Collecting and Preserving the History of Texas Medicine
The TMA Archives and Collections contain more than 8,000 books, papers, photographs, files and medical artifacts, all available to researchers. Our collections continue to grow. Currently we are cataloguing an exciting array of beautiful, medically-related stamps, coins, medals, postcards, and letters that make up the Lekisch Collection, which the widow of TMA member Kurt Lekisch, MD, donated in 1995.
A Tradition of Preservation
TMA began collecting materials to preserve Texas’ medical heritage more than a century ago, when Frank Paschal, MD, of San Antonio, told the TMA House of Delegates in his 1904 presidential address, “The labors of this Association should always be conserved, and unless steps are taken the past work will be lost forever.” Dr. Paschal then established the Committee on Collection and Preservation of Records.
This eventually led to a joint project between TMA and The University of Texas (UT): the compilation of information from newspaper files and other sources in 31 bound notebooks titled Transcripts Relating to the Medical History of Texas. One set is in the TMA Archives; the other is part of the UT-Austin Eugene C. Barker Texas History Collection at the Briscoe Center for American History. Beginning in the 1930s, physicians or their family members began donating medical artifacts and collections to TMA as well.
In 1953, UT Press published A History of the Texas Medical Association 1853-1953 by Pat Ireland Nixon, MD, of San Antonio, who chaired a special TMA Committee to Write a History of the State Medical Association. Several copies of this history and other histories by Dr. Nixon, along with his research notes, are part of the TMA Archives. That same year, TMA established a History of Medicine Committee.
A Public Space for Sharing
When we moved into our current headquarters building in 1991, TMA gained more than 600 square feet of gallery space on the ground floor. Elgin Ware Jr., MD, who chaired the History of Medicine Committee from 1989 to 2001, and also served on the Building Committee, envisioned using the space for historical exhibits that would tell the continuing story of medicine in Texas and the role of physicians in Texas history.
The first exhibit, “Technology in Medicine: 150 Years of Medical Innovation,” was unveiled July 26, 1991, during dedication ceremonies of the new building. Items from the TMA Archives and Collections, many on display for the first time, included a Civil War surgical kit, bloodletting instruments, and a rare 1555 edition of De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem, the famous anatomy by Andreas Vesalius.