Welcome to the UConn School of Nursing Dolan Collection

Over the nearly three-quarters of a century of its history, the UConn School of Nursing has preserved the legacy of nursing’s history with a body of artifacts, documents, and ephemera collected by nurse historians Josephine Dolan and Eleanor Krohn Herrmann, co-curated by Mary Ann Cordeau and Jennifer Casavant Telford, as well as donations by alumni and other benefactors. The collection is available for UConn faculty for instruction and for global scholars for research.

Recent Acquisitions in the Dolan Archives

The Dolan Collection has recently received two rare archival gifts.

Michael Widmer, one founding dean Carolyn Ladd Widmer’s two sons, brought us a carton of her personal papers, including memorabilia, correspondence, manuscripts, and reports, both from before her arrival in Connecticut and during her tenure as dean. An entire folder is devoted to material from and about Annie Warburton Goodrich, the founding dean of the Yale School of Nursing and Yale’s first-ever female dean. Other material includes minutes and reports related to the founding and first decade of the UConn School of Nursing.

Carolyn Ladd Widmer Papers
Carolyn Ladd Widmer Papers

In addition, alumna Susan Juster Viner, donated antique materia medica books for the Eleanor Krohn Herrmann Reading Room. She also has given us one-of-a-kind manuscript material: her binder of course notes from her nursing courses in the late 1950s and early 60s and two papers (patient case reports) from her time as a student.

Juster Patient Report
Juster Patient Report
Juster Course Notes
Juster Course Notes

These archival materials constitute what historians and archivists call ephemera, material culture that most people do not think of as significant and so they discard them. However, for the historian, even more than official documents or publications, these ephemera help us understand the lived experiences of real people.

Dolan Archives Moves Across Campus

Dolan Collection Archives Storage Room
Dolan Collection Archives Storage Room

Over thirty archival boxes, including personal papers of Josephine Dolan and documents from the School of Nursing, have been transferred across campus to Archives and Special Collections in the Dodd Center on the UConn Storrs campus.

This archival material represents decades of work by Professor Dolan and by the School of Nursing.

Kept in the climate controlled storage room of the Dolan Collection in Storrs Hall, these archival materials had been organized by former curator, Dr. Jennifer Casavant Telford.

However, both the visibility and the access to the collection were limited, so current curator Dr. Thomas Lawrence Long had been in discussions with Betsy Pittman, university archivist and archivist for the nursing history collection.

Archivist Betsy Pittman receives Dolan archival materials
Archivist Betsy Pittman receives Dolan archival materials

During the spring 2018 semester senior nursing students in NURS 4265, Nursing’s Past as Prologue, had been assigned a team project by Dr. Long: each of over 30 teams inventoried one box assigned to it in the creation of a finding aid for the library. This will provide the foundation for Archives and Special Collections’ online catalog entry for the material.

Dolan Archival boxes in UConn's Archives and Special Collections
Dolan Archival boxes in UConn’s Archives and Special Collections

In its new home, these materials can be found in a public online open access catalog and available to researchers visiting the reading room in the Dodd Center.

Philatelic Nursing

Students in Nursing’s Past as Prologue (a course required of seniors) have studied artifacts and archival materials from the Dolan Collection. In association with our current exhibit, Pictures of Nursing: The Zwerdling Postcard Collection, we present alumna Selina Jose’s report on a stamp album that collections philatelic items related to nursing and medicine, currently on display in the Widmer Atrium.

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Dr. Ralph Gilman, a Godfather of the School

Dr. Ralph Gilman, MD, served as the University of Connecticut’s first student health service physician and local family doctor. In addition, he served on the committee that guided the university in the establishment of the School of Nursing.

Dr. Ralph Gilman, MD
Dr. Ralph Gilman, MD

Here are excerpts of remarks about their father and mother (a nurse) prepared by his children.

Dr. Ralph Gilman was hired in December of 1930 as the first physician at the University of Connecticut (known then as the Connecticut Agricultural College), setting up practice at the beginning of 1931 in a dual role of school physician at the University and town doctor after hours. He served as the Director of the Division of Health Services from 1931-1949. He was the physician to the people of Storrs and many neighboring communities for 51 years.

In preparing for medical training, Dr. Gilman studied organic chemistry at Harvard and graduated to Harvard Medical School in 1925. Completing medical school in 1929, he entered internship at Hartford Hospital and before finishing, met his soon-to-be wife Ruby Weaver of Torrington and head nurse at the hospital. Upon being offered the position at the University, he was told by University President Charles McCracken that because he would be examining co-eds, he had to be married when he arrived. So in ten days, he and Ruby were married. At that time, having a full-time job was important and getting married was not going to stand in the way. They spent the next 56 years together.

