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

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About the exhibit

Exhibit dates: 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.

The exhibit will showcase over 400 years of medical, scientific, and recipe books from the library’s collection, including records of 16th century women distilling alcohol for medicines at home, 19th century microscopic investigations of the science of fermentation, and 20th century medical and social debates about alcohol.

By tapping into the intriguing history of fermenting and distilling, the exhibit will spark discussions in the broader Twin Cities community around the role of alcohol in health and society. 

Related news and events

Traveling Exhibit: From DNA to beer: harnessing nature in medicine & industry

The National Library of Medicine, in cooperation with the National Museum of American History, is pleased to present our latest traveling exhibition, From DNA to Beer: Harnessing Nature in Medicine & History. Microbes—tiny organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye—have altered human history. Life forms such as bacteria, yeasts, and molds can cause sickness or restore health, and help produce foods and beverages for our consumption. Drawing from the collections of the National Museum of American History and the National Library of Medicine, From DNA to Beer will help to promote public understanding of the dynamic relationship between microbes, technology, and science and medicine.

‘From DNA to Beer’ is being offered as part of the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine's current exhibit 'Bodies and Spirits: Health and the History of Fermentation and Distillation' which will be on view on the 5th floor of the Bio-Medical Library through May 31, 2016.

Event: Fermentation Open House at Wangensteen Library with GYST Fermentation Bar

Join the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine and GYST Fermentation Bar in a open house that explores historical recipes and modern-day productions of fermented foods. View the exhibit, Bodies and Spirits: Health and the History of Fermentation and Distillation. See treasures from the collection, featuring handwritten recipe books and other rare books related to the intersections of food and health. Sample traditional pickles and ferments, as well as two historical recipes from the Wangensteen collection – a ‘split pea starter’ and a vintage ‘fish paste’ with GYST's kimchi. Free and open to the public. March 9, 2016, 11:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Radio broadcast: MPR News: Baking the past: Investigating historical recipes

Hundreds of rare recipes, from as far back as the 1500s, can be found at the Wangensteen Historical Library at the University of Minnesota.  Wangensteen curator Lois Hendrickson and Ph.D. candidate Emily Beck joined MPR News host Tom Weber to talk about their recipe research.

Event: Explore historical chocolate with GYST & Wangensteen Library

Start your Valentine's weekend right with a journey through historical and modern chocolates. Join GYST Fermentation Bar's Jill Mott, along with Lois Hendrickson and Emily Beck from the University of Minnesota's Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine when they take chocolate to new heights this February by sewing together the tales and myths surrounding the history of chocolate.  February 13, 2016, 12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. at GYST Fermentation Bar.

Lecture: Schuster Brewing Company, Rochester, Minnesota: Medicinal Tonic, Temperance, and Top Brass

Please join us December 7 for the C. C. and Dawn Clawson Lecture in the History of Medicine presented by Christopher J. Boes, M.D. Dr. Bose will present, “Schuster Brewing Company, Rochester, Minnesota: Medicinal Tonic, Temperance, and Top Brass.” Dr. Boes is Medical Director, Mayo Clinic Center for the History of Medicine, and Associate Professor of Neurology and History of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. December 7, 2015, 12:20 p.m. - 1:10 p.m at the Wangensteen Historical Library. Diehl Hall, Room 555. 

Presentation: Bell Museum Cafe Scientifique: Bodies and Spirits: Health and the History of Fermentation and Distillation

The history and health benefits of fermentation and distillation seemed like an appropriate topic for a happy hour lecture at Bryant Lake Bowl. And so, the Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine’s Lois Hendrickson and Emily Beck did just that, presenting Cafe Scientifique: Bodies and Spirits: Health and the History of Fermentation and Distillation.