About this Blog

This blog was set up to inform and educate our users about new acquisitions and activities of the UCSF Archives and Special Collections. Here you will find updates on ongoing and completed projects; announcements of events and exhibits. It will also feature interesting and unique documents and items from our collections presented by archives staff and guest bloggers. Please share your ideas about collections you would like us to highlight!

About UCSF Archives and Special Collections

The mission of the Archives and Special Collections at the UCSF Library is to identify, collect, preserve, and maintain rare and unique materials to support research and teaching in the history of the health sciences and the UCSF.


The UCSF Archives were formally established in 1963 when UC President Clark Kerr mandated the creation of both a records management and an archives program in the University. The Archives serve as the official repository for the preservation of selected records, printed and born-digital materials, and realia generated by or about the UCSF, including all four school, the Graduate Division, and the UCSF Medical Center.

Special Collections

The Special Collections encompasses a Rare Book Collection (over 15,000 rare monographs) that includes incunabula, early printed works (16th to 19th centuries), modern secondary works, and 300 rare serial titles (2,300 volumes). Strengths of UCSF’s collection include anatomy and physiology; the development of health care practice and education in California; homeopathy; obstetrics and gynecology; forensic medicine and toxicology; high altitude physiology; cholera and communicable diseases; occupational medicine; alternative medicine; anesthesiology.  The majority of materials are in modern Western European languages (English, French, German, Spanish and Italian), Latin and Greek.

Significant rare book collections:

  • Californiana collection of pre-20th century works dealing with the health sciences in California, published in the San Francisco Bay Area or by California authors; also includes several early medical and dental journals published in California and San Francisco Department of Public Health reports (1873-1901). 497 monographs; 44 serial titles.
  • Homeopathy (from the library of the Hahnemann Medical College of the Pacific) – includes 1,371 monographs; 191 pamphlets; 143 serial titles.
  • Speck collection on cholera – includes 177 monographs and over 260 pamphlets and reports on cholera epidemics in the US and Europe. 
  • Ralph H. Kellogg collection for high-altitude physiology. 197 monographs.

The medical history Rare Book Collection at UCSF was created in the 1930s, long before the establishment of the institutional archives. Many of our holdings came to the library as gifts, for example, the Anesthesiology collection was started by Dr. Chauncey D. Leake and later on a UCSF faculty member Esther Rosencrantz, M.D., presented her extensive collection of materials by and about Sir William Osler.

The East Asian Collection is especially strong in works related to the history of Western medicine in Japan from the middle of the 16th century to 1900.  It also holds books and journals related to the history of medical societies and medical and pharmacy schools in Japan.  Other areas of strength include traditional Chinese medicine, Buddhist medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, and acupuncture. The Japanese Woodblock Print Collection consists of 400 prints and 100 scrolls, dating from 16th to the 20th century.

The Special Collections also contains manuscripts (primarily modern) and papers of individuals; historical records of UCSF hospitals; administrative records of regional health institutions; photographs and slides; motion picture films and videotapes; oral histories; pamphlets.

The Manuscript Collection exists to complement the official holdings of institutional records housed in the Archives. While the collection is not strictly restricted by subject, these materials will usually encompass the following broad subject matter:

  • The practice and science of medicine
  • Biomedical research
  • Healthcare delivery, economics, and administration
  • Health professions education
  • Operations and history of UCSF, its schools, program, and affiliated partners as appropriate
  • Alumni collections including club memorabilia, diaries, photographs, reunion books and scrapbooks

UCSF has the preeminent collection documenting the history of HIV/AIDS epidemic that was started through the UCSF AIDS History Project in 1987 and has been growing even since: http://www.library.ucsf.edu/collections/archives/manuscripts/aids/about

The Tobacco Control Archives is one of the few places around the country that collects organizational records of government agencies and activist groups, as well as papers of individuals active in tobacco control:  http://www.library.ucsf.edu/tobacco/tcacollections

The Biotechnology Archives document the leadership of scientists and corporations in the Bay Area in the development and growth of biotechnology: http://www.library.ucsf.edu/collections/archives/manuscripts/biotech

Header images credits:
All header images are owned by University of California, San Francisco and are from UCSF’s historic Photograph Collection. Browse the collection further, and others, via our Digital Collections website.

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