Member Story: History of Medical Collections in the UTMB Institutional Repository

Ross Microscope

The Microscope Collection in UTMB’s Blocker History of Medicine Collections features about 100 instruments that represent the history of microscopy. The Ross Microscope (c. 1835), pictured above, is one of only 10 of this type made by Andrew Ross, a well-known London instrument maker. It is one of only five known left to exist. (Courtesy of the Blocker History of Medicine Collections, Moody Medical Library)

The Moody Medical Library at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) has added four medical history collections from the Truman G. Blocker Jr. History of Medicine Collections to its Texas Digital Library (TDL) repository. These collections include historical postcards depicting U.S. hospitals; journals belonging to Greensville S. Dowell, a pioneer in Texas medical education; images related to the 1920 bubonic plague outbreak in Galveston, Texas; and photographs of UTMB’s collection of microscopes.  These collections join UTMB’s electronic theses and dissertations at the TDL.

Building Expertise in Digital Collections

Brett Kirkpatrick, Associate Vice President of Academic Resources and Director of Libraries at UTMB, is putting the staff and processes in place to move forward with these and additional projects.  He created a digital committee of staff to identify and prioritize collections that will be included in the repository.

According to Mira Greene, Head of Technical Services and Chair of the committee, “Every part of the library is represented on the committee.  It includes Pat Ciejka, Administrative Director of Library Services, Robert Marlin, Archivist, Patricia Callaway, Cataloger and Alex Bienkowski, Reference Librarian.”

Each collection has unique needs and demands flexible processes.  Since the historical postcard collection had previously been digitized and metadata for the images already existed it was an obvious first choice.  Greene worked with TDL staff to batch upload those items and associated XML metadata into the repository.

Next, the committee turned to a collection of materials that the library had in its possession related to a bubonic plague outbreak in Galveston, Texas, that occurred in 1920. According to Marlin, the bubonic plague collection was an ideal next step for a team new to digital collection building.

“It was small, it had a variety of materials and it was something manageable that was visually appealing,” he said.

By working with this smaller collection, the team created processes for digitization and metadata creation that would serve them well when selecting and building other digital collections.

Highlighting UTMB”s Unique Content: The Microscope Collection

The Microscopy Collection is the centerpiece of the UTMB Institutional Repository. The Microscope Collection includes representative examples documenting the development of the microscopy from the 18th century through the early 20th century; it is considered one of the major microscopy collections owned by a U.S. academic institution.

The collection of approximately 100 microscopes includes several rare instruments, such as an 1835 Ross Microscope (pictured above), one of only five currently in existence. The collection got its start with the donation of more than 30 microscopes by Dr. John Bunyan in 1967. The collection has grown since then through donations from UTMB faculty.

For the microscope collection, Greene worked again with TDL to batch upload the images. Because no metadata existed for the collection, she added metadata in DSpace for each image.

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