Bridging a Gap in our Historical Collections: The History of Dentistry Collection

We are pleased to announce our newest acquisition: the History of Dentistry Collection. The collection has been transferred from the Dental School Library, History of Dentistry Room to its new home in room 313 in the BICC. The exhibit consists of a small sample of the 525 volumes of rare and historic books and journals contained in the collection, as well as photographs from the Historical Image Collection and artifacts from the Dental Museum Collection. The monographs and periodicals include the first two editions of the first dental journal in the world, The American Journal of Dental Science, 1839, and a 1803 edition of Natural History of the Human Teeth, one of the earliest published dental works written in English.

The Dental School Library

North Pacific Dental College

The Dental Library traces its origins to the Tacoma College of Dental Surgery in Tacoma. From its beginning in 1893, the Tacoma College had been building a collection of dental and medical books and journals. The College moved to Portland in 1899 and changed its name in August (after the announcement for the 1899-1900 school year had been printed) to the North Pacific Dental College. It opened in a house on the corner of N.W. 15th & Couch in the fall. In 1900 it merged with the year-old Oregon College of Dentistry, keeping the name North Pacific Dental College. In 1908 it was renamed North Pacific College. The College moved to a newly completed building at N.E. 6th & Oregon in 1911. It underwent another name change in 1924 to North Pacific College of Oregon. In 1945 it joined the Oregon State System of Higher Education (OSSHE) and changed its name to University of Oregon Dental School. The School moved up to Marquam Hill into its current building in 1956. It changed its name again in 1974 to University of Oregon Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry and then again in 1981 to OHSU School of Dentistry.

The first recorded weeding project started in 1976-1977 with many of the older books stored in Room13 in the basement of the Dental School. Many had become moldy or water-damaged. Room 13 was a main storage room that also contained old dental equipment and artifacts, class photos, diplomas and scrapbooks. There was a smaller storage area on the seventh floor of the Residence Hall.

History of Dentistry Collection

Greene Vardiman Black

In 1978 a History of Dentistry Committee, chaired by Dr. J. Henry Clarke, began planning for a special History of Dentistry Room to be located in one corner of the Dental Library. Another weeding of Room 13 began to separate the valuable materials out and discard the rest. Freestanding shelving was removed from the room that would be the HOD Room. An antique dental cabinet was moved in. In May 1981, a second funding request for rare book restoration had been submitted to the Alumni Association, and this too, for $10,000, was approved. The restoration project began in July 1982.

The School of Dentistry's Alumni Association approved a $5,857 funding request to renovate the History Of Dentistry Room. Renovation started in late March 1981 and was largely completed by mid-summer. Custom-made oak bookcases and display cases were installed. Air-conditioning was put in. Special window screens with Verasol were installed to screen out incoming ultraviolet light in order to protect the historical books. The finished History of Dentistry Room was dedicated with an open house on October 22 and 23. At the time of the dedication, there were 400 books shelved in the HOD Room and about 150 rare or classic books needing preservation treatment or restoration were separately kept in the Librarian's office. This totaled about 550 books.

Many of the books had been donated by President Herbert Miller and faculty of the old North Pacific College in Portland in the early twentieth century from their personal collections that were rare and old at the time. Some are signed by the famous Dr. G. V. Black. The earliest original books in the History of Dentistry collection were published in the 1810s and 1820s, and there are facsimile reprints of books published as early as the late 1600s. It is the only collection of its kind in the Pacific Northwest.

In Fall 2003, the collection was moved, along with its oak bookcases, to the Main Library in the BICC building on the third floor in the Library Administration area. The room has framed photographs of G. V. Black and of the Dental Library as it appeared around 1914 at its N.E. 6th and Oregon location in Portland.

The Dental Museum Collection

A related and extraordinary collection is the Dental Museum Collection. There are many dental instruments and pieces of antique dental equipment in the museum collection. Before the 1970s, only a collection of unusual teeth existed that had been accumulated over the earlier decades. In the late 1970s, however, through the efforts of Dr. Clarke, a real dental museum collection began to take form with active acquisition of antique equipment and other artifacts. In the collection is a set of dental articulators, acquired in the early 1980s, that probably is the largest such set in existence. A dental x-ray machine dating from around 1920 was acquired in 1982-83. The museum has a tooth with a gold filling done by the famous Dr. G. V. Black in 1884, which, had been extracted in perfect condition in Salem in 1930. The museum collection is distributed among several locations: in various display cases on the first, second, and sixth floors of the OHSU Dental School.