Jefferson Celebrates Ribbon-Cutting & Dedication of University Archives

PHILADELPHIA (APRIL 9, 2024) – As part of its bicentennial celebration, the Thomas Jefferson University community gathered at the Scott Memorial Library to commemorate the ribbon-cutting and dedication of the Marion J. Siegman, PhD, FAPS Archives.

Having outgrown its previous space, the Archives needed more climate-safe storage to house materials securely. After years of discussion regarding desired improvements, Dr. Siegman – a long-time champion of the Archives – contributed a generous gift to renovate and expand the Archives in order to better preserve the institution’s rich, 200-year-old history.

University Archivist F. Michael Angelo notes that the new space includes an expanded storage vault with state-of-the-art environmental controls, a commercial grade digitization station, an expanded exhibition gallery with numerous display cases that will showcase our heretofore unseen artifacts to students and visitors and, among other improvements, a dedicated lecture room to accommodate our innovative programming.

“There are many wonderful contents to be housed in this new history center, which has been in the making for 200 years,” Angelo says. “Dr. Siegman's generosity, love of history, and vision has provided an appropriate jewel house to preserve and display these many historic gems and is a welcome addition in this bicentennial year.”  

Angelo notes that the archives point to where the university is heading by documenting where it has been by acquiring and preserving official university records, personal papers, memorabilia, and other materials. All told, the collections have enduring historical value that document the development of Jefferson and its constituent institutions, affiliates, and alumni.

The collection’s highlights include the oxygenator component from Dr. John H. Gibbon Jr.’s original heart-lung machine, and rare books including a first edition of the 16th century anatomy atlas “De humani corporis fabrica” valued at more than $1 million.

Among the other highlights of the Siegman Archives are:

  • The Archives and Manuscripts Collections. The University Archives contains key official records of the University, organized by administrative office of origin, alumni records, publications and so forth. The manuscript holdings contain more than 100 collections of personal papers produced by faculty and alumni.
  • The Rare Books Collection. Donated materials form the core of the Rare Books Collection, ca. 8,000 items. There is a rich collection of rare anatomy books including works of Vesalius, as well as volumes on medical botany and three incunables (books published before 1501). After the Library of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, it is the largest and most valuable library of rare medical texts in the Delaware Valley.
  • The Artifacts Collection. Hundreds of donated objects documenting the history of medicine are held in the Archives. Items that were used by Jefferson faculty and alumni as well as devices collected by them. Examples range from a 17th century leech carrier, an 1801 portable birthing chair, a 1920s blood transfusion kit, a medical saddle bag from 1880 used by a Jefferson doctor out west, and a range of Victorian-era physiological recording instruments.
  • Jefferson Digital Commons (JDC). The University’s digital archives has a large Historical Collections section. In the 1990s, Jefferson was one of the earliest institutions to digitize its historic holdings. This archive holds a wide variety of materials including oral histories, commencement programs, student publications, historical photographs, course catalogs, yearbooks, lecture notes, alumni bulletins, personal papers, and history books, all available online. The collection includes materials from medical greats like Thomas Mütter, Samuel D. Gross, and George McClellan, and provides insight into the often-unheard voices of students. Records include class notes and dissertations, matriculation records, commencement addresses and faculty notes.

Dr. Siegman has spent more than a half century as a researcher and educator at Sidney Kimmel Medical College. She is a world-renowned expert in smooth muscle physiology. In 1967, Dr. Siegman became an instructor in the Department of Physiology at the Jefferson Medical College (now SKMC). She later became Jefferson’s first female full professor and, in 2002, was named the first female chair of the Molecular Physiology and Biophysics Department. She was elected a Fellow of The American Physiological Society in 2021. 

Dr. Susan Aldridge, the University’s interim president, noted that the dedication and ribbon-cutting event was perfectly timed.

“As Jefferson celebrates its bicentennial in 2024, Dr. Siegman’s generous gift better allows the community to reflect on our rich history with an eye toward creating our third century in Philadelphia,” Dr. Aldridge says. “We couldn’t be more grateful and excited about the reopening of our vast Archival collection, which contains a treasure trove of historical items and records.”

In January, Jefferson launched "Jefferson 200," a year-long bicentennial celebration marking two centuries of excellence and innovation in higher education, healthcare, as well as commitment to our community. "Creating Our Third Century" is the theme for a series of community initiatives, events and groundbreaking announcements planned throughout 2024.