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An hour in the life of the Wangensteen Historical Library

By June 9, 2020September 16th, 2023No Comments

By Emily Beck

Curators Lois Hendrickson and Emily Beck of the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology of Medicine are always sharing their collection and their expertise with historical materials with students, faculty, researchers, and scholars. And while no day is typical, it is not surprising that they are typically busy.

In this post, we’re looking back fondly to March 2, 2020 when our buildings were open and bustling with people — detailing the events of a single hour during an “average” day in the Wangensteen Historical Library.

11:00 a.m.

Seven History of Medicine students from HMED 3002: Healthcare in History II visited the library to do extra research for a paper assignment on the history of tuberculosis, covering broad topics such as sites of care, disease management, causes of disease, tuberculosis in Minnesota, and public health measures. This work was a follow-up to a week-long intensive session at the library where students learned how to handle rare books, explored resources related to tuberculosis, and worked with curators to develop research questions while working with primary source materials.

11:10 a.m.

Emily met with Elizabeth Semler, Ph.D. candidate and instructor of HMED 3002, to talk about providing artifact images for an upcoming lecture.

11:15 a.m

Lois taught History of Science students in HSci 1815/3815: Making Modern Science — Atoms, Genes, and Quanta about early scientific publishing and natural history research by historical scientists like Louis Buffon, an important 18th-century French naturalist.

Side-by-side: HSCI 1815/3815 students in Wangensteen and Rooster illustration by Louis Buffon

This rooster is an example of one of the beautifully hand-colored illustrations in Buffon’s works on the natural history of birds held in the Wangensteen Historical Library.

11:20 a.m.

Emily led a conversation with small groups of HSCI 1815 students about subscriber lists in premodern texts and data visualization, sharing a 1772 volume on optics by Joseph Priestley. Check out Emily’s data visualization about Priestley’s subscribers in The Secret Lives of Books online exhibit!

Emily Beck leading conversations with HSCI 1815 students

Emily Beck and HSCI 1815 students.

11:40 a.m.

History of Medicine faculty Jennifer Gunn met with her teaching assistant Adam Negri to debrief about their class, HMED 3040: Human Health, Disease, and the Environment in History, and offer office hours to their students. Lois was a guest lecturer in this course, bringing in collection materials to reinforce course content and place the conversation in its historical context.

Jennifer Gunn meeting with TA Adam Negri

Adam Negri and Jennifer Gunn.

12:00 p.m.

History of Medicine faculty Dominique Tobbell hosted professor Emily Winderman from Communication Studies for a lecture about the rhetoric of back-alley abortions for the Program in the History of Medicine. The lecture was held in the Wangensteen Historical Library classroom. Lois had worked with Emily Winderman on a library research sprint in 2019. She connected Drs. Tobbell and Winderman for this collaboration.

Emily Winderman and Dominique Tobbell

Emily Winderman and Dominique Tobbell.


Carmen Elwell

Author Carmen Elwell

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