "General Correspondence," and "Reference Requests." A bound volume of correspondence relating to Fisher's other job role as Superintendent of the College building is held in the "Charles Perry Fisher" subseries. Letters from 1909 concern the completion of the building, stacks construction, furnishing and decoration, and the move from 13th and Locust streets. Later letters concern supervision of library employees and night watchmen, facility rental, and building repairs. The volume also includes letters to William J. Taylor, Secretary of the Building Committee; William W. Keen, concerning completion of building; and John Ruhräh concerning the Medical Library Association and Sir William Osler.
Within the subseries "General correspondence" is the correspondence of employees including Nancy Cervetti, Deborah Franklin, Robert Karp, Thomas Langfitt, Michael Mance, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.
Series IV. Curator of Archives and Manuscripts records, 1989-1996 Dating from 1989 to 1996, this series holds the administrative records of the curator and includes records relating to the College's computer task force, the stacks roof renovation project in 1994, and a research project involving the records of the special funds, trusts, and estates bequeathed to the College. Researchers looking for information on material on library exhibits may wish to review the following series, "Exhibits."
Series V. Exhibits, circa 1951, 1988 "Exhibits" is the fifth series in the Library records. Book exhibits presented by the College's Section on Medical History are documented (circa 1951), as well the exhibit Legacies of Genius which was open from April 16, 1988 through September 25, 1988. Researchers should note that material relating to the "Emerging Infectious Diseases: Ancient Scourge/Modern Menace" exhibit and "Only One Man Died," the Lewis and Clark exhibit, are not documented here. They are found within the seventh series, "Charles Greifenstein."
Series VI. Ellen Gartrell records, 1969-1978 Ellen Gartrell served as acting curator and assistant curator in the 1970s. Within the series are Gartrell's correspondence, operating records, and workshop material. This series is among the smallest in the collection and holds limited information created by and pertaining to Gartrell.
Series VII. Charles Greifenstein records, 1998-2003 Charles Greifenstein held various positions at the library from 1995 to 2003, such as Reference Librarian, Assistant Curator, Interim Library Director, and Associate Librarian. Greifenstein's administrative and operating records cover a variety of subjects and topics, including annual reports, job descriptions, strategic planning, the Library Task Force, and reference statistics. Also within the series are the records for the exhibits "Emerging Infectious Diseases: Ancient Scourge/Modern Menace," "Exploring Therapeutic Resources in Colonial North America," and "Only One Man Died," the Lewis and Clark exhibit. Material relating to other exhibitions may be found in the sixth series, "Exhibits."
Series VIII. Lisabeth M. Holloway records, 1964-1975 Lisabeth M. Holloway was a former Director and Curator of the Historical Collections. Her records, housed in this series, and ranging in date from 1964 to 1975, include correspondence, notes, and administrative materials. Included is correspondence regarding the Medical Library Association, of which Holloway was Chairman from 1969-1970. Also of interest is documentation regarding procedures for manuscript cataloguing, and the physical splitting of the card catalog during the 1970s.
Series IX. Katherine A. Shaw Public Services Division records, 1984-1997 The Katherine A. Shaw Public Services Division was created to perform tasks related to community health and outreach. The series holds administrative and operating records that include correspondence, informational brochures, documentation regarding moisture in the cage and the stacks roof renovation in 1994 and 1995, and user statistics. Planning for each fiscal year for the Public Services division dates from 1984 to 1996 and is found in Subseries b: Goals and Objectives. Of special interest are the records of the College's Section on Public Health, which includes membership information from its establishment in 1995 and up to 1997, meetings related to the planning for and organizing of the Section in 1994 and 1995, and early programs sponsored by the Section in 1995.
Series X. Andrea Kenyon records, 1981-2001 Andrea Kenyon served as Director of the Katherine A. Shaw Public Services Division, and material in the series ranges in date from 1981 to 2001. This series is closely related to the previous series, "Katherine A. Shaw Public Services Division records." Minutes taken during the Committee on Public Health (the planning committee for the Section on Public Health) date from 1994 to 1996. The series also holds administrative and operating records that cover a variety of topics such as strategic planning, circulation statistics, minutes of staff meetings from 1982 to 1995, policies and procedures, and user statistics from 1990 to 1998. Packets from consumer health workshops held by the Public Services Division can also be found in this series.
Series XI. Medical Documentation Service (MDS), 1959-1989 Medical Documentation Service (MDS), established at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia in 1953, provided information services to assist biomedical and pharmaceutical companies in managing and controlling published product literature. The series is divided into two subseries: "Administrative and Operating records" and "Architectural Plans."
