UAB Historical Collections Can Benefit Professional Writing Students

Melissa Hennessy Dougherty

The Lister Hill Library of Health Science contains three historical collections that are largely undiscovered by the students at UAB. All three collections focus on documents and artifacts from medical professions around the world. The manuscripts and materials were created over the span many hundreds of years. Some manuscripts date back to medieval Europe.

The collections are contained at The Alabama Museum of Health Sciences, UAB Archives, and the Reynolds Historical Library. All of these divisions are located on the third floor of the Lister Hill Library and are available to any staff member or student.

At first glance this may appear a resource tailored specifically for those in the medical field. However, English majors and especially Professional Writing majors can benefit from studying the historic texts as well.

Professional writers can find themselves writing for different industries that they may not have expected.

The Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences

This museum largely focuses on instruments and artifacts as opposed to manuscripts. However, advertisements, such as one depicted for an “Indian Doctor’s Medicine” as seen below, are also included. Past advertising campaigns not only provide knowledge of how images and writing influenced people through history, but they can also serve as inspiration to what might influence consumers in the future.

This museum also holds free, annual lecture series on different aspects of their collection so students can develop a deeper understanding and pose questions to experts.

Currently this department is closed for renovations.

UAB Archives

The archives function more as an administrative branch as they seek to preserve the history of the university through the collection of official college records.

The benefit to professional writing students comes from the “Image of the Month,” which the department posts on their website. These images vary from posed portraits and buildings to candid images of professors and students. Most notably are the images taken to present a message such as an photograph of the University President in 1992, Charles A McCallum, Jr., with UAB Recycling Program’s mascot, Trash Gordon. The photo hoped to present the image of a campus unified in their commitment to recycling and their fight against litter.

Images can impact the reader as greatly as words in some instances, so a study of the use of images throughout the years can allow student to evaluate what makes an image powerful enough to continue to affect people decades later.

All visits must be scheduled, so contact the staff at the collection before your visit.

Reynolds Historical Library

The Reynolds Historical Library contains many documents useful to professional writers. This collection contains over 13,000 works ranging from books to manuscripts and even medical pamphlets. Professional writers can read an article written in 1873 about the Birmingham cholera epidemic. Included is a map that is regarded as “one of the earliest published maps of this city.”

As with the other collections, studying the past can positively influence our future. By examining historic articles and images, students can learn what consistently works.


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