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Objects and Artifacts

Edward C. Streeter Collection of Weights and Measures

The Edward C. Streeter Collection is one of the most comprehensive study collections of weights and measures in the world in terms of time period and geography. The weights and scales form the most valuable part: Babylonian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Islamic, Greek, and Roman; weights issued by different cities, especially those in southern France; gold (money) scales; weights and scales used by apothecaries; Nuremberg nested weights, and over 1,000 European individual money weights. The measures, both linear and bulk, range from an Elizabethan corn-bushel dated 1601 to American yardsticks of the nineteenth century and include calipers, squares, bevels, levels, rules, dividers, and measuring gauges. In-house catalogue sheets were prepared by former curator Bruno Kisch. Kisch's book, Scales and Weights: A Historical Outline (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966, c. 1965) includes much information about the collection. The nested weights have been described in Ellen Zak Danforth, Nesting Weights, Einsatzgewichte and Piles a Godet: A Catalog of Nested Cup Weights in the Edward Clark Streeter Collection of Weights and Measures, Transactions of the Connecticut Society of Arts and Sciences, 50 (March 1988). Copies are still obtainable from the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences ((203) 432-3113).

The International Society of Antique Scale Collectors have photographed and described parts of the Library’s collection.

Medical Instruments

The library houses a wide collection of medical artifacts that have been donated over time, by numerous affiliates of the University, practitioners of Yale/New Haven Hospital and community physicians.  The items range in dates from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries, and include pieces such as surgical kits and instruments, microscopes, apothecary jars and bottles, Chinese medical instruments, obstetrical forceps, diagnostic instruments, Victorian electrotherapy devices, and numerous pharmaceuticals.

These items are available for research and classroom purposes.

Medical Commemorative Medals

Sculpted by artists in relief, commemorative medals are intimate aesthetic objects. They are created by casting from molds or, more economically, by stamping or engraving upon a blank medal disk or plate. A portrait bust usually adorns one side of the medal (the obverse) and an allegorical scene or narrative is found on the reverse. Commemorative medals bearing portraits were first produced in the Italian Renaissance as a result of heightened interest in antiquities. Medals of physicians and scientists experienced a surge of popularity during the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century and were avidly collected by physicians. Medals might be created to commemorate a retirement or other milestones in the career of a living scientist, serve as a special award of a medical school or society, or on the occasion of a medical congress, anniversary, or special event. In other instances they commemorate events such as epidemic disease, famine, or specific medical discoveries such as vaccination.

The Medical Historical Library’s collection of commemorative medical medals includes items dating from the eighteenth to twentieth century. A small but diverse collection, it encompasses pieces representative of each genre of medals. Many physicians, including Harvey Cushing, John F. Fulton, Samuel Clark Harvey, and George Milton Smith, contributed to the Historical Library’s collection.

View the Medical Medals Finding Aid 


Appel, Toby. The Medal [A history of the William Beaumont medal designed for the XIIIth International Physiological Congress, Boston, 1929], Federation Proceedings 44 (Jan. 1985): 1.

Freeman, Sarah Elizabeth. Medals relating to medicine and allied sciences in the numismatic collection of the Johns Hopkins University. Baltimore : Evergreen House Foundation : 1964.

Kisch, Bruno. Collecting Medical Coins and Medals. Ciba Symposia 9(10) January-February 1948: 794-806

Kisch, Bruno. Famine and Food Provisions in Numismatics. Ciba Symposia 9(10) January-February 1948: 811-817

Kisch, Bruno. Plagues and Coins. Ciba Symposia 9(10) January-February 1948: 807-810

Kisch, Bruno. Suggestions for arranging a collection of Medicina in nummis. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association 33(1) January 1945

Rich, Joseph P. Smallpox in Medals. Ciba Symposia 9(10) January-Feburary 1948: 818-822

Storer, Horatio Robinson. Medicina in nummis; a descriptive list of the coins, medals, jetons relating to medicine, surgery and the allied sciences. Boston : Wright & Potter printing company, c1931.