Series XII. Mid-Eastern Regional Medical Library Service (MERMLS), 1966-1983 The "Mid-Eastern Regional Medical Library Service," known by the acronym "MERMLS" within the College of Physicians Library records, was part of a network of eleven Regional Medical Libraries (RML) and supported by the National Library of Medicine. MERMLS programs were designated to support the development and growth of health sciences library services in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Other programs within MERMLS includes document delivery, on-line search orientations, consultation and training services, and a monthly newsletter for health science librarians. This series spans the years 1966 to 1983 and includes several subseries containing the administrative and operating records of MEMRLS. This series also includes the records of College of Physicians Librarian Elliott How Morse (1916-1992) and his involvement with MERMLS from 1967 to 1977.
Series XIII. Office of Director records, 1977-2000 This series contains various records from the Office of the Director of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia Historical Medical Library, spanning the years 1977 to 2000. Included in the series are the "Administrative and Operating records" of this office, as well as material related to the "Presidential Health" exhibit, the Samuel Lewis Circle, and records related to the Mid-Eastern Regional Medical Library Service (MERMLS).
Series XIV. Photographs and graphic materials, undated, 1902-1974 The fourteenth series, "Photographs," contains mostly undated material. There are several photographs of the Mütter Museum in the early twentieth century, as well as images of the College of Physicians building and facilities.
Series XV. Christine Ruggere records, 1976-1983 Christine Ruggere was Head of Historical Services. This series includes Ruggere's curatorial records and records regarding flood damage in the library stacks that occurred in the late 1970s.
Series XVI. Marjorie Smink records, 1984-2001 Marjorie Smink served as Library Director in the 1990s. This series includes mainly policies and procedures relating to the operation of the Library, information regarding the position of Public Services Assistant, and correspondence related to the internship program with the Shallcross School.
Series XVII. Reference enquiries, 1997-2010 Much of this material was originally organized under the previous series, Marjorie Smink records. However, much of the correspondence was not written by or sent to Smink, and the vast amount of material seemed to warrant its own series. Researchers interested in past reference questions and the work of previous Library employees will find this series especially interesting. Please note that the years 2005 and 2006 are not represented in this series. Some correspondence from those years exists in Series I: Administrative and operating records.
The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.
This collection was minimally processed in 2009-2011, as part of an experimental project conducted under the auspices of the Philadelphia Area Consortium of Special Collections Libraries to help eliminate processing backlog in Philadelphia repositories. A minimally processed collection is one processed at a less intensive rate than traditionally thought necessary to make a collection ready for use by researchers. When citing sources from this collection, researchers are advised to defer to folder titles provided in the finding aid rather than those provided on the physical folder.
Employing processing strategies outlined in Mark Greene's and Dennis Meissner's 2005 article, More Product, Less Process: Revamping Traditional Processing Approaches to Deal With Late 20th-Century Collections, the project team tested the limits of minimal processing on collections of all types and ages, in 23 Philadelphia area repositories. A primary goal of the project, the team processed at an average rate of 2-3 hours per linear foot of records, a fraction of the time ordinarily reserved for the arrangement and description of collections. Among other time saving strategies, the project team did not extensively review the content of the collections, replace acidic folders or complete any preservation work.
As part of the College's records management program, implemented in July 2017, this collection was minimally re-processed in late 2018 and early 2019. The material deaccessioned includes duplicate records, found in either other College record groups, such as CPP 20: Records of the Consumer Health Information Center (CHIC), or in several series of this collection; records past retention, such as financial information; and records considered out of scope, such as newsletters published by other institutions and packets from conferences at which no Library employee presented, photocopies of personnel records, and old reader registration cards and callslips with no comprehensive information of enduring value.
The previously imposed order of the collection was adhered to as much as possible, although some series were discarded (duplicate information or records past retention) or merged into others where the amount of material was small and fit well into another series (such as the Samuel Lewis Circle records into the "Office of the Director of the Library" series).
Some duplicate material still remains, particularly the minutes of Library staff meetings and the Committee on the Library, annual reports, and reference statistics. While efforts to consolidate all duplicated material were made, the amount of time needed to weed through records such as these outweighed the value of doing so.
All documents were transferred to acid-free housing with appropriate folder titles. The previous processing of the collection left many files in acidic folders, deteriorating or overstuffed folders, and under- or over-stuffed boxes. Oversize items are held in the flat files located in the reading room. The historical note was not edited, although the scope & contents note and abstract were.
- Historical Medical Library of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Leslie O'Neill and Forrest Wright; edited by Chrissie Perella
- Finding Aid Date
- Created 2010; Revised February 2019
- The processing of this collection was made possible through generous funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Cataloging Hidden Special Collections and Archives" Project.