Help Us Restore Historical Artifacts from the Department

February 29, 2016

Recently, during renovations of our School of Medicine buildings, we discovered a trove of medical records from the mid to late 19th century. Among the books are the Clinical Cases of Dr William Pepper Jr. and the annual Post Mortem Records for autopsies performed at the University of Pennsylvania from the years 1875 to 1896. These books are particularly important to the Department as they represent records from the early years leading to the establishment of the William Pepper Laboratory of Clinical Medicine in 1895 by Dr. Pepper as the first US clinical laboratory associated with an academic medical institution.

The books provide an invaluable glimpse into the medical reality of Philadelphia citizens of the period. They also present a record of the historical actuality of the health-care profession at the first medical school in the thirteen American colonies and one of the first teaching hospitals in the United States. Unfortunately, the books’ condition today is dire. Their covering leather is missing from spine and corners, the paper is extremely brittle, and the photographs are discolored. They will, without considerable restorative efforts, continue to disintegrate.

The Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine has generously agreed to fund the repair of the two most indispensable artifacts in the amount of $15K; we are now appealing to philanthropic and charitable funds in order to restore and preserve the remaining works.

We envision that, with proper archival restoration and their concomitant digitalization, these books can be made available for historical research and other uses. Moreover, the clinical cases described in them can serve as rewarding instructional materials and we are planning to have pathology residents present cases as they were written by William Pepper and colleagues. These special Grand Rounds events and the public display of these records will also serve as a public acknowledgment of our gratitude to the sponsors of the books’ reconstruction.

To find out more how you can contribute to these restoration efforts, please visit: Leading the restoration efforts are Drs. Kathy Montone and Irving Nachamkin. For more information, please email them directly at or