Dangerous Liaisons - UW Libraries

August 25, 2017

The Traveling Exhibits of the National Library of Medicine

Carolyn Martin

What do Harry Potter, George Washington, Charlotte Perkins-Gilman, Shakespeare, and Frankenstein all have in common?

Where can you learn about health care reform, violence against women, the culture and politics of HIV/AIDS, and Native American health?

They all are subjects featured in the National Library of Medicine Traveling Exhibition Program.

The exhibits include both a banner display as well as an online presence. These programs provide an opportunity for visitors to learn more about the social and cultural history of medicine and to learn more about how this relates to themselves as well as to their communities. The online information includes additional information such as curricula for teachers, interviews, timelines, and more.

These exhibits can be incorporated into interdisciplinary lessons. For example, Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature can involve the English, science, and civics classes to learn and discuss the advances of technology and biomedicine in the past and in the present. Information regarding careers as well as educational opportunities are also provided in many of these exhibits.

The UW Health Sciences Library (HSL) has hosted a number of these exhibits including Every Necessary Care and Attention: George Washington and Medicine and The Literature of Prescription: Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Yellow Wall-Paper”. Both of these exhibits provided historical information about our society and its impact.

One of the more popular exhibits that HSL hosted, is Native Voices: Native Peoples’ Concepts of Health and Illness. Native Voices included a number of events here at HSL. A special opening blessing by Dr. Annette Squetimkin-Anquoe and a reflection of the Native Voices exhibit by Ralph Forquera, former director of Seattle Indian Health Board. Events also included a lecture by Dr. Terry Maresca about Native health and medicine here at the UW and a presentation about the culture of potlatch by Burke Museum docent, Tony Ward-Smith. Later, we had attendees from the Pathways into Health conference come for a special viewing as well as indigenous students from Wollotuka Institute at University of Newcastle in Australia.

The Suzzallo Library has held displays and events focusing on Harry Potter but NLM’s Harry Potter’s World: Renaissance Science, Magic, and Medicine offers a different take on this beloved book series. This exhibit focuses on the desire for knowledge of Renaissance thinkers and the effects on society. The magic in the Harry Potter books is partly based on Renaissance customs and culture. Remember in the first Harry Potter book where Nicolas Flamel was mentioned as the creator of the philosopher’s stone?  NLM actually has a Nicolas Flamel book in its collection as well as books illustrating the mandrake and such fantastic animals such as unicorns and creatures that many natural philosophers believed in during this time period.

Image: NLM Digital Images