A Processing Prescription for School of Pharmacy History
Have you visited the 5th floor of the UCSF Library lately? If so, you might have seen the latest UCSF Archives and Special Collections exhibit featuring items from the new Robert L. Day Collection. With photographs, scrapbooks, letters, books, and dozens of curious artifacts, the collection illustrates School of Pharmacy history from 1872 to the present day.
When School of Pharmacy Associate Dean Robert Day retired after a distinguished 50-year career at UCSF, his office was bursting at the seams with historical items he had collected. From 19th-century faculty meeting minutes to recent academic plans and reports, from the School’s 1873 Inaugural Address to the research that pioneered the Clinical Pharmacy Program in 1966, his collection tells the story of more than a century of education and innovation in pharmacy practice at UCSF.
In addition to papers and photographs, Professor Day gathered enormous pharmacy ledgers containing prescriptions from the 1930s and 1940s, reels of 16mm film and audio tapes, and curious artifacts like a liquid-filled glass show globe. He generously donated these materials to the UCSF Library in 2012.
I joined the Archives and Special Collections staff from November 2012-May 2013 as a Project Archivist to process the Day collection and to prepare it for research and exhibit use. It was fascinating to peruse items like 19th-century textbooks from “Materia Medica” courses and to examine boxes of patent medicines for ailments like “dyspepsia” and “pleurisy.” I cataloged leather-bound volumes of faculty meeting minutes and reviewed letters from dozens of alumni recounting colorful stories of their early-twentieth-century student days and later careers. (A complete collection description and research guide is available on the Online Archive of California.)
Professor Day shared his own colorful stories with us, too, and provided background on unusual objects like the silver-leaf pill coater (a favorite item of his). Turn-of-the-century pharmacists would place a newly-rolled pill and some silver leaf or fish scales inside the hollow, wooden, egg-shaped container, and shake it gently to apply a thin protective coating. The pill-coater is featured in the library exhibit.
If you can’t visit the Library in person, be sure to check out the Robert L. Day Digital Collection! It includes information about the collection, histories of the School of Pharmacy and of Professor Day’s career, more than 600 digitized images of photographs and ephemera, and four complete scrapbooks from the 1900s-1920s.
It was a privilege to organize this collection and to learn more about the founding and development of the world’s leading school of pharmacy. Through the efforts of Robert L. Day, the School of Pharmacy, and the UCSF Library, these materials will be permanently available for study and enjoyment by UCSF students and faculty and by the wider research community.
Detailed processing and digitization for the materials in the 40-linear-foot Day collection were made possible by generous support from the UCSF School of Pharmacy.
Kate Tasker, MLIS, CA
Project Archivist for the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University