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Reynolds-Finley Library Remote Access Guide: Digital Collections

A guide to the resources and services from the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library that are available remotely.

Digital Collections

Have you heard that the Reynolds-Finley Library has George Washington letters and are interested in seeing them? Do you have an assignment involving the library's Florence Nightingale collection? Or perhaps you want to explore the collection's medieval manuscripts and are concerned you will not be able to access them? If any of these questions are on your mind, you are at the right place! These materials and numerous others held within the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library have already been digitized and made available on the UAB Digital Collections. This page lists the particular collections in which our materials can be found and links to the content. Advice on searching and browsing is also provided. If you need assistance locating particular items, navigating the collections, or finding out plans for future content additions, please contact us.

*Please note: Our Digital Collections focus heavily on unique, manuscript, and exceptionally rare items in the collection. Some copies of other historical books and journals held in the Reynolds-Finley Library may also be located in other libraries worldwide and may have been digitized by those institutions. If your need is access to the content, we may be able to locate digital copies for you. Some links to online versions are included in the catalog records for our collection materials, but the process of adding these is not complete. Contact us to inquire about specific items.

Links to Digital Content

Civil War Items from UAB Libraries

This collection on the American Civil War includes material held by the Mervyn H. Sterne Library, the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library (RFHL), the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences, and the UAB Archives. Items from RFHL include:

Civil War Diary of Union Private, James Morrison (covers his time in the U.S. Invalid Corps, as well as his return to the 149th New York Infantry regiment as it marched from Alexandria, Virginia, through Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia)

Hospital Reports of Confederate Surgeon, B. W. Allen

Letter by F. H. Evans, Confederate Surgeon in Charge of La Grange, Ga. Hospitals

Letter by Samuel Hollingsworth Stout, Medical Director of Hospitals for the Confederate Army of Tennessee

Joseph Jones. Researches Upon "Spurious Vaccination," or the Abnormal Phenomena Accompanying and Following Vaccination in the Confederate Army, During the Recent American Civil War, 1861--1865. Nashville, Tenn.: University Medical Press - W. H. F. Ligon, Printer, 1867.

Documenting COVID-19 at UAB Collection (new collection!)

COVID-19 has challenged us in many ways. We had to learn new things, change the way we do things, or stop doing familiar things altogether, all while keeping an appropriate distance from each other and taking extreme health precautions. This collection gathers and preserves accounts from the UAB community depicting a wide range of experiences during the Coronavirus Global Pandemic of 2020. Items in the collection include original written accounts, audio-visual recordings, digital photographs, and artwork documenting COVID-19 at UAB. This is an important time in our history, and we wish to document it for posterity.

Florence Nightingale Collection

This collection includes 50 personal letters by nursing pioneer, Florence Nightingale, dated 1853 to 1893, covering military and civil hospitals, nursing, sanitary affairs in India, the prevention of cholera, and various charitable contributions and war relief work. Also included is a photograph of Nightingale. For more information on this collection, visit our online exhibit, The Life & Letters of Florence Nightingale.

Also browse our recently digitized letters donated by the Upper Room, Nashville, TN:

        Florence Nightingale letter to Mrs. Peevor, September 24, 1855

        Florence Nightingale letter to Reverend W. Cardale, November 5, 1862

        Florence Nightingale letter to William H. Hare, Esq., December 23, 1862

        Florence Nightingale letter to J. J. Frederick Esq., June 2, 1865

        Florence Nightingale letter to Sir Stafford Northcote, August 20, 1867

        Florence Nightingale letter to W. T. Harrison, September 16, 1873

        Florence Nightingale letter to W. T. Harrison, April 29, 1893

        Florence Nightingale letter to Miss Thore, [unknown date]


This collection features the incunabula holdings in the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library. The term incunabulum (singular) or incunabula (plural) translates from Latin as “cradle” and refers to the cradle or infancy of printing. Works printed between the invention of the printing press in approximately 1450 and the end of the 15th century, or 1500, are given this terminology. The library holds 30 incunabula, and the digitization of these items is ongoing. To view a complete list of the RFHL Incunabula holdings, click here.

Instruments, Equipment and Devices

Dating from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these catalogs feature a variety of instruments, tools, and supplies that were available to medical practitioners during this time period. Each catalog contains black and white drawings of the equipment being sold, alongside descriptions and prices. Some also contain photos or color drawings, and testimonials or instructions in using the equipment and performing new procedures are sometimes included. The catalogs are housed at the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library, and some of the objects can be found in the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences.

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

Digitized verions of the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library's seven medieval and Renaissance manuscripts dating from the mid-14th through the 16th centuries. These works are mostly medical and scientific tracts, including ones by leading thinkers of the period such as Arnold of Villanova, Petrus Peregrinus, and al-Razi (Rhazes). Click here to view our online exhibit, which places the manuscripts within the context of medieval medicine and the craft of manuscript-making.

William Osler Letters

This collection features 59 handwritten letters by world-renowned physician, Sir William Osler, to a life-long personal friend, Ned Milburn. These letters range from 1865-1919 and include details of his early and later life. Though the letters covering the early years of his medical career were lost, letters from his later life discuss medical topics such as tuberculosis and the collection reveals details of an important friendship that surely impacted his medical contributions.