As school physician, Dr. Gilman took special delight in watching over the varsity teams. Many of the football fans who cheered his quick sprints onto Dow Field (with son James sometimes carrying his bag) to attend to an injury saying, “Give him a pill, Doc,” were unaware that he himself had been a quarterback, centerfielder, and runner at Boston’s Roxbury Latin School. As both the school and the town physician, Dr. Gilman was allowed to have private patients and his office was located in what used to be the infirmary on campus – a small, long brick building on the west side of the pond across from Church row. The Gilman children distinctly remember going there for their shots. When the university grew and needed a bigger infirmary and medical staff, he was instrumental in designing the new student health building that was built in 1948.

Shortly thereafter, in 1949, Dr. Gilman stepped out of his dual role after having been told by then University President Jorgenson that he would have to choose between the two. With the oldest son Donald about to start college, he felt that he would have no choice but to leave UConn and have a full time private practice at the age of 48. Unfortunately, he was too young to take a pension and he was only able to take out as much as he put in. He used this money to build his office on Dog Lane, behind a small shopping center that was there at the time.

Almost immediately after settling in to his full-time practice, Dr. Gilman was asked to become Mansfield’s medical examiner, taking on 20 years of sudden night-time summons by his friends in the state and local police. House calls to bedridden patients, day and night, remained Dr. Gilman’s repertoire through all the years he worked. There were daily rounds at the Windham Community Memorial Hospital in Willimantic where he had joined the staff at its founding in 1933 and later served as chief of medical services. During his career Dr. Gilman also worked with many colleagues around the state in the governing affairs of his profession. He was a founding member of the Windham County Medical Society and the Connecticut State Medical Society, was elected to the House of Delegates of the American Medical Association, and later to a term as president of the State Medical Society. He was also a life member of the American College of Physicians.

Dr. and Mrs. Gilman ran their medical office together during World War II and the first postwar years, and raised four children – Donald, James, Peter, and Priscilla in the family home that they built in 1937 on Willowbrook Road, across from the UConn campus. They knew the Dean of the Nursing School, Laddie Widmer, quite well and she was, for many years, one of Dr. Gilman’s patients. Mrs. Gilman was very active in health affairs in Mansfield, founding the visiting nurse service, and running many blood drives in the old armory building on campus. Son Peter remembers one of them being a ‘triple’ drive, during which 525 pints were collected in one day. Mrs. Gilman eventually gave up working in the office to attend to their growing family and in addition to nursing, was a well-known local artist.

Following the death of their father, the children of Ralph and Ruby Gilman started a scholarship fund at the School of Nursing in honor of the Gilman’s’ 51 years of dedication and service to the Mansfield, Storrs and University communities. The Ralph and Ruby Gilman Scholarship is awarded to a student of the School of Nursing to be applied toward tuition and fees.

The School of Nursing honors Dr. Gilman as one of its godparents who served on the original committee advising the university in the founding of the school.

National Library of Medicine Exhibit at UConn School of Nursing

NLM Pictures of Nursing traveling exhibit
NLM Pictures of Nursing traveling exhibit

Until early September, the UConn School of Nursing will display a National Library of Medicine traveling exhibit, Pictures of Nursing: The Zwerdling Postcard Collection.

Located in the atrium of the Storrs Hall Widmer Wing on the Storrs campus, the exhibit examines nursing and gender, social respectability, and service to humanity. This exhibit has been arranged by the school’s Josephine Dolan Nursing History Collection.

NLM Pictures of Nursing traveling exhibit
NLM Pictures of Nursing traveling exhibit

According to the NLM, “the postcard is a fleeting and widespread art form influenced by popular ideas about social and cultural life in addition to fashions in visual style. Nurses and nursing have been the frequent subjects of postcards.”

Pictures of Nursing, Dolan Collection Artifacts
Pictures of Nursing, Dolan Collection Artifacts

In addition to the NLM traveling exhibit, a display case will feature objects from the Dolan Collection, including book covers, advertising, and postage stamps.

“Ephemeral popular culture materials like postcards, book covers, and movie posters provide vivid representations of the nursing profession at given points in time,” said Dolan Collection curator, Dr. Thomas Lawrence Long. “They are windows into what people thought about nursing, and sometimes what they fantasized about nurses.”

The Widmer Wing atrium is open daily.

Pictures of Nursing, Dolan Collection Artifacts
Pictures of Nursing, Dolan Collection Artifacts

On Exhibit: World War I Nursing

This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the end of World War I (1914-1918), with hostilities formally ceasing in an armistice agreement signed on November 11, 1918 (the origin of the modern Veterans Day).

To mark this anniversary, temporary exhibits in the Widmer Wing Atrium feature of variety of materials from the Dolan Collection.

These include recruitment posters and a uniform.

There is a generous collection of other artifact materials: a service uniform, photos and photo album, an autograph album signed by soldier patients of a British nurse, a period newspaper front page.

In addition, books from the Eleanor Krohn Herrmann Reading room, both from the period and later scholarly books, are on display.

Public exhibits from the Dolan Collection are open seven days a week.