Main content

Wistar and Horner Museum records


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. 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

The Wistar and Horner Museum was originally founded as the Wistar Museum in the early 19th century by Caspar Wistar, chair of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. The collections mainly consisted of preserved (dried and wax-injected) human samples and anatomical models created by William Rush, which were used by Wistar in his lectures on comparative anatomy. In 1818, shortly before his death, Wistar appointed William Edmonds Horner, Dean of the Medical Faculty and professor of Anatomy at the University of Pennsylvania, as curator of the Wistar Museum. At that time, the combined collections of Wistar and Horner became known as the Wistar and Horner Museum. The museum collections were further enhanced when Dr. Joseph Leidy was appointed curator of the museum in 1847. Leidy contributed hundreds of items to the Wistar and Horner Museum, expanding its collections to include botanical and animal specimens, as well as fossils. (Leidy had been acting as Horner's personal assistant, and also replaced him as professor of Anatomy in 1853 upon his retirement.) By 1880, the museum collections were beginning to show significant wear, and portions were damaged by a fire in the building at the University of Pennsylvania where the museum was located. As a result, University Provost William Pepper began raising funds to have the museum collections preserved and relocated to a permanent, more suitable home. Isaac Wistar, great nephew to Caspar Wistar and prominent Philadelphia lawyer, had a vision of a center for new, original biological research which would continue his great uncle's legacy. He funded an endowment and research building, which would become the Wistar Institute of Anatomy and Biology. The museum collections were moved from the University of Pennsylvania to the new building at 36th and Spruce (which remains a part of the Wistar Institute's facilities) in 1892. Today, the Wistar Institute remains a renowned center for biomedical research and training, and was the nation's first independent institution dedicated to such endeavors.

Works cited: "Our History." The Wistar Institute. Retrieved from

The Wistar and Horner Museum records contain volumes and papers related to the Wistar and Horner Museum, and date from 1822 to 1865, with the majority of materials dating from 1845 to 1855. The collection is arranged alphabetically by subject or genre, then chronologically within each subdivision, and documents the evolution, management, finances, and curatorial and collecting activities of a university museum. Materials include: a student roster book for Horner's dissecting class at the University of Pennsylvania, listing student names and home states; miscellaneous receipts and reports for various museum expenses (including exhibition and preservation supplies and wages paid to museum staff); reports on the "condition of the museum" by Leidy during his time as curator and reports on his additions to the collections; printed catalogs of the museum collections, one with manuscript annotations by Horner; Horner's lists of rules for Demonstrators in the Department of Anatomy; and correspondence from Caldwell L. Biddle of the University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees regarding museum finances.

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Jessica Hoffman
Finding Aid Date
2015 August 11
Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Collection Inventory

Request to View Materials

Materials can be requested by first logging in to Aeon. Then, click on the ADD button next to any containers you wish to request. When complete, click the Request button.

Request item to view
Administrative records, W. E. Horner's memorandum book for the Museum, 1822-1855.
Box 1 Folder 1
Administrative records, including agreements of Horner's personal assistants, portion of unidentified will, and letter from Dr. Agnew, 1845-1847, 1865, undated.
Box 1 Folder 2
Administrative records, Museum reports by Joseph Leidy, including additions to the collections, 1848-1858.
Box 1 Folder 3
Administrative records, logbook of additions to the Museum, 1855-1858.
Box 1 Folder 4
Administrative records, Museum report by Joseph Leidy for 1861-1865, 1865 May 10.
Box 1 Folder 5
"Catalogue of the Anatomical Museum of the University of Pennsylvania..." by W. E. Horner, including a letter to the Wistar Museum Committee, 1832, 1836.
Box 1 Folder 6
"Catalogue of the Wistar, or Anatomical Museum of the University of Pennsylvania..." by W. E. Horner, 1850.
Box 1 Folder 7
Dissecting class, contract and memorandum signed by George McClellan, founder of Jefferson Medical College, regarding classes and distribution of subjects, 1827.
Box 1 Folder 8
Dissecting class, agreements for demonstrators in the Department of Anatomy of University of Pennsylvania, 1845, 1852.
Box 1 Folder 9
Dissecting class, student roster book, 1849-1864.
Box 1 Folder 10
Financial records, account book for Z. Locke & Co., 1842-1855.
Box 1 Folder 11
Financial records, Museum expenses, 1847, 1848, 1856, 1861.
Box 1 Folder 12
Financial records, miscellaneous receipts, 1849.
Box 1 Folder 13
Financial records, miscellaneous receipts, 1850.
Box 1 Folder 14
Financial records, miscellaneous receipts, 1851.
Box 1 Folder 15
Financial records, miscellaneous receipts, 1852.
Box 1 Folder 16
Financial records, miscellaneous receipts, 1854.
Box 1 Folder 17
Financial records, letters from University of Pennsylvania Board of Trustees regarding funds appropriated for the Museum, 1854-1855.
Box 1 Folder 18
Financial records, miscellaneous receipts, 1855.
Box 1 Folder 19

Print, Suggest