Maladies, Elixirs, and Healers: 500 Years of Medical History from the Eskind Biomedical Library Special Collections

A special exhibition from the Eskind Biomedical Library’s Historical Collections is now on display in the Heard Library

Save the Baby

Point of purchase display, 1939. Eskind Biomedical Library artifact collection.

Special Collections. The exhibit, entitled “Elixirs, Remedies, and Maladies,” opened this past July and features rare books, documents, and artifacts from the last 400 years.

Presented in nine themed cases, the exhibit explores ways in which the history of anatomy, botany, laboratory science, advertising, and even cooking have contributed to our modern understanding of healthcare and medicine. Early modern distilling manuals, botanical prints, and handwritten cookbooks tell the story of a time when doctors and lay healers alike collected roots, berries, and leaves to treat disease.

Items include rare 16th-century texts on surgery and botany, as well as handwritten cookbooks, patent medicine bottles and trading cards. One 18th century recipe by an anonymous author describes how to make “snail sirup” to treat consumption (tuberculosis).

The Celebrated Glycerine Lotion

Advertisement for Sapanule which promises a cure for a number of ailments. Eskind Biomedical Library artifact collection, trade mark dated 1878.

Artifacts from Vanderbilt’s World War II hospital unit include original cartoons about life in the unit, fabric from a crashed British airplane, and examples of shrapnel removed from patients. Vanderbilt University’s contribution to medicine in the 20th century is highlighted by Ernest Goodpasture’s breakthroughs in vaccine research, and by Earl Sutherland’s 1971 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.

“Elixirs, Remedies, and Maladies” is open to the public from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and will be up until early January. Most of the items on display will be available for viewing by appointment after the exhibit closes, or at the Annette and Irwin Eskind Family Biomedical Library and Learning Center when it reopens, which is expected to be in August 2018.

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