Rotating Artifact Displays

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From the Rare Materials Collection

Datura Stramonium: garden ornamental, poisonous weed, medicine


Datura Stramonium, also known as thornapple or jimson weed (from Jamestown-weed) is a lovely but poisonous plant, sometimes grown for its ornamental value.

In his Herball of 1633, physician John Gerard claimed to have used it in a salve to treat burns. It is first mentioned in English in descriptions of a meal in 1676, when soldiers sent to Jamestown were accidentally served some leaves of the plant, resulting in several days of odd behavior. Austrian physician Baron Anton von Storck is credited with being the first to deliberately use it as a narcotic to treat seizures and mania, as he described in a short treatise on several medicinal plants in 1762.

In the 19th century, it was used in ointments for a variety of conditions, and administered internally for insanity, epilepsy and other nervous disorders. Smoking Stramonium, sometimes mixed with tobacco, sage, lobelia, or other botanicals, became a popular remedy for asthma, and remained common several decades into the 20th century.

Jimson weed is still used topically in modern herbal medicine.

Located in the exhibit case at the north end of the First Floor, near the elevator and Teaching Lab 3.


Artifacts Exhibits


The use of human cadaveric dissection became a tool for teaching anatomy at the University of Montpellier in 1350, and became a fully sanctioned and regular part of anatomy education at the University of Paris in 1407. By the mid-1800s, dissection to teach anatomy was key to medical education. Although there are several other ways to study anatomy, from books to virtual reality, research shows that dissection is invaluable. Besides the anatomical knowledge gained, it is important in training empathetic physicians.

Located in the Second Floor rotunda on the South side of the Strauss Health Sciences Library.

Infant Feeding

For most of history, there was no real alternative to breast feeding. The main reasons were the stigma of not breast feeding, and the lack of research on the subject. There was also no equipment available to artificially feed infants. For the rich, the ability to hire a wet nurse allowed mothers the freedom to continue their regular lives. For the poor, however, a new baby would tie a mother to the home for years. Industrialization, beginning in the mid-19th century, forced a change in the way infants were raised. Once women began to enter the work force, breast feeding became harder for working women, and alternatives needed to be found.

Located in the Second Floor rotunda on the South side of the Strauss Health Sciences Library.

Trade Cards


Before the Food and Drug Administration, which was created in 1906, was given the mandate to rigorously regulate drugs, and the wild claims of medicine makers, “patent”, better described as proprietary, medicines could be found in every pharmacy and medicine show in the United States.   One of the major elements of proprietary medicine in the United States was the trademarks on labels, letter fonts, and imagery on their products. Hand in hand with selling their “miracle cures” in drugstores and traveling medicine shows, patent medicine makers used advertising in any form they could. One of the methods were trade cards. Trade cards were small print ads given out at pharmacies that were very colorful, and often used imagery of women, children, and domestic life.

Located in the Second Floor rotunda on the South side of the Strauss Health Sciences Library.

Exhibiting at the Library