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Current exhibits

Rare book that shows ornate initial letter

Initial Impressions: Renaissance Type and the Grammar of Ornament (January 25 — May 17, 2020)

Where: Wangensteen Historical Library, 568 Diehl Hall (directions and parking).
Hours: Open during regular library hours (Monday - Friday 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.) and by appointment.

Free and open to the public.

In conjunction with the exhibition Initial Impressions: Renaissance Type and the Grammar of Ornament at the University of Minnesota's Goldstein Museum of Design, the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine will exhibit additional works by Geoffroy Tory and Hans Holbein. These 16th century artists specialized in typography and the creation of ornate initial capitals showcasing narrative or decorative scenes. Curated by Sara Williams in collaboration with Bill Moran.

Past exhibits

The Secret Lives of Books

September 14, 2018 - December 23, 2019

In the Wangensteen Historical Library's exhibit, we turn on the lights and open the stacks to reveal the past and present secret lives of books and tell their captivating stories of health, illness, and the human experience.


September 11, 2017 - May 18, 2018

Underwater explores humans, health, and science in watery spaces. Discover what voyagers encountered on the sea and how interactions in and around water have been the harbinger of health and illness across the centuries.

Medical Exchanges: Mapping the Human Body in Japan and China

December 12, 2016 - July 14, 2017

On view for the first time, the texts in this fascinating exhibition from the collections of the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine provide a unique and richly illustrated history of early modern medical knowledge and healing in Japan and China.

Bodies and Spirits: Health and the History of Fermentation and Distillation

September 14, 2015 through May 31, 2016

Why have some doctors recommended giving babies wine? Why did hops originally become a popular addition to beer? How did alcoholic beverages, once considered food and medical items, become symbols of dangerous behavior? Learn more at our exhibit on fermentation, distillation and medicine throughout history.

Visualizing the Body: Celebrating 500 Years of Andreas Vesalius, Renaissance Art and Medical Revolution

August 4, 2014 – May 8, 2015

Andreas Vesalius’ pivotal work on human anatomy, “De Humani Corporis Fabrica,” sits at the intersection of art and science. Vesalius, acknowledged as the father of modern anatomy, based his work on observations from his dissections, and this, along with detailed Renaissance images, revolutionized the study of anatomy. This exhibit commemorates the 500th anniversary of Vesalius (1514-1564), and draws upon the Wangensteen Historical Library’s strong holdings in the history of anatomy. 

Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of Health and Illness

October 21, 2013 - May 16, 2014

Medical themes are threaded throughout Masterpiece Theater’s wildly popular Downton Abbey, from Matthew’s temporary paralysis during the Great War to Sybil’s tragic death from eclampsia. The Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine’s holdings come together in "Downton Abbey: Behind the Scenes of Health and Illness" to illuminate the medicine of Edwardian England. The exhibit explores such themes as nursing, surgery and combat injuries in WWI, maternal and child health, and household medicine using books and artifacts from the library’s extensive early 20th century collections.