About the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine
Visit the Wangensteen Historical Library and experience more than 73,000 volumes of rare books, journals and manuscripts in diverse health, medicine and biological subject areas that span over 500 years, from 1430 to 1945.
Explore handwritten documents written by doctors and medical students hundreds of years ago, a large collection of surgical and anatomical atlases and texts, and historically significant books from the various disciplines in health sciences, biology and, natural history.
Research the origin of medical questions and findings as they relate to current questions. Gain insight into the context of health sciences as a social and cultural experience, and better understand your role as a provider. The stacks hold inspiration for students, researchers, educators, and all visitors. Artists, poets, naturalists, and playwrights have all found a home at Wangensteen.
The Wangensteen Historical Library is located on Floor 2 of the Phillips-Wangensteen Building (PWB).
Access collection materials
Materials from the Wangensteen Historical Library are available by appointment. Initial consultations will be held remotely by phone or online during the phased reopening of the Libraries due to COVID-19.
Plan ahead! A minimum of one week will be required between an initial consultation and a follow-up appointment to use items in order to safely quarantine materials.
The collection at the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine began in the late 19th century. Rare and historically significant books were acquired for the general University Library collection as resources for the medical and health sciences disciplines and for the state natural history survey.
In the 1960s, Dr. Owen H. Wangensteen, distinguished surgeon and Chief of Surgery at the University of Minnesota from 1930-1967, became the driving force behind efforts to create a library devoted to the history of biology and medicine.
His fundraising efforts and the subsequent endowments, led to the creation of a medical rare book library, exhibit space, and funds for future acquisitions. In 1964, pre-1899 medical works (3,000 books) from across the University were transferred to the newly created space, and in 1972 the library was formally dedicated and named for Dr. Wangensteen.
The collection’s strengths focus on:
the historical development of health (nursing, pharmacy, public health and medicine),
biological science disciplines (human anatomy, physiology and microbiology) and their clinical and research aspects,
the development of the professions, medical concepts and practice, and
natural history, covering topics such as botany, mycology, and zoology.
The library contains printed materials in many languages, as well as manuscript materials and a collection of 8,000 late 19th and early 20th c. artifacts. Particular concentrations include:
East Asian pre-modern medicine
exploration of the Americas
cataloguing the natural world, and
Today the Wangensteen Historical Library continues to acquire rare books and materials. Its holdings have grown to more than 73,000 volumes. It is an exceptional collection amongst its peers, and includes some of the most important, ground-breaking publications of the medical researchers and clinicians of an earlier age.
Kaylee Morlan was first introduced to the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine while taking a freshman seminar course co-taught by the library's Assistant Curator, Emily Beck. With her sights set on a career in museum studies, Morlan was able to get a job at the library and gain hands on experience in her chosen field.
As a middle schooler, Kaitlyn Minarsich’s older brother took her to an exhibit at Wangensteen Historical Library where he worked as a U of M undergrad. Minarsich is following the family tradition, working at the library where she converted a 2013 physical exhibit on Downton Abbey into an interactive online exhibit.
U of MN undergrad Louisa Botten researched a 17th century apothecary inventory during her internship at the Wangensteen Historical Library. Read how Botten combined this historical text with modern technology to create an award-winning online exhibit.
The research of the Libraries’ Emily Beck — garnered from historical materials at the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine — servee as the foundation for an interactive publication and two unique events at the Minneapolis Institute of Art and Tattersall Distilling.