The Institute of Social Medicine and Community Health, based in Philadelphia, has announced that it will donate its extensive set of archival collections and primary source material to the University of Pennsylvania Library. The physical transfers will begin later in 2005.
Founded by Dr. Walter J. Lear, its current President, the Institute is an independent, non-profit center for health policy development, public education, progressive advocacy, social research, and historical information. Founded thirty-five years ago, the Institute is chiefly focused on the history of left-of-center health movements in the U. S. and on health activism movements from the 1870s to the present. Under the guidance of Dr. Lear, the Institute has assembled a major suite of collections documenting the development of health policy, education, care (especially for minority groups), personnel, and activism in America. The Institute’s holdings are particularly rich in women’s health, human rights, US-USSR medical relationships, unions and unionization, insurance, and the Physicians Forum. The collections also include an extensive reference component, multimedia documentation, iconographic materials, printed books, and ephemera. All totaled, the collections span more than 500 linear feet.
Dr. Walter J. Lear has had a long and distinguished career in public health management and administration both in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the city of Philadelphia as well as in New York City. He has published widely on a range of public health policy issues and on the history of health policy in the U. S. He has also been active in a number of professional and advocacy groups, including Physicians’ Forum, National Gay Health Coalition, Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations, American Friends Service Committee, and American Public Health Association, among many others. He lives in West Philadelphia.
According to Prof. Ruth Schwartz Cowan, Chair of the History and Sociology of Science Department at Penn, “there is no collection in the world that matches Walter Lear’s for both its focus and its depth.” Moreover, she continues, the University provides a perfect context for the Institute’s collections: “Penn is one of the country’s leading training institutions in the history of medicine, health, the health sciences, and public health. This is part of the reason why the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation chose Penn as one of six sites for its Health and Society Postdoctoral Training Fellowships.”
The Institute and the Penn Library plan to launch a variety of joint programming and development initiatives later in 2005. These will include workshops, lectures, exhibitions, and joint fundraising.
Once at Penn, the collections will be housed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (www.library.upenn.edu/rbm). For additional information on the Institute, its members, and its activities, consult its website: www.ismch.org.
For further information on this press release, please contact Dr. Michael Ryan at the Penn Library (e-mail address provided below).
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