What we acquire and how to gift collections

The Center for the History of Medicine acquires, preserves, and makes available historical materials that contextualize and offer perspective in to contemporary biomedical research, clinical medicine and dentistry, and public health. The Center has primary responsibility to document the goals, activities, accomplishments, and faculties of the Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Through the Boston Medical Library, the Center also seeks to document developments of regional and national importance in biomedicine, medical sciences, and public health.

The Center acquires resources in a variety of types, including archival and manuscript, published, graphic/visual material, moving image, objects/artifacts, and sound materials in both analog and digital formats. Resources continue to be added in areas that strengthen and extend existing collections. New collections material may be acquired for or donated to the Harvard Medical Library or the Boston Medical Library. Areas of particular interest for development include:

  • Critical 20th century therapeutic innovations, such as antibiotics and novel pharmaceutical classes, organ transplantation, chemotherapy, and medical devices;
  • Critical 20th century fields of study, such as genetics (fundamental and clinical), bioinformatics, immunology, molecular biology, developmental and systems biology, epidemiology and clinical epidemiology, and environmental health and population biology;
  • Contemporary plagues, including, AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and influenza;
  • Changes in health care delivery, including health maintenance organizations, the larger involvement of insurance companies in health care, attempts to achieve universal health care in America, and international efforts to provide health care to the underserved, global health and medicine, and activism by health professionals;
  • The experiences and contributions of early women leaders in the Harvard medical, dental, and public health communities, and their advancement and impact on health care and biomedical sciences;
  • Environmental health, the impact of environment on the health of populations and individuals;
  • Innovations in scientific and medical techniques and tools, such as biomedical informatics and the dramatic growth of biomedical imaging;
  • Patients’ experiences of medicine;
  • Alternative and non-Western medicine in the context of their adoption in American medicine.

For more information about the holdings and areas of acquisition contact the Center.

University Records
The Center’s primary archival acquisitions objective is to document the goals, methods, activities, and outcomes of medical, dental, and public health education at Harvard University, to collect records of long-term value in administrative offices, clinical, research, and teaching departments, committees, and laboratories, regardless of format, which are evaluated and acquired in compliance with the Harvard University General Records Schedule. We also collect objects, memorabilia, oral histories, and other documentation, beyond the schedule, to overcome weakness in the collection. Record copies of HMS, HSDM, and HSPH student theses are also part of our archival holdings.

For more information about university records, contact the Institutional Archivist/Records Manager.

Warren Anatomical Museum
The Warren Anatomical Museum acquires to enrich the understanding of the physical historical legacy of medicine and the associated life sciences. Primarily, it focuses on the material culture of the HMS, HSDM, HSPH, the HMS affiliated hospitals, Boston and greater New England medicine, and significant focus points in the greater medical narrative. WAM collects to support the greater understanding of the collections represented in the Center for the History of Medicine at large. The Museum’s primary stakeholder groups for which it collects are the medical research and physician community, Harvard faculty and students and scholars in the history of medicine, with an understanding that WAM is one of the few access points to the physical history of medicine for the public.

For more information, contact the Curator, Warren Anatomical Museum.

Gifts of Collection Materials
Gifts are an important means of collection building. The Center is pleased to receive offers of materials from both individuals, organizations, and institutions. Because of the costs associated with caring for materials, the Center generally does not accept deposits or loans. The donor must provide a warrantee that s/he possesses valid title and can legally give the materials and the copyrights pertaining to unpublished materials to the Center.

Because the research value of records may be diminished if items are removed or rearranged, donors are encouraged to contact the Center staff before discarding or rearranging materials.

To expedite consideration of a gift, donors may wish to submit lists of materials in advance. This is particularly helpful for donations of books.

For more information, contact the Acquisitions Archivist.