Learn more about Sir William Osler's life and medical contributions, additional print resources by or about Osler within the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library, and searching and browsing tips for the digital collection by exploring our William Osler Letter Collection Guide.

Pellagra in Alabama

In the U.S. the nutritional deficiency disease pellagra became epidemic in the South. It had its beginning and end in Alabama, being first recognized in epidemic proportions by Alabama physician Dr. George H. Searcy in 1906, and ending with Dr. Tom D. Spies' nutritional treatment clinic in Birmingham, which operated from 1937 to 1960. In 1914 Dr. Carl A. Grote, Walker County public health officer, was the first to conduct field work to determine the etiology of the disease in an actual community setting. He conducted this work prior to and independent of Dr. Joseph Goldberger who is righty credited for discovering the nature of pellagra but who at Grote's writing had only studied the disease in controlled environments.

This collection chronicles Alabama's valiant campaign against pellagra. For more information on this topic, visit our web exhibit, Pellagra in Alabama: A Valiant Struggle Against ‘The Red Death.’

Rare Alabama Medical Journals

The Reynolds-Finley Historical Library houses a number of annual reports of the Alabama Insane Hospitals, spanning from 1869-1964. These reports discuss patient care and treatment at the Alabama State Hospital for the Insane, later known as the Bryce Hospital, which was opened in Tuscaloosa in 1861. Through the rest of the nineteenth century, the patients of the hospital were segregated, and in 1901, a second institution was built for African American patients near Mobile, Alabama, named Mount Vernon Hospital for the Colored Insane, and later called the Searcy Hospital. In addition to Bryce and Searcy Hospital, these reports also include a third institution that opened near Bryce Hospital in 1922 called the Alabama Home for Mental Defectives, and later called Partlow State Hospital. The Reynolds-Finley Library plans to continue digitizing these reports and adding to this collection.

Transactions of the Southern Surgical Association

Founded in 1887 in Birmingham, Alabama, the Southern Surgical & Gynecological Association was renamed the Southern Surgical Association (SSA) in 1916. Since the association’s first annual meeting on December 4-6, 1888, the publication of annual transactions has followed. Under the auspices of the Southern Surgical Association, the archival copies of the first 108 annual transactions held in the Reynolds-Finley Historical Library are made available in this digital collection.

Learn more about the history of the SSA, trace the development of surgical topics over more than 100 years within the transactions, and discover searching and browsing tips for the digital collection by exploring our Transactions of the Southern Surgical Association Research Guide.

UAB Course Videos

UAB Course Videos Collection contains video materials that are available for learning and teaching on campus. The collection includes locally licensed streamed videos, online course lectures from UAB departments, the Reynolds-Finley Historical Lectures, and other general webinars of interest to the campus community.

UAB Historical Collection (Stay tuned for more additions coming soon!)

This collection contains miscellaneous items from the three components of the Historical Collections area of the UAB Libraries: the Alabama Museum of the Health Sciences, Reynolds-Finley Historical Library, and UAB Archives. Also included are digitized books from the Sterne Library Rare Book Collection.

The Reynolds-Finley materials located here include:

2 Letters by George Washington & 1 by Martha Washington to 3 different dentists

Letter from Julia Rush to her husband and renowned physician, Benjamin Rush, during the Yellow Fever Epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793

A manuscript Pharmacopoeia, dated 1781

Anesthesia letter written by Dr. George Bailey Loring in 1851

Notes taken from lectures at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy during the course of 1865-6

2 Letters by a World War I Veteran suffering from "Shell-Shock" or PTSD

Parmly, Eleazar. An essay on the disorders and treatment of the teeth. New York: Printed for the Author; and Published by Henry Durell and Co..., 1822.

Begbie, Harold, 1871-1929; Wallace, Alfred Russel, 1823-1913. New Thoughts on Evolution. Being the views of Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, O.M., F.R.S., as gathered in an interview by Harold Begbie. Reprinted from "The Daily Chronicle." London: Chapman & Hall, 1911(?).

UAB Libraries Digital Collections

Browsing the Digital Collection

Whether browsing the collection or searching for specific topics, the UAB Libraries Digital Collections page is easy to navigate and user-friendly.

To browse the collection, go to the Digital Collections landing page. From there, you can look through the provided summaries of each collection. To further explore, you can click on each collection or add a term to the general or advanced search box (instructions are given in the box below).

Searching the Digital Collections

For searching the Digital Collections page, here are a few tips for a general or an advanced search.

General Search:

To complete a general search, type a term into the search box in the top right corner and press enter. This will provide results containing the searched term within the metadata. Once you click on one of the result items, the word will be highlighted.

For example:

If you type “Tuberculosis” into the search box on the main landing page and press enter, you will receive 143 results from different collections. From there you can click on each item and "Tuberculosis" will be highlighted within the item metadata. To search only within a particular collection, go to that specific collection first and use the search box there.

Advanced search:

To complete an advanced search, click on the advanced search option at the top right corner of the page underneath the general search box. Once on this page, select the collection or collections you wish to search within and click the Save button. Once you have saved the chosen collections, you can then type out the search term and specify whether you want to search within a specific field (i. e. author, title, date, etc.) or just select the "all fields" button.

For example:

If you deselect all collections, and then select the William Osler Letters Collection, and search for “Tuberculosis”, you will receive 5 results. From there you can click on each item and "Tuberculosis" will be highlighted within the item metadata for each letter.

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