Skip to main content

Digital Collections

About this collection

This digital collection provides access to a representative group of 167 objects from the Medical Artifacts Collection housed in Special Collections and Archives at the Tompkins-McCaw Library for the Health Sciences. Numbering over 6,000 items, the Medical Artifacts Collection includes surgical, dental, and diagnostic instruments, therapeutic devices, uniforms of healthcare professions, and medical furniture related to the history of health care in Virginia since 1838. 

In the 1930s former Medical College of Virginia President William T. Sanger and Directing Librarian E.C.L. Miller created a small museum collection in the college library forming the nucleus of the Medical Artifacts Collection. A number of items from the collection are on display in the Peter N. Pastore History of Medicine Exhibit Hall at the Tompkins-McCaw Library.   

These medical artifacts, represented by images in this collection, have been assigned both uniform object types and Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) to facilitate access. The object types were derived from MeSH, The Revised Nomenclature for Museum Cataloging, and the Dittrick Medical History Center's subject headings for medical history objects. Only a small portion of the collection is represented here. Please contact Special Collections and Archives about other objects in the Medical Artifacts Collection. Copyright for the materials in this collection is managed by the VCU Libraries. The use of these materials is subject to the stipulations specified in the VCU Libraries copyright page.

Highlights from the Collection

Brass fleam and lancet, 1820-1850

Brass fleam and lancet, 1820-1850

Brass hinged enclosure with two fleam blades and a lancet blade. The apparatus is roughly constructed, and shows signs of significant use and verdigris on the interior of the brass housing. Fleam blades are approximately equal in width, but vary in distance projecting from the blade arm.


Urethral Sound Set, 1878-1884

Urethral Sound Set, 1878-1884

Set of urethral sounds in a velvet-lined wooden case. The box is made of dark-colored wood, and has a brass nameplate on the top which is engraved, "Morris L. King M.D. Roosevelt Hospital 1882-83." Box closes with a locking catch. The interior of the case is divided into two compartments, lined with purple velvet and with a padded velvet divider between the two to keep instruments in the upper tray in place which has a gold foil seal reading "Philip H. Schmidt Surgical "Instruments No. 1311 Broadway Cor. 34th St. N.Y." The tray in the upper lid has two large, empty troughs, and has purpose-cut slots for the included catheter and gauge. The lower tray holds a complete set of 16 sounds of different sizes, which correspond to the sizes marked on the included gauge. Each sound's proximal end is engraved with two numbers, signifying the sound's size, and "P.H. Schmidt N.Y."


Head Mirror

Head Mirror, 1925-1945

Adjustable head mirror with adjustable leather strap. Mirror is circular, with a circular aperture and a slightly convex lens encased and backed by steel, which is attached by a fully rotatable and adjustable screw mechanism which allows the mirror to be completely detached from its harness. Strap is of thick brown leather, and has a steel clasp which a snap mechanism for adjusting its length.

Select the collections to add or remove from your search