On his most recent In Your Shoes visit, UTMB President Dr. David L. Callender toured the Moody Medical Library, met several of the library staff and was fascinated by the collection of Dr. William Thornton, a physician astronaut who has donated his personal papers to the Truman G. Blocker, Jr. History of Medicine Collections.
Callender visited the Rare Books Room at the Blocker Collection, where Archivist Robert Marlin and his staff are organizing Thornton’s papers.
“It’s amazing that we have this collection,’’ Callender said. “We’re one of the few places in the country collecting this important space/medical information. Dr. Thornton, who flew on two missions, played an essential role in documenting and analyzing a wealth of information regarding human performance during space flight. We are fortunate to have this opportunity to create a Moody Medical Library archive of many of Dr. Thornton’s personal files that document his experiences.”
Thornton, a retired UTMB clinical assistant professor in the Department of Medicine, was selected by NASA as a scientist astronaut in 1967 and logged more than 313 hours in space while serving aboard two missions. He holds over 35 issued patents that cover a wide range of applications from military weapons systems to the first real-time EKG computer analysis.
While visiting the Blocker Collection, Brett Kirkpatrick, associate vice president of academic resources and director of libraries, showed Callender a small wooden chest with medical instruments and glass vials of chemicals used to compound pharmaceuticals around a century ago. Kirkpatrick noted, “This apothecary chest was donated by an alumnus and is one of the finest specimens of its kind I’ve ever seen.”
“It was likely used by a circuit-riding physician in the early 20th century,’’ Callender said. “This is fascinating. The collection has so many interesting items.”
The Blocker Collection includes more than 18,000 titles, with strengths in anatomy and surgery; anesthesiology; immunology; occupational medicine; psychiatry and behavioral sciences; selected institutional records, personal papers of UTMB faculty and alumni including the Centennial Oral History
, and records of several Texas organizations in the health sciences.
It also is home to 10,000 photographs, mostly relating to UTMB; 6,000 portraits of historical figures in medicine; over 100,000 postage stamps; 5,400 hospital postcards, and about 2,000 artifacts including microscopes, medical and surgical instruments, pharmaceutical collection, medals, and related memorabilia.
The largest collection of its type in the Southwest, the Blocker Collection includes a number of rare books, including 33 that were printed before 1501. The collections are named for Truman G. Blocker, Jr., the first person to hold the title of president at UTMB.
Also during his library tour, Callender sat in on a class comprised of 27 first-year Physical Therapy students who were learning how to “Search for Evidence’’ on line from Julie Trumble, head of Reference and Educational Services. Callender then visited several departments within the library and met staff in the Academic Technology Center, at the Reference and Circulation desks, and in Technical Services, Document Delivery, Computer Lab and Academic Computing.
“My staff and I were really energized by Dr. Callender’s visit - by his obvious interest in the different aspects of the increasingly digital medical research library and by the perceptive questions he asked and knowledgeable comments he made during his visit,” Kirkpatrick said.
Callender also was introduced to Blocker History of Medicine Collections Fellow Elizabeth Nelson, the first fellow selected by the Library to conduct research in the Blocker Collection. She is researching her dissertation analyzing French psycho-historical studies written during the Belle Epoch. “We received several outstanding applications this year for our fellowship to conduct research in the Blocker Collections,” Kirkpatrick said. “This is a new form of scholarly outreach for us, and we’re excited by this opportunity to expand the institution’s academic reputation.”
In addition to its extensive book and journal collection, the first floor of Moody Medical Library
features public exhibits of art, photography and cultural artifacts each month.
“I appreciate all that our library employees do to make sure that our students and faculty have the resources they need,’’ Callender said. “I was very impressed with the many programs they have in place to help our students, and with the breadth and depth of information they make accessible to all at UTMB. Moody Medical Library is a marvelous resource with incredible people and tools to help learners at all levels